Forza built its reputation by giving players tests of precision motoring and more vehicle options than an issue of Autocar. But now, after four outings of motoring minutiae, the series brings us a chance to let our inner speed demon run riot in Forza Horizon. The obsession with car specs and challenging circuits is gone. In its place is Horizon, a fictional petrolhead festival of fireworks, bass and burnouts packed with events designed to help players live out boy racer fantasies on the open roads in a reimagined Colorado.
Forza Horizon – the map
Forza Horizon is all about freedom, so it doesn’t do tracks. Instead it drops players into an open world where they can zoom around challenging other drivers, working their way through high-octane races, amassing a collection of dream machines and racing planes in outlandish Top Gear-style showcase events. Driving games like Test Drive Unlimited have tried this open-world approach before but none has pulled it off with such style as Forza Horizon. The sizeable map is well portioned rather than sprawling and the huge range of events means entertainment is rarely more than a u-turn away.
Forza Horizon – Forza free roam
Open world games often feel directionless but Forza Horizon keeps things focused with a story about the player’s journey from racing noob to surprise champion. It’s not the most gripping story and the flirting woman who guides you through it has all the emotion of a Sindy doll but this so-so tale does the job. Burnout-inspired rewards for dangerous driving also keeps the treks between different events lively, encouraging you to drive like a loon to win invites to special events.
Forza Horizon – under the hood
Forza Horizon might have swapped sim for speed but it’s still built on the technological guts of the main Forza series. That means it’s not only gorgeous to look at but has the authentic car handling that made the series’ name. There’s plenty of assist options too allowing it to cater to everyone from Sunday drivers in need of help with steering to demanding tests of skill to keep your car from spinning into the hard shoulder.
Forza Horizon – cars, cars, cars
While Forza Horizon maintains the visual quality and fine-tuned tech from the main Forza games, car choice has been cut down considerably. But given that Forza 4 featured hundreds of cars and had to come with an extra disc just to fit them all in that still means Horizon has plenty of options for four- wheeled fun. There’s also a stash of classic motors hidden in barns around the game map and, in true classic car owner style, once you’ve found them can spend all your cash customizing them with upgrades and custom-designed paint jobs.
Forza Horizon – multiplayer
Forza Horizon packs in plenty of multiplayer options from the racing game standard of testing your driving prowess against ‘ghosts’ of rival players to the fun Infected mode where the goal is to dodge ‘infected’ cars or to hunt down the uninfected and turn them with a well-timed collision. There’s a free roam option too where players can team up to drive around the map and take part in various co- op challenges. But from what we’ve experienced of it pre-release (when players are thin on the ground) we’re not convinced there’s enough to it to keep players hooked.