Playground Games has implemented a major change to the Forza Horizon formula in Forza Horizon 4, which makes its open-world a shared experience. After spending time with it during an early review period I can say that I appreciate its Destiny-like gameplay changes, as well as its intoxicating looking visuals that provide near life-like recreations of the four seasons that the game can feature. The racing controls are tight and require a bit of skill and practice to master, so overall, Forza Horizon 4 is a robust and engaging experience to say the least.
You can check out my full review below via the embedded video or script. If you want a quick answer, then I’d recommend buying it if you’re already a franchise fan, but I’d also recommend it if you’re just looking for something new in the racing genre.
Hey now Forza Horizon fans, Matt Heywood here from EntertainmentBuddha.com to review Forza Horizon 4, aka the racing game that is also a game about mother nature.
In all seriousness though, thanks to this game’s focus on the four seasons, no not the hotel chain, but the actual seasons that signal severe changes in the weather, you are treated to some of the most beautiful looking video game environments and lighting that has ever graced your eyeballs.
This is especially true if you’re playing on an Xbox One X, or a 4K ready PC rig, because the game supports native 4K resolution on those systems, which provide for the most detailed looking visuals around. It should be noted that the Xbox One X can also be toggled for a performance mode, which drops the resolution down to 1080p, but locks the frame rate at 60fps to give you silky smooth animations and response times. On PCs, you can enjoy Britain’s many diverse landscapes during each season with the best possible visual output your rig can handle, because the game will dynamically balance resolution and frame rates based on your hardware.
Trust me, Forza Horizon 4 is a gem to look at, especially thanks to the changes in season, which can make Britain feel entirely new based on how each season can affect the look of the land, but also the driving conditions. This is easily one of the best looking racing games to-date, as it should be, so while the game is stunning to look at, it backs up its visual polish with entertaining gameplay.
Think of Forza Horizon 4’s new shared world as Destiny with race cars, because while it doesn’t feature squad-based gunplay, it still offers a living world with other real life gamers doing their own thing at the same time you’re going through your own experiences. You can even team up with the other live players during the games many diverse campaign racing missions, or in a caravan to complete challenges.
This shared world isn’t fully unlocked when you first start the game though, so you have some time to spend with it in a single player capacity to find out if you want to remain playing solo once the shared aspect opens after completing a series of prologue missions.
These early missions expose you to the game’s insane amount of variety when it comes to the main campaign. There are 25 distinct campaigns to play through, and each one represents a different way to play the game. For example, you can participate in Cross Country races that take you on off-road adventures, or you can play the role of a stunt driver on a Hollywood production. If those campaigns don’t tickle your fancy you can spend time in Street Races, or work towards the out-of-this-world scenarios featured in Showcase events, which can pit you against non-traditional vehicles like a hovercraft in a race to the finish.
The sheer variety of mission types in Forza Horizon 4 is staggering to say the least, so I found it impossible to ever feel like I didn’t have anything to do in the game after firing it up and logging into the shared world.
Again, the shared world aspect doesn’t unlock until after you’ve earned a required amount of “influence”, which serves as the game’s XP system. You can earn influence from racing, doing stunts, driving like a mad man, designing liveries, and even streaming or watching the game on Mixer. Once you earn enough influence at the start of the game you’ll unlock the Autumn season, which in turn will open up the Horizon Life servers, so you can begin playing in the shared world where Drivatars are replaced by other real world players.
Unfortunately, playing during the early release window meant that the pool of available players was small, but I still had the pleasure of experiencing other real world drivers in my world at the same time, and I did find the experience to feel a bit more organic with real drives versus the AI controlled ones. I didn’t run into anyone trying to do something insane or who was just being an ass, but if those scenarios worry you about the shared world, you can always play Solo and still complete the full campaign.
I do recommend playing in the shared world for the organic feeling factor if anything else. I also found the 25 campaign mission types to be just a bit more rewarding feeling when I was playing cooperatively, or against other human racers, because it just feels better to beat a real person than an AI routine.
There is literally too much to do at any one time in Forza Horizon 4, so there’s no shortage of things to get mixed up in, which gives this game some serious legs. I personally enjoyed the stunt and cross country campaign missions the most, so I spent the bulk of my time playing through those campaign types, which still allowed me to earn influence to unlock newer races and other seasons to experience them in. You truly can play this game in any fashion or manner that you see fit. You’re not really pigeon holed into a locked in progression system, so if you just want to fire up the game and see where it’ll take you at a particular moment in your day or week, then you’re free to do so without the fear of feeling like you’re not accomplishing anything. This makes Forza Horizon 4 a great title for both casual and hardcore racing game fans, because it’s built to suit either play style without affecting the overall fun factor.
In terms of the racing gameplay itself it really depends on what difficulty level and assists you toggle in terms of how the game will play for you. I set most of the settings to their easiest levels while also tweaking some of the assists, and I still was given a run for my money by the AI during campaign races. Even with the easiest settings in place, I still had to claw my way to the podium, and I wasn’t always first. I found the racing controls to be very tight, but thanks to the seasons and how the weather can come into play, every race felt different, and some were much more difficult than others thanks to the racing conditions brought on by a particular season’s weather. I would have to say that Forza Horizon 4 requires more racing game skills than other entries in the franchise, but with some practice, it’s not too difficult to get competitive in the various campaign mission types that this game features.
While Forza Horizon 4 looks like a million dollars and features engaging gameplay, it’s not perfect. One of the most frustrating aspects of this game is in how you manage its 450 car roster, namely the DLC cars. For some odd reason you can’t just download a DLC car pack in full to your personal garage. You have to literally click on each car in the pack you purchased and go through a series of menu choices to complete the download to your garage. This process takes much longer than it sounds, so I found it to be overly clunky and frustrating. I’m not sure why the whole pack wouldn’t just auto-download to your own garage, but that’s not the case, so I wasn’t a huge fan of DLC car management.
If you’ve wanted an open-world racing game that has shared world elements like a Destiny, then Forza Horizon 4 should be rich up your alley. For starters, it’s breathtaking to look at, but even more importantly, it offers a staggering amount of things to do with really no structure, so you’re free to forge your own unique experience. Plus, with the shared world feature, you can now experience Forza Horizon 4’s Britain and its four seasons with the rest of the world at the same time. It really is a deep, open-wold racing game that has many elements that will speak to fans of the genre, as well as those who may not want a more structured and serious racing game experience.
Forza Horizon 4 gets a 9 out of 10 review score from Team EB. It’s a no-brainer buy for Forza Horizon fans, but we also recommend it to gamers looking for something new in the racing genre, or a shared world experience that doesn’t involve FPS gameplay.
Thanks for watching, this is Matt Heywood signing off for EntertainmentBuddha.com, where we make you a better geek, one post at a time.
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