If I were to tell you how good Forza Horizon 4 game is in three words, it would be - Best racing game - but as review tradition go, I need to be more detailed than just three words. (Ugh, I would be playing it if I didn’t have to write this review)
And this is why Forza Horizon 4 is the best racing game in many, many years. It just pulls you into its world and doesn’t overload you with its features. Want to faff around historic Britain jumping off cliffs and tearing speed records? It’s arcad-y as hell. Want to turn off steering assist and traction control while adjusting suspension and every last chunk of metal on four rubber? It can be your racing sim.
Believe it or not, I do not like racing games as much (ya, I know I said I want to go back to playing this) but Forza Horizon 4 changed that. Bold claim? Yes sir. I was really happy just adjusting the paint job and dwelling on the arcade aspect of Forza Horizon 4 that is so satisfying. It lives up to the hype and if you haven’t guessed it already, we absolutely love it and here’s why…
Horizon line better than finish line
There’s more to just finishing first in Forza Horizon and that’s where it absolutely kills the monotony of racing games. You still have the Forza Festival happening all over historic Britain but this times it's a lot less in your face.
The way to level up in the game is by gaining influence. Everything you do in the game earns you influence which is white collar term for street cred. Each level unlocks new races and things to do and there’s a lot to do!
Initially my favourite thing to do was the stunt man events where you get to do really crazy stuff like jumping across a river in a Lamborghini but then I soon got to experience the Forza Festival’s Behemoth Showcase Events that unlocks after you gain certain amount of influence and it will blow your mind. It’s flamboyant, brash, crazy and straight up fun. We raced dirt bikes (four of them at once), a hovercraft that goes about smashing all in its path and a fricken train. I repeat, A TRAIN and you know, a fighter jet too. For long-standing Xbox fans, there’s a Halo surprise race as well. Just your regular racing game things...
By the end of those main events, I was desperately itching for more and clearly a very arcade centric gamer. For those looking to take up serious racing, Horizon 4 has a lot for you too.
Historic Britain is absolutely gorgeous. It’s not as varied geographically like the map of Australia from Forza Horizon 3 but the introduction of seasons changes everything. Quite literally.
Initially the game lets you experience all four seasons one after another to understand how dynamic the map is going to be every week. Yup, every Thursday 8PM, the season changes and along with a bunch of season centric activities to do.
The shift between Spring, Summer, Winter and Autumn is not only cosmetic but also changes the way your tyres react to tarmac. For instance, rivers and streams freeze and become drivable. Consequently, your time splitting Aventador will slip in corners like butter on a hot knife. If it’s raining then watch out for those pesky water puddles during rally races, they can slow you down.
The controls are very simple. Accelerate, reverse, hand brake and rewind are all you need to know. Like the previous title, you can smash through mostly everything and if you smash wrong, rewind back to a better position and do it again. It’s useful when you want to reach those influencer boards on top of objects.
The option to choose from more than 450 cars from 100 manufacturers will make your brain melt and you can customise each and every one of them. From internal performance upgrades to branding your wheel with paint and stickers that have a personal touch. There are body kits and auto upgrades as well should you want to shy away from dwelling too hard on the sim aspect of it.
We got tired of 911 police paint jobs on our cars so we deep dived into the customizing menu and slapped some much needed Mumbai Police colours with ‘dial 100’ over it. Take that 911.
The races are not predefined to a set vehicle. The car you show up with is the car you race with and everyone else will have the same tier car as you. Feel like punishing a Jaguar C-X75 on a dirt track? Something is wrong with you but the game doesn’t judge. Do what you want.
The game also brings the customization out of the car. You can buy houses that make it easier to fast travel and this time, unlike Forza Horizon 3, cars will be delivered to you for free. You can customise the clothes, accessories and assign emotes (like Fortnite) to your chosen driver character.
On the line
The game seamlessly shifts between online and offline without any hindrance to your progression or stats. I usually enjoy playing games on my own but the addition of real drivers on the roads opens new doors to making friends and adds a sense of competition.
I had a friend joining my convoy but it got a bit difficult to track him on the map. Forza should highlight the drivers in your convoy on the map so it’s easier to reach them in real time. Nonetheless, if you choose to play with a friend by adding them to your convoy then ghost mode is deactivated meaning you can crash into their car. If you have no one on your convoy but are connected to the Forza servers then you won’t crash into real players on the map. You can even use rewind which is helpful.
The music is absolutely amazing on some radio stations. Though that largely depends on your taste. For me, I was grooving while drifting across some of the most visually stunning landscapes I’ve ever seen in a game. Songs like Rapper’s Delight by The Sugarhill Gang, MICHUUL by DUCKWRTH and Feel Alright by Poolside went straight to my Google Play Music playlist from Forza’s list of songs. Some people I know didn’t like the occasional gibberish from the RJs and that really hard electronic music could potentially kill the vibe but swiping between the radio stations is a good way to set the mood to soak in the beauty that is Forza Horizon 4.
Even if you disagree with me the game lets you link your own playlist and one thing is certain, you will absolutely love the sound from the rumbling engines and the fiery exhausts. Every car sounds vastly different. We noticed how the Lamborghini Aventador makes a hissing noise every time you leave the accelerator. I am not sure if it does so in real life because my Aventador was fitted with a completely new upgrade package. Playground Games and Turn 10 Studios have quite literally outdone themselves this time.
We maxed out the graphical settings on our test bench and the Nvidia GTX 1080 handles it like a beast. We got a framerate of 50 to 60 on Ultra in 4K but decided to dial it down to High on 4K to get a steady frame rate of 60fps. The game looks absolutely gorgeous and it gets more intriguing when the seasons change. The dirt on the Side Skirts differ from season to season. Heck you can spend hours just ogling at the level of detail your car has or see how realistic water droplets seem on your windscreen. It’s a pretty game for sure and if you have the option of running it on 4K and HDR by all means, crank it up.
FORZA HORIZON 4 VERDICT
There’s something about certain videogames that when you hold the controller, you get lost into them and the best of these have a greater sense of ease at which you shift into their reality. Forza Horizon 4 is one of those games. The logic here is not to deliver a realistic racing game but to exceed those expectations and give you more than your reality.
Too deep? Let me break it down. You enjoy a racing game because say, you love cars but Forza Horizon 4 already has 450 of those, maybe more. Now you want to tinker with those cars down to its smallest nut. Forza Horizon 4 has you covered. Now you’re bored of finishing first and want to make yourself unique. Open up customization and go all Banksy on your ride. Now you have stumbled upon a recurring state of ‘what next?’ and that’s where Forza hits it out of the park. Those Behemoth Showcase Events are an absolute blast and to answer your ‘what next?’ question. The Forza seasonal championships, events with #FORZATHON Live, Daily and Weekly challenges will keep you glued to your couch for a long time.
Believe it or not I don’t know how to drive in real life and never have I felt more enticed by gas drinking machines than ever. I seriously wish to learn more about the sim aspect of these racing games now and see what damping, differential and all that car jargon actual is. So maybe the next Forza Horizon might teach me something? Who knows. That’s the beauty of interactive entertainment that you call videogames and Forza Horizon 4 is already great at what it does.