Launched in 2005, the Xbox-exclusive Forza Motorsport franchise has quickly become one of the premiere names in racing video games. On Oct 25th the fifth game in the series, Forza Horizon, was released on Xbox 360, taking the series, and racers, in exciting new directions.
Up until Horizon, the Forza series has concentrated on hyper-realistic cars on