Forza 7 released last year to critical success, though it received some criticism concerning the way microtransactions were implemented. This year, we get the tock, to the tick-tock cycle between Turn 10 Studio’s Motorsport and Playground Games’ Horizon series. Unlike Forza Motorsport, which tends to stick to the simulation side of things, Forza Horizon features a more arcade-inspired style. Forza Horizon 4 continues this tradition with an open-world and more over-the-top activities and races than ever.
Forza Horizon 4 Review – Arcade vs. Simulation
The subtle, but palpable, differences between Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon means it’s entirely possible those who loved Forza 7 may just not jive with Forza Horizon 4. Whereas Forza Motorsport focuses more on strict racing on traditional racetracks, Forza Horizon takes a more freeform approach which lends itself to a more adventurous feel. If you’re more into strict simulations, the downtime between races may be too much of a distraction.
If you’re like me, though, you sit somewhere in the middle. I love racing games, but I’m not looking for hyperrealism. Unlike most games, I actually get to do what you do in Forza every day: drive. Therefore I’m looking for the most fun experience I can have behind the wheel of a virtual car.
While I do have a race wheel and shifter, I prefer the ease of grabbing a controller and blasting through a few races with no setup time. The Forza Motorsport series tends to focus on getting straight into a race, which is great but can lead to fatigue for those that just want to drive cool cars. Forza Horizon 4 spends just as much time encouraging you to explore the tiny piece of Britain it’s chipped off for you to drive in as it does leading you to the next race.
Forza Horizon 4 Review – There is a Season, Turn, Turn, Turn
Forza Horizon 4‘s Britain stands above the last entry’s portrayal of a pocket Australia by leaps and bounds. I’ve never actually been to either country, but this virtual Britain gives you a ton of variety when it comes to what’s most important in a racing game: terrain.
You’ve got flatlands where you can reach blistering speeds, hilly areas with hairpin turns, and bumpy bogs that are perfect for rally cars. All of this is enhanced by the dynamic seasons which are the most prominent addition that comes with Forza Horizon 4. With this, you get what is essentially four versions of every single track (and overall world map).
The game starts with a race that gives you a chance to see all four seasons back-to-back before plopping you into Autumn. In this season you’ll see that the leaves are turning color and falling and the weather is mostly cloudy and punctuated with a lazy rain. After building your influence through races, Winter comes, and the land is covered in snow. The roads get slicker and frequent blizzards make visibility worse, especially if you like to drive from a first-person perspective. Spring clears away the snow and brings rain and puddles of mud to splash about in. Finally, Summer dries everything up and dots the sky with pleasant puffy clouds.
Forza Horizon 4 Review – Adjust Your Tracking
Besides the visuals, what all these seasons stack up to when it comes to gameplay is track variety. Forza Horizon 4 tightens track design quite a bit by adding more gates than we saw in Forza Horizon 3. This means you’ll see more sharp corners and technical challenges than before.
Added to this is the effect weather has. Instead of just configuring your car per race type, you’ll find yourself making changes for each season. For Winter and Spring when it’s slick, you’ll want to configure your running gear differently than Summer and Autumn when it’s dryer.
Although you won’t see the famous raceways showcased in the Forza Motorsport series, Forza Horizon 4 brings back the Blueprint system and allows you to make your own challenges for tracks, pick from pre-defined ones, or choose from ones others have made. This will enable you to run pretty much any race in any vehicle, and you can lock it any number of qualifiers.
You can hit a rally track and make it to where only cars from the 1950s can race, or you can have a Chevrolet-only street drag. Given the frustration that some of the stricter races caused in Forza Motorsport 7, I welcomed back the ability to drive whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, with open arms.
Forza Horizon 4 Review – Me and the Waifumobile
The real star of Forza is the cars, and Forza Horizon 4 doesn’t disappoint with a roster of nearly 500 vehicles upon release. These models come from almost 100 manufacturers and run the gamut from classic 1950s icons like the 1953 Chevrolet Corvette to modern supercars like the 2018 McLaren Senna.
Since the tracks of Forza Horizon 4 are a bit more varied than you find in Forza Motorsport, the vehicles come in more flavors as well. In addition to sedans and coupes, you’ll discover pickups, SUVs, dune buggies, and even vans. I personally drove a Ford Transit Van decked out in anime vinyls. The great thing is, with just a little in-game money, even a vehicle like that becomes a viable racer.
If you like variety, Forza Horizon 4 is excellent. The game made it rain cars on me, and with little effort, I found myself with 50+ vehicles before I even changed seasons for the second time. You get cars at the drop of a hat in this game, and this is actually where the game breaks down a bit for me.
As Forza Horizon 4 leans more towards the arcade experience, even with all the assists turned off vehicles can feel somewhat samish. Upgrades and tuning aren’t as in-depth as they could be either, which makes you jump from vehicle to vehicle quite often. The racing is fun, but the game lacks the sense of accomplishment you get from spending hours painstakingly upgrading and tuning your favorite car.
However, Forza Horizon 4 is suited for jumping between vehicles. The game encourages you to find and drive new cars, and so the lack of deep customization (other than cosmetic) isn’t felt as deeply as it could have been otherwise.
Forza Horizon 4 Review – PC vs. Xbox One
Like many first-party Microsoft games, Forza Horizon 4 is a play anywhere title. This means you purchase it once and it’s yours to play on both Windows PC and Xbox One, with saves being shared between both platforms. I spent a good chunk of time on both platforms, and there are some differences to consider when choosing which one you’ll want to spend the most amount of time on.
I have a reasonably high-end PC (Intel i7-8086K, GTX 1080, 32 GB RAM) and had the game installed on an SSD so your results may vary. I was playing in 1080p with all settings on max and got a relatively steady 60+ fps. Loading times were almost non-existent, and I would say the SSD was the key to getting an outstanding playing experience out of the game on PC.
On Xbox One X I played at 4K with HDR. In this mode, the game is locked to 30 fps, but it didn’t seem to struggle to keep up with this. My Xbox One X still has the stock hard drive, which I believe was the center of a critical issue I had with the game on that platform. The initial load on Xbox One X was very long. We’re talking like three or four minutes. Once I entered the game the load times became much more tolerable, but that first load is a pain.
It’s possible that installing an SSD in your Xbox One X may alleviate some of the long loading times. It may also be an issue that can be patched. However, right now I highly suggest playing the game on PC. There is also an upcoming patch which will let Xbox One X owners play the game in Performance Mode. This mode will exchange a high-resolution for a boost to 60 fps.
Forza Horizon 4 Review – Rev Me Up
Forza Horizon 4 is the best in the series so far. I really enjoyed the freedom to drive in its microcosm of Britain seeking out secrets in-between races and collecting cars. However, it does feel more like a game than Forza Motorsport 7. I think that Horizon 4 has the broad appeal and variety that the general gaming audience is going to love, but simulation fans might not find enough meat here to get hooked.
With the changing seasons, a large variety of cars, and tighter track design, Forza Horizon 4 has done with arcade racers what Forza Motorsport has done with racing sims. It’s created an attractive package that is readily accessible and keeps you engaged even if racing isn’t really your thing. It’s fun to play for hours or just a race at a time, and it’s this that gives it the staying power that will keep you coming back for more.
Forza Horizon 4 was reviewed on PC and Xbox One via digital code provided by the publisher. The game launches on October 2, 2018 for $59.99 (Standard Edition), $99.99 (Ultimate Edition), or free for those who have an Xbox Game Pass subscription.