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Is Forza Horizon breathing fresh life into the Forza series, or is it a cynical attempt by Microsoft to try and annualise and dumb down one of the world’s favourite driving simulators?

Posted by Staff on Nov 5, 2012 15:01 (Nov 5, 2012 15:01)

Written by: Ian
A new dawn?
Is "Forza Horizon" breathing fresh life into the Forza series, or is it a cynical attempt by Microsoft to try and annualise and dumb down one of the world’s favourite driving simulators? Find out here! Thanks to developers from Codemasters, Criterion, and the now defunct Bizarre and Black Rock studios, the UK has a wealth of racing game development talent. So here’s hoping that the Forza engine, mixed with these talented guys and girls are onto a winner…
Most racing games end up with little to no story, and where they go for one, it’s junk. Forza keeps it light, but also makes it interesting enough to care. It’s a fine line, but one that feels like it’s been pulled off with just enough panache to succeed, whilst never being revolutionary or ground-breaking. You’re a newbie, hoping to make it big at the ‘Horizon’, a big racing festival happening in Colorado. Winning races against rivals will open up new tiers, and give you the money to buy or upgrade cars. It’s not big or clever, but the use of DJ’s, your radio, and rivals with a bit of personality and certain driving styles help to give this an edge over your standard career.
Forza Horizon screenshot #1
Horizon doesn’t have as many cars as Forza 4, but that never feels like a bad thing. For an arcade-style racer, the list of exotic machinery on offer still feels almost excessive and overwhelming at times. Thankfully though, Playground have made their choices well, stripping out the exotic track-only GT machinery, and also limiting the time you need to spend in the lower tiers. Therefore, with the top and bottom all but stripped out, the middle ground is where all the racing is, from hot-hatches all the way up to tuned-up Bugatti Veyrons. You still get all the customisation (both in terms of performance but also painting) that you’d expect from a Forza game too. Car clubs are back, and pretty much any option you’d want from Forza 4 is included.
The driving model, however, is clearly a little easier. It’s more difficult to spin, easier to hold a drift, and damage is now superficial only, and won’t damage internals. However, the amount of customisation that remains is still incredible, allowing you, the user, to tune your own experience to be as simulation-focused as you wish. And the more difficult you make it for yourself, the more credits you earn, unlocking those cars and upgrades earlier. It’s the perfect risk-reward structure.
Forza Horizon screenshot #2
With miles and miles of roads to see, there’s also plenty to do in Horizon. There’s the open world to explore, where you can take on AI rivals or find upgrade signs. You can also unlock find new cars rusting in barns, find fast-travel sites, or just look at some of the stunning scenery, marvelling at the day/ night cycle, or just how much detail there is in the world. Or, you can play in street races (with traffic), point-to-point (no traffic), or circuit races.
There’s a huge career to have here, and so despite the smaller roster, no-one could possibly grumble about the amount of content you get on-disc. The one slight annoyance is the amount of DLC already available, and the game’s subtle hints to try to get you to buy cars and upgrades using actual money rather than your in-game credits, but as problems go, it’s pretty small!
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Forza Horizon
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ESRB - Teen: Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.
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