When I was a student, I studied at what became the University of Cumbria, and got to visit their numerous campuses. This is how I ended up going to a small town on the edge of a lake in the Lake District, and fell in love with the area, so much that I stayed there for 18 months. Whilst spending a total of 10 hours playing Forza Horizon 4, I got to revisit this place in stunning detail, as the first shock I had was that this beautifully-made game is partially set in Ambleside, Cumbria. So, let’s start with the basics:
- Forza Horizon 4 is a racing game and the 4th in the Forza Horizon series. Just like the 4th Forza game from the parent franchise, this game will go down in history as one of the best in the series.
- It’s available to play on PC and Xbox One. For the purposes of reviewing this game, I played on a UHD monitor and Xbox One S.
- To purchase the game, your wallet will suffer about £30-£50, depending on how and where you purchase it.
So, now the basics are out of the way, let’s deal with the struggle.
Unlike a lot of modern racing games out to play on numerous platforms, Forza Horizon 4 is considerate to gamers of all abilities. For this reason, it doesn’t matter whether you’re the Lewis Hamilton of racing games, or this is your first try on a racing game in years. Myself? I’m quite a big racing fan.
The difficulty can be changed in numerous different ways. You can, by all means, change the difficulty settings, if you don’t want to personalise your difficulty curve, but, if you’re like me and you fancy your own challenge, you can turn certain things off to make your challenge harder than it might have been.
This includes turning off steering assists, braking assists, rewindable options and the infamous driving line. The basic way to change your challenge has numerous options, ranging from New Driver (the easiest option), to Insane (the clue is there). Is it difficult to play regardless of the options?
It depends on your style of racing game. If you’re an arcade racing fan, and like Burnout, Need For Speed or MarioKart, then adapting to a game like this will take a bit of time to develop a knack for cornering, but once that is sorted, you really shouldn’t have too many problems. For me, getting the hang of performing powerslides in cars (commonly known as “drifting”) was the most difficult thing to master as the game has different seasonal modes.
Speaking of seasonal modes (and HOW’S THAT for a segue?), the game offers all four seasons, and in stunning detail. The specifics of detail are absolutely jaw-dropping. You can see rain in the spring, and watch thousands of highly-rendered droplets bounce off the roof of you car as you race through the Scottish countryside at breakneck speed, and it’s visually phenomenal.
Whilst it might be easier to race during the summer season, the winter season is where this video game’s imagery really amazes. It renders snow, black ice, hail and snowdrifts in such a way that it’s hard to believe that you’re playing a video game and not seeing the game through a mystical portal.
To complete this game, you need to finish all of the races available, and get three star ratings on all of the drift zones and speed cameras. As well as doing that, you need to gain “Rep” which means driving in a zany and reckless manner to gain skill points, which allow you to unlock perks for your car and further events.
On top of all that, there are also well over 200 boards to smash on your way to completing this game, which will give you several perks ranging from lowering the cost of fast-travel options to unlocking a tombola-style lootbox spins to win cars, avatar animations and bonus credits.
It’s a game designed for pure completionists, racing gamers and anyone else with a great deal of unique races including a memorable go kart race against The Flying Scotsman from the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct to Edinburgh Train Station. There are also drifting contests, which are great fun, as well as circuit races and off road racing, to give a fully immersive feel to the game. It really feels like you’re at a racing festival.
The soundtrack, as we’ve come to expect with the Forza Horizon series, is brilliant, with a really good range of music genres from heavy metal through to Beethoven and right the way through to Caribbean fusion music, which perfectly compliments the make-up of Scotland and the UK as a whole. It really is superb.
The range of cars you can drive in is truly gigantic. Unlike previous games, where you had roughly 500 customisable cars, this time Turn 10 studios have upped the ante, with well over 900 cars to buy, sell and play around with, from over 80 years of automotive history.
Speaking of selling, because accessing credits in this edition of the Forza Horizon series is a bit more difficult than previous games, Turn 10 Studios have teamed up with Xbox and Microsoft to create an online auction site, where thankfully, no real money is spent, but you can tune up your cars and let the bidding wars commence!
The only real downsides to this game is that there is a heck of a lot of hand-holding introductions with no real forms of opting out of it. Combine this with repetitive voice acting that’s vanilla at best, and a format for fonts that has been a continuous problem within the series of the game, and you cannot give it a perfect rating.
However, there is a serviceable subtitles system to use, so you can just hit the mute button if the voices (which I think may have been recycled from previous additions and just given a twist) start getting on your nerves, but this seems to be an issue with most of the free-roam, open-world racing games.
A solid game, which has only improved on the formula of the series, where at the end of my 10 hours of reviewing, left me wanting to play more and purchase the online component. Not completely perfect, but a major step up in the genre and well worth purchasing.
The DLC expansion isn’t worth buying, but the rest of the game is spot on. So, this gets a What Happens In Gaming Rating of 9.75/10 which is to say, close to perfect, but no cigar.