Forza Horizon 4 Review: Xboxs ultimate exclusive game shouldnt be passed up (Pic: MICROSOFT)
2018 hasnt been a particularly strong year for Microsoft and its first party software lineup. An experimental year, sure, though one that has yet to churn out a truly must-have Xbox One exclusive. Until now, of course: Forza Horizon 4 is racing perfection.
That should come as little surprise, really. Since Playground Games established its celebrated spin-off series Horizon has continued to dominate, weaving in bold and ambitious concepts while welcoming racing fans of all skills levels.
Theres something here for everyone: a rubber burning buffet of events, activities, and multiplayer shenanigans to dive into, all wrapped up in one of the most visually appealing packages Xbox has to offer.
With Australia in the rearview mirror, the Horizon festival has now been unleashed upon the United Kingdom. An odd choice, you may think. At a glance, it doesn't appear to be the most exotic location but theres an undeniable beauty and character to our great nations.
Once again, Playground Games nails that sense of place, this time taking familiar biomes and British landmarks, creating a strangely fitting amalgamation. A patchwork that fits nicely within the borders of Horizon 4s world map.
The games real trump card, however, is its seasons. As you progress from one stage to the next, the surrounding environment will change dynamically.
Over time, huge swathes of the map will get swamped in mud, fields will flourish, and entire lakes will freeze over.
Once you factor in the night/day cycle and weather effects, Horizon 4 becomes one of the most visually diverse games ever created.
Its introduction is a perfect encapsulation of the teams season-shifting premise. Loosely holding the players hand, it guides you through each of the four seasons.
Theres a striking visual contrast as autumnal pinks and oranges succumb to the icy blues and whites of winter.
With spring comes new life and a shock of verdant green that precedes the lazy golden glow of summer.
Seasons offer more than just a change in aesthetics – early on, the game makes a point of showing you this.
After one of the summer rally races, the game shifts into autumn then invites you back to play the same event.
While the difference isnt exactly night and day, the transforming terrain will force you to mix up your racing strategy.
A great excuse for meticulous players to get under the hood and fine tune their vehicles.
In a word, the presentation is masterful. Sure, some of the human interaction in cutscenes is a little hokey but thats not why fans flock to Horizon.
The cars, the sprawling environments, the lighting effects, they all come together so smoothly.
Throw in the games unrivalled vehicle audio and you have a perfect chorus, complimented by a soundtrack stacked with banger after banger.
Whether plugged into Hospitals DnB mixes or kicking back with something more classical, the music selection is on point.
Few video game series can boast having a certain vibe the way Horizon does. Its upbeat, joyous, and counters the frustration that often comes tied to traditional racing sims.
As always, Forzas handling model has a certain heft though one thats relatively easy to manage, regardless of your racing skill or familiarity with the franchise. It ascribes to
Horizons overarching message – approachable but with plenty of depth for those wanting to fiddle with the games finer details.
Rock up to any event and you can either jump straight in or spend an agonising amount of time tuning every aspect of your ride, from alignment and anti-roll bars to springs, aero, damping, and differential. Being more accessible doesnt mean dumbing down that core Forza racing experience.
Those first few hours do a great job showing you the ropes.
What starts as a small cluster of races and activities quickly branches out across the entire map, allowing you to explore at your own free will. Youll be earning Influence along the way, triggering season changes and special festival events upon hitting certain milestones.
These special events are a particular highlight, pitting you against The Flying Scotsman, a hovercraft, dirt bikes, and other modes of transport in a head-to-head race. Theyre like boss battles – or Top Gear challenges on steroids.
The best way to experience Horizon is to let yourself sink in but even then its hard to ignore the lingering repetition – a sense that youre ticking items off a shopping list.
Thankfully there are plenty of distractions, especially if you have a posse of friends to sync up with. Playing online automatically throws you into a session populated with other users, though interacting with them is completely optional.
Meanwhile, those seeking competition can hop into matchmaking, having access to a huge spread of race and game mode options. For the more creatively inclined, Forza once again allows you to design, download, and share custom liveries using its robust toolset.
Forza Horizon 4 is the best Xbox exclusive since, well, Forza Horizon 3.
Despite only having a two-year development cycle and a template that has already seen three successive iterations, Playground Games continues to innovate, nurturing what has become the go-to racing franchise.
Among Microsofts growing pool of first-party studios, it comes out on top once again, helping the publisher round out the year on a high note.
Forza Horizon 4 – Standard Edition (Xbox One)
The Verdict – 5/5
- Solid handling as ever with a huge number of vehicles to unlock
- Stunning amount of detail and visual variety
- Unmatched music selection and feel good vibe
- A ridiculous wealth of replayable content
- It takes a while, though repetition eventually sets in