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E3 2012: Forza Horizon hands-on

E3 2012Forza

Of the games I saw during the first day of E3, Forza Horizon had the most compelling premise. This is a spin-off of Microsoft’s racing series, allowing you to take its accurate simulator experience onto the open road.

The Forza games have been a huge success, but can come across as too clinical and exhausting. When you come home from work, the last thing most people want to do is drive a 50-lap endurance race or plough through a heavy career mode. With Horizon, the same simulator handling is available in a more accessible and less demanding environment.

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Set in Colorado, the action kicks off at a racing festival, which acts as your base. From here, you can drive around an open world, either with no particular goal in mind, or to compete against others in ad-hoc and organised races. The easiest way to think about this is that it’s like the segments on Top Gear with supercars meandering through the countryside on ordinary roads, as opposed to the Stig doing timed laps to determine the fastest car.

Real roads are where these cars are meant to be, and the scenery that hosts them in Horizon looked stunning in the playable demo. Golden brown trees swayed in the wind as the sun set on a race through rolling hills. The graphics and car handling are familiar, but the new environment gives it a refreshing feel.

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Only one short level was available to play, providing a simple race through winding roads. Save for the occasional traffic, it was straightforward to keep to the familiar racing line on the track until the end. Microsoft’s representatives were careful about revealing too much at this stage in development, but expect more to come to light closer to its release in October.

The author of this fine article

is the Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2000. Get in touch on Twitter @PhilipMorton.

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