A brilliant racing and automobile construction history, regular trackdays for everyone, several fantastic race tracks and then there’s Goodwood – whether Festival of Speed or Revival. Yes, hardly any other part of this beautiful earth is as auto-narrish as the British island. It’s nice that just now it can set the scene for the most extensive and probably also the best arcade racing game of all time: Forza Horizon 4.
You probably don’t need to have read review of Forza Horizon 3 to know that even this work by Playground Games didn’t really have much to blame. Scope, technique, gameplay – everything is fine. And yet: With part 4, the developers are going to add another powerful extra. This already starts with the mentioned location: The region between northern England and Scotland is of course not as varied as Australia, which could offer a really wide spectrum from dry deserts to dark primeval forests, but it knows how to convince a little bit more than Down Under by the stronger differences in altitude and really picturesque landscapes. Especially as you can explore Edinburgh’s lush fields, rugged coastlines and narrow alleys in all four seasons, each with its own unique characteristics: Perfectly high grip levels in warm summers, fun puddles and splendid colour schemes both in autumn and spring, and of course wild snow flurries, including frozen lakes and rivers, in winter.
This is a five-hour intro session in which all seasons are gradually made tasty for you. Later, once you’ve earned your bracelet for the real Horizon Festival, they will change weekly. In fact, Forza Horizon 4 only really opens the doors to its world and shows its full potential after these hours of fun. The developers have really succeeded in creating a game where you never want to take your hands off the steering wheel or put the controller away again. There is always something to do, something new to discover, something interesting to try out or something challenging to tackle.
In the classic Forza Horizon tradition, part four of the festival is again all about a fictional festival that is all about fast cars and hot action. While a festival area equipped with laser shows and fireworks serves as the headquarters, in the freely drivable world various races (circuit races on closed off roads, dirt races, cross-country events, drag races or more or less official road races) and other challenges, such as radar traps or barn finds to be found (so rare, here of course mostly iconic, British cars that have been forgotten somewhere), pop up that want to be tackled by you. The more you win and do, the more money and influence you collect, which in turn gives you the financial strength to buy new cars and access to even more events … so far so well known.
Now Forza Horizon 4 sets itself apart from its predecessors in many ways. Both in basic things like the seasons (see above) or the new online features (see below) as well as in details like the fact that you can now buy houses that serve as replacement centers for tuning the already at start more than 450 vehicles included in the game – more than ever before. As usual, they cover pretty much the entire spectrum of everything a car fanatic wants. In addition to “normal” vehicles, there are also lots of “special” vehicles, such as racing cars, concept and show cars or very special beasts from the beat of the Hoonicorn – Ken Block’s Drift Mustang. Only fans of Lexus, Toyota and Mitsubishi unfortunately look through their fingers. These three manufacturers obviously did not agree to have their vehicles integrated into the game.
load change, full throttle, drift – wonderful
Another strength of the series has always been how the developers manage to achieve the perfect balancing act between arcade and realism when it comes to car handling. Even though Horizon 4 is certainly not a simulation (especially if you switch on all the driving aids), the handling is still convincing with a lot of delicate subtleties, which not only differ the cars from each other, but also make tuning measures equally and well noticeable. So yes: Of course the tuning feature is again in its full glory in the game and allows from the replacement of the air filter to the assembly of complete body kits including engine swap as good as anything the tuner heart desires. Unfortunately not all cars can be changed to the same extent. The mentioned bodykits for example are not available for all vehicles as well as the possibility to adjust the track width … a pity.
But there are enough other features that can make you feel better about it, for example the design editor with upload and community function, which not only allows you to upload numerous designs of other users to your new car, but of course you can also try to gain fame and honor as a Livery designer yourself – or as a setup specialist, while we are at it. Even the variously adjustable vehicle settings can be divided.
Generation Always on
Probably the biggest innovation – besides the seasons, which already mentioned a couple of times now and which are just really mega-cool – is the fact that you no longer heat up through the world of Forza Horizon 4 alone, but share it with other gamblers all the time. But a lot of brain lard has really flowed into the subtleties, so that in the end not even I – actually an online muffle who prefers to stay alone while gambling – used the possibility to deactivate the online feature. One reason for this is that connecting to a session runs completely unnoticed in the background – even if the connection should get lost, it doesn’t interfere with the game itself at all. Only a small message appears at the top of the screen, but you can continue playing normally. The other players can’t “bother” you either: During regular cruising through the landscape, it is not possible to collide with the other player cars – you simply drive through it in a mess. You can only exchange paintwork properly if you consciously join forces with friends or other players you have just met, or if you explicitly set this function in an online race.
