Racing games tend to come in one of two different categories, The standard racing speed freak type of games, much like Need for Speed and Ridge Racer, and then you have the Simulation games such as the traditional Forza and Gran Turismo games. Forza Horizon is a game that is trying to bridge the gap between the two genres, and to an extent, it succeeds.
It has all the traditional aspects from Forza 4 (Review found here) such as the stat figures, the rewind feature and the sheer collection of cars, but that is where the similarities end. In the previous game, racing cautiously was encouraged, and even rewarded, and when you messed up, you had to use the rewind function to actually be in with a chance of winning the race.
Here these aren’t to much of a problem, because the game actually encourages you to drive recklessly and rewards you for it. The more recklessly you drive, the more points you get. The more points you get,the more credits you get. All the challenges in the games (aside form the main plot) are based entirely around you driving recklessly. The more you drift, smash into signs, and go on two wheels, the more money you get for new cars and parts. I went into this game thinking of playing it like a traditional racing sim, but I soon ended up playing the game more and more like Need for Speed, with the hurtling round corners, handbrake turns and smashing into opponents to get round tight turns. This makes the game entirely different to the previous series as in older games you got penalised for this sort of playing, whereas as I said earlier, you get rewarded with this sort of racing.
Unfortunately this money seems kind of pointless as it’s not something that is actually required to much, as you can easily win or find cars that more than meet the specifications for each of the races. At one point during the game, I went through several bands of races without having to buy a new car or upgrade it once, and had amassed over 500,000 credits. All the new cars that I received were from either finding them throughout the game through these “barn finder” events, which is where you’re given a broad area to search barns for rare and old cars, or through showcase events.
These showcase events are probably the best part of the game, as it adds in something that hasn’t been done before in a lot of racing games. You sometimes race other cars, such as there is a mini only race, and then there are some completely radical events, such as you race air planes and hot air balloons. Yes, you read that right, you race air-planes and hot air balloons. You also get to keep the cars after the races (sadly not the air-plane). With these events, the money doesn’t seem to be that needed, as every car you get is the best that you need for that wrist band, and sometimes you even need to downgrade the car.
The game also has a story-line! Something different than the trawl of races just one after the other. Although it does have this, there is an open-world aspect to it as well, so you can drive to whichever race you want to, which combined with all the other aspects such as the barn rewards and the showcase events, it offers a whole host of possibilities. The main storyline is a based around a festival, which incorporates music and racing into one long festival. You get different wristbands, which signify the difficulty of the races and mark the progression throughout the game. There are Yellow, Green, Blue, Pink, Orange, Purple and Gold, and in each one you get a specific opponent to beat who if you do, you get some extra amount of credits, dependant on the difficulty of the wrist band. The main problem with all this is is that you hear about the music part on the radio, but you never actually see any of the music arena’s and you only hear the music on the three radio stations available. It does feel like part of the game is missing in that respect, but it’s only a small problem, which doesn’t affect the main game, it was just a small annoyance.
The roar of the engines when your racing along is a beautiful sound, if you’re in a Dodge you hear the raw power behind the American Muscle or the quiet purr behind the Mini Coopers. Each car has it’s own distinctive sound, and with the amount of cars in the game, that is a pretty impressive amount of different car sounds to emulate. Along with the beautiful sounds, it is a beautiful game as well. The open roads and the skyline are just gorgeous and absolutely breath-taking.
This game is completely different from the other Forza’s yet is is also completely the same game. It breaks free of the chains imposed on the previous games being rigid racing sims and explodes into the free world. This is a game that you must own if you love either style of racing games. I can easily see this becoming a branch off of the original Motor-sport series and the two games running side by side.