By Anders Carlson
Forza Horizon is the Forza series first venture into the open-world type, having formerly focused on the territory occupied by Gran Turismo. The game was co-developed by Playground Games and Turn 10 Studios. Playground Games is made up of ex-employees from the developers such as Bizarre Creations (Project Gotham Racing Series), Criterion Games (Burnout Series, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit (2010)) and Codemasters (Dirt, Grid and F1 Series). These are the biggest names in racing games, and the experience shows in the actual game.
The most important thing to have in an open-world game is atmosphere. Horizon has some of the best atmosphere not just from a racing game, but from any game period. Horizon takes its name from an in-game festival, set in an unnamed part of Colorado. The Horizon festival is like if an auto show met with a state fair, and then that meets a dubstep/rock/alternative concert. At the center of the map you see Ferris wheels, light shows and huge crowds dancing. Everything is fun, upbeat. It’s a game that gives you a pleasant feeling. Even the loading screens are pleasant, how is that even possible? In addition to the great atmosphere, Horizon has some of the best music I have ever heard in a game. There are three radio stations: Bass Arena (Dubstep/House), Horizon Pulse (Alternative) and Horizon Rocks (Guess?). One of these stations will have a song you can like.
Most of the racing is simple 8-players racing. But there is one addition that is extremely well done. By doing drifting, burnouts, jumps and winning races, you gain popularity. If you become popular enough, you get invited to special races. Some of these include racing a rally car against a hot air balloon, a Corvette racing a helicopter, and my personal favorite, a Ford Mustang versus a P-51 Mustang. If you won the race, you get to keep the car. This is a very clever way of disguising simple time trial races as something that is sweaty palms exciting.
The control of the game is extremely smooth, and widely varied. A large problem with most racing games today is that all their cars feel the same. In Horizon all cars feel different. A Lamborghini will handle much differently than a Mustang GT500. Finding the right car to suit your style is easy, given how every car handles exactly how you think it would. A Ferrari is twitchy, while a Range Rover is lumbering.
Forza is known for being heavily customizable, and Horizon is no exception. With up to 3000 layers of stickers available for every side, people have created professional racing liveries, tribal-like paint jobs, and a large amount of anime/cartoon themed skins. You’ll see everything from a police car Camaro to a pain tjob dedicated to Rainbow Dash for a Lamborghini.
You can also customize your car underneath the hood as well. But don’t think that adding a supercharger to a muscle car will make it a Ferrari killer. To handle that power you need to upgrade the suspension and handling. These modifications completely change the car. A once power-sliding Mustang becomes a twitchy thoroughbred.
The only problems with Horizon are the lack of a police mechanic, which is included in Need for Speed: Most Wanted, and there is no public online free roam. That means that unless you have friends who own the game, you can’t hang out in online free roam. It’s a real shame, because this easily could’ve been the best driving game I have ever played.
Even though it has those flaws, the atmosphere and fun driving make up for its few short comings. I would highly suggest this game if you’re into the racing genre, and even if you are not, there is still a lot to appreciate. Forza Horizon gets a 9/10.