In addition, the universally popular rewind feature works as usual despite the divided online world. But in fact only one’s own car is rewound – AI civil traffic continues. For example, if you crash into a passer-by and rewind, his car is still exactly where you crashed it last – but that doesn’t really matter. In the races everything is as usual. Provided, of course, that you drive alone, because Forza Horizon also plays 4 great selection trumps here. Not only will most races adapt to your current car – so you’ll hardly ever be forced to get into a particular car to get ahead – but you’ll actually be able to do and drive whatever you want – you’ll also be able to choose to drive alone, in a co-op, or against real opponents. Playground games also spice up players’ daily lives with lots of daily and weekly challenges and special Forza Life events, which in turn can be used to earn your own Forza Life Points, which you can then use to buy cars currently on sale in your own Forza Life Shop. And then, of course, there is the full remaining range of online features that you already know from the predecessor. There are not only normal races waiting, which you can drive against other players, but also various in cars played and usually very fun “games”.
The only thing that may have changed negatively in terms of scope compared to the previous version is the fact that the bucket list events were kicked out. But you won’t really miss them … because you simply don’t have the time. After all, besides all the races and challenges, the showcase events are still waiting, which this time also include a race in Halo-Setting (incl. Cortana), and you can take part in a film shoot that more or less directly replaces the bucket list events. Here, for example, you have to escape a jet in a Bugatti Chiron or race along a picturesque coastal road in a Auto Union racing car. Everything very harmonious and a wonderful loosening up to the “schnöden” – so already unpackbar comprehensive and varied – standard racing everyday life.
Either the technical framework of Forza Horizon 4 is anything but from bad parents. Of course the engine itself didn’t do much (the same console generation and so on), but some screws were still turned to get more out of the Xbox One. But the real star of optics is above all Great Britain: The lovingly designed landscape, including its many destructible objects and life-supporting inhabitants (human and animal), is staged fantastically by the seamless day/night and weather changes. Whether you’re racing through Edinburgh at night, cruising along a coastal road in the sunset, or watching the water dancing around on the windshield in the cockpit view as rain sets in – Forza Horizon 4 offers you moments to swarm in a continuous stream.
The whole thing still runs smoothly on the normal Xbox at almost any time – which is mainly achieved by a dynamic adjustment of the detail settings. On the PC you can – provided the necessary power is available – also deactivate it and simply turn everything on permanent stop. Then the PC version of the console version is not surprisingly outdistanced – also the Xbox One X version by the way, where you can choose between a quality mode in 4K with 30 FPS or a performance mode with 60 FPS in 1080P. Far-sightedness, shadows, textures, model details – the PC is always ahead. But don’t worry: Without a direct comparison, this is hardly noticeable on the console – the game looks really great here too.
As usual from Microsoft cool: If you buy the game on one platform, you automatically have it on the other. Vulgo play anywhere. The savegames are stored and synchronized in the cloud. So you can always continue playing on both systems where you left off.
The soundtrack is also great as usual: Once again very different radio stations are waiting for you, offering everything from drum & bass, rap and rock to classical music, and on top of that they are brought to life by great moderators – in English as well as in German. Also the sound of the cars can mostly convince. Admittedly, not all carts are on the same level, but most of them sound really stony – both from the outside and from the two cockpit perspectives.
Forza Horizon 4 is certainly one of the most comprehensive and best racing games of this generation, if not all time. Technique and gameplay are excellent and the scope is so stunning that even in this, not exactly short, article, there is no room for many a subtlety. The bottom line is that I can only warmly recommend the fourth part of the Horizon series to anyone who is into cars … and if he also has something for Great Britain and its car culture, even more so.
- What is Forza Horizon 4? An arcade/open world racing game based in the UK with over 450 cars.
- Platforms: Xbox One & PC (Play anywhere)
- Tested: PC & Xbox One
- Developer / Publisher: Playground Games/Microsoft
- Release: October 02, 2018