Forza Horizon 4 review: a must-own for racing fans on the Xbox One
Open world racer features dynamic seasons and cars fit for an international spy
The fourth instalment in Playground Games’s popular Forza Horizon racing game series is set to be one of the biggest releases of the year when it hits UK shops next month.
Announced at the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) last month, Forza Horizon 4 takes the form of an open-world racing game set in Britain.
Players can drive some of the fastest cars on the planet, including the new McLaren Senna and Lamborghini Centenario, in locations including the Scottish Highlands and the city of Edinburgh.
Fans will have to wait until the first week of October to get their hands on Horizon 4. Until then, here’s everything you need to know about the open-world racing game:
The Week reviews Forza Horizon 4
Forza Horizon has been the go-to franchise for racing fans on Microsoft’s consoles since the original game arrived on the Xbox 360 back in 2012. The car list and open-world environments have grown with each iteration, and the graphics got a big bump with the launch of Forza Horizon 3 in 2016, when the 4K resolution mode was added for Xbox One X owners.
But while Horizon 3 was a critical hit, many fans quickly lost interest, complaining that the game felt too similar to those that came before it.
At first glance, developer Playground Games has done little to shake up the franchise with Forza Horizon 4. The game’s world, set in the UK, is the same size as the Australia map of Horizon 3, and only a handful of cars are featured that we haven’t seen in a previous Horizon or Forza Motorsport title.
However, this year’s game has a trick up its sleeve to keep fans engaged for months to come.
The new title sees the Forza debut of dynamic seasons, where the environment changes each real-world week to portray a different time of year - so leaves are scattered across roads in autumn, while spring sees rain showers that turn the game’s dirt roads into muddy tracks.
The winter landscape is particularly impressive. Players will need to swap their McLaren for a four-wheel drive car with studded tyres in order to cope with snow-covered roads.
The visual style is top-notch, too. Spring in Horizon 4 really does look like springtime in the UK, and players are almost certain to shiver when driving through the winter map. Even the signs and road markings are identical to the ones found in Britain.
Meanwhile, the vehicle handling feels as though it has been slightly tweaked to feel more realistic, which makes driving on the game’s twisty roads all the more rewarding.
Horizon Life also debuts in the game. This features focuses more on the social aspect of the game, where players can customise their character with new outfits and accessories. There are even houses scattered across the map where players can park up and customise their car.
All that said, there is still room for improvement. Although the Horizon 4 map is far more detailed than in the previous games, it still feels somewhat small and lacking in diversity compared with open-world racers such as The Crew 2 and Need for Speed Payback.
And while the map is stunning, some of the car models - such as the 2004 Subaru Impreza allotted to the player at the start of the game - are beginning to look a bit dated.
In the grand scheme of things, however, these are small gripes. Most players will be too busy to care as they charge through the countryside in a Bentley Bentayga, race against the Flying Scotsman in an Ariel Nomad, and power-slide a Pagani Zonda Cinque around an icy roundabout.
Without doubt, Forza Horizon 4 is the best instalment of the series to date and a must-own for any racing fan with an Xbox One.
Where to buy Forza Horizon 4
When does it come out?
Forza Horizon 4 launches on 2 October for the Xbox One and PC. Those with a more powerful Xbox One X can choose to run the game at a 4K resolution and 30 frames per second (fps) or at 1080p at 60fps.
Are pre-orders open?
Above that, at £69.99, is the Digital Deluxe version, which gives players access to six downloadable packs containing new cars, with the releases spread over the game’s first six months, as well as a day-one car pack.
The most expensive copy is the Ultimate Edition: a £79.99 bundle that comes with a steel case for the disc, access to the game four days early, a pair of game expansions, two car packs and VIP bonuses in the game itself.
Will there be a demo?
Yes - and it’s available now.
Xbox and PC users can download the trial for free from the Xbox Store.
New features guide
Whats new in Horizon 4?
Quite a lot, it seems. The standout feature is the debut of seasons, with the virtual world changing according to what time of year it is in-game.
The changing seasons can also have a impact on the map itself, says racing game news site GTPlanet. The large lake in the centre of the map, for example, freezes over during the winter, allowing players to drive on it.
Along with dynamic seasons, Horizon 4 puts a far great focus on multiplayer gameplay than the preceeding versions, says GamesRadar+. Players will share the open world with other players in real-time, which should make it easier to start multiplayer races or events.
There’s also a greater emphasis on character customisation. A player’s avatar can now wear different clothes and act out poses, such as Usain Bolt’s signature celebration stance, when they win a race.
Is a James Bond DLC on the cards?
It is indeed. Announced on the game’s Twitter page, the Best of Bond DLC (downloadable content) will be offered to Horizon 4 players when the new title launches on 2 October.
Featuring ten iconic cars spanning some 50 years of Bond movies, the DLC pack is free to download for buyers who opt for the £79.99 Ultimate Edition.
Those who go for the standard version of Horizon 4 will have to pay, however. Pricing for the DLC pack has yet to be announced but is expected to be around £8.
The iconic Bond cars featured are:
- 1964 Aston Martin DB5 - Goldfinger (1964)
- 1969 Aston Martin DBS - On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
- 1974 AMC Hornet X Hatchback - The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
- 1977 Lotus Esprit S1 - The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
- 1981 Citroën 2CV6 - For Your Eyes Only (1981)
- 1986 Aston Martin V8 - The Living Daylights (1987)
- 1999 BMW Z8 - The World is Not Enough (1999)
- 2008 Aston Martin DBS - Quantum of Solace (2008)
- 2010 Jaguar C-X75 - Spectre (2015)
- 2015 Aston Martin DB10 - Spectre (2015)
Is there a Halo mission?
There certainly is. Both the Forza and Halo series are owned by Microsoft, so the racing game often includes references to the popular sci-fi adventure franchise.
In Forza Horizon 3, the developers included the tank-like Warthog vehicle from Halo as a drivable car. Players could walk around the four-wheeled fictional combat vehicle and use it in several races against supercars.
For Horizon 4, the developers have create a special Halo-themed mission in which players race across beaches and fields as they escort a spacecraft through enemy lines, says PCGamesN.
Although the race is set in the base game’s open world - a fictional version of northern England and Scotland - Forza developers have placed “shields and purple crates” alongside the road to make it look like a mission from a Halo game, according to the gaming news website.
Plus, long-standing Halo character Cortana, an artificial intelligence (AI) system, will provide commentary throughout the race.
Fans who want to see the mission in action can watch a walkthrough on Forza Horizon’s YouTube channel here.
Britain map details
How big is the map?
Horizon 4’s scaled-down version of Britain is about the same size as the game world in Horizon 3, IGN reports.
However, the game’s director, Ralph Fulton, told the Red Bull site: “Seasons change the world around you, with each bringing its own striking beauty and impact on gameplay through new driving experiences, events, challenges and rewards.
“You’ll feel like you’re exploring a completely different world after each season change.”
The full map has yet to be revealed by Playground Games, but a Reddit user who goes by the name masterzh has compiled footage from several gameplay trailers to create a near-complete preview of the world.
Can you create your own tracks?
Absolutely. For the first time in Forza Horizon’s six-year history, players can add their own race tracks and rally routes to the map's road network.
Called the Route Creator, the new feature will offer players several locations from which to start their route, says gaming news site PCGamerN. Players create a series of checkpoints to outline their course, which they can then use along with both friends and computer-powered opponents.
The custom track creator is also expected to allow players to choose the season in which the races take place. Given that the seasons on the map change automatically each week, the option to customise the weather on their own circuits may appeal to players fed up with, say, sliding around in the mud during the game’s winter period.
The Route Creator has been an eagerly anticipated addition to the open-world racing game, but Forza developer Turn10 has yet to show fans footage of how the feature works.
In fact, the feature is reportedly causing problems for the development team. A Turn10 staff member under the username JONK1969 wrote on the Forza Horizon 4 forum that the Route Creator is causing “a lot of navigation challenges” for the game’s computer-powered AI competitors and has presented a series of bugs that need to be tackled before launch.