Eurogamer Expo 2012: Forza Horizon hands-on
Looking at Forza Horizon for the first time, it’s hard to believe it’s even a Forza game. Gone are the sleek, sterile car showroom menus, replaced with a car festival hub and font and colour usage that evokes the extreme sports style of Codemaster’s Dirt games. It’s finely tuned, real-world race tracks absent in favour of a sun swept mountain road, complete with civilian vehicles and passing farm houses.
It looks like the next Need for Speed, a racer focused on hurtling through traffic, into fences and across dirt tracks. It begins with a group of “dude bro” types running to their expensive array of high-powered cars, challenging each other to a race towards the aforementioned car festival. And then you jump into the pause menu, turn off all the assists and the Forza name begins to make sense.
Your 2013 SRT Viper feels weighty and realistic. Pulling hard on the brakes before turning into a corner becomes paramount, being careful not to over steer and send the car into a wild spin. This may look like an arcade racer, doling out points for successful overtakes, drifting or blasting past speed cameras, but Forza 4’s simulation race engine and vehicle physics are in full effect. It blends the look and thrill of an arcade racer, implementing an open world and satisfying points system with the precision of simulation racing; its assists opening it up for casual newcomers and simulation fans alike.
It may have dropped from 60fps to 30fps, but this allows for an improvement in visual fidelity and scale. The mountainous range is especially impressive, and there’s a lot going on. Near the beginning of the race a small aircraft flies overhead displaying a banner advertising the festival. Its close proximity rumbles the screen and the controller, causing your car to lose control if you’re not careful, while other racers will enter the fray by smashing through wooden fences, careening onto the road ahead while avoiding oncoming traffic. It offers a kind of excitement not found in other Forza games, but there’s plenty to love if you’re a fan of the series.
Forza Horizon may not provide the ultimate driving experience, but its predecessors have dabbled enough in real world tracks and all of their intricacies to last a lifetime. Horizon presents something anomalous, not just for the series but for the racing genre as whole, blending two distinct styles together and bridging the gap between audiences. Hopefully it lives up to its early promise, and it will be exciting to see how it’s open world shapes up and keeps things interesting.