Vroom, vroom goes the internal combustion engine of the pixel-perfect multi-million dollar sports car. With each delicate squeeze of the Xbox One X’s controller’s right trigger it roars to life in my ears as I barrel down through the tight roads of the English countryside.
A sharp corner approaches and I slam on the brakes with a squeeze of the left trigger, the car’s rear spoiler splits and angles downward to produce an extreme amount of drag that culminates in a symphony of tyre squealing on the asphalt as I round a bend too late and barrel through a stone wall that now has a car sized hole in it.
Some of the others playing with me on the stage of the Microsoft Theatre where Microsoft held their E3 press conference just a few hours before hand follow me instead of sticking to the tarmac. We cruise across the open fields of the British countryside before bursting through another fence and rejoining the action and cruising to the finish line signalled by a euphoric cacophony of sensory overload.
This is Forza Horizon 4 and the regale of a very non-car type person’s hands on that cannot wait for more it! Thankfully that wont be too long either with the next game arriving October 2nd.
In case you’ve missed the many trailers, articles and advertising about it the big new addition for Horizon 4 are seasons. With each week that passes the game with change seasons. Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring, they’re all here and they all affect the Britain-set open world of Horizon 4 in a variety of ways. Lakes freeze to be driven over, events change based on the weather, cars handle differently and the beauty of the English countryside reflects the season the world of Horizon 4 is currently set in.
Unlike regular seasons though Horizon’s change instantaneously. The in-game seasons are not unlike a binary switch either on or off with no gradual progression between them. Days and the simulation of the sun’s natural path are what you’d expect though, each day lasting two hours in the game world.
It’s not all snow and falling leaves though, the fact the game is being set in the same country as its developers mean they’ve been able to dedicate not just a small team over a few weeks to its location scouting but the entire company instead. There is no doubt in Playground Games’ mind that Horizon 4 is without a doubt their best and most in-depth open world yet. It’s a true open-world this time around too. Events begin as you pull up to them throughout and you very much exist in it to buying property in a variety of locations around a central “festival” to garage the many cars you come to own.
The game’s festival is where it’s sort of “goal” lies. The lose aim is to become the best racer in the world, which you do so by competing in races and just driving around and ripping the handbrake on at your leisure to accumulate points. Everyone else is attempting to do the same thing though and every car you see racing around the open world is another human being all merged into instances of the Horizon 4 world.
You can play it completely solo and offline though should you wish. The world will be populated by a series of AI drivers that zip about in a more orderly, albeit racey, fashion than the internet’s hooligans.
Playground have added a nice feature to encourage you to play online though handling “griefers” whom potentially ruin the game for you. Griefers will now be automatically turned into a ghost as they cause havoc and try to run legitimate players off the road. For you, you’ll still see them driving all over the place but their car will fade and essentially hold no weight as they attempt to sideswipe and smash into you causing you no harm.
In addition to the game’s seasons and its now festival-centric open world Horizon 4 moves forward on a technical front too. Of course the cars look more realistic than ever before (yes that’s somehow possible) but we also now get 60fps on both Xbox One X and PC. It may not sound like too much of a big deal but once you go 60 you can’t go back.
Car wise there are a lot. Our demo was locked down to a few specific models and I wasn’t given an offical list but expect there to be the usual suspects with a few new licensees & models added to the mix. If I knew anything about anything when it comes to cars I’d give you a far better and more in-depth run down but I don’t so I’ll just say they all look very pretty and go really fast and that was a lot of fun to play around with.
And really that’s the essence of Horizon and why it’s so successful. It’s fun! Unlike it’s bigger Forza simulation brother Horizon is much more about everyone enjoying driving around a huge open world rather than doing hot laps for five hours straight around a looped track. It’s my type of driving game and looking back at the success of it’s Australian set predecessor the new version is going to be a lot of other’s type too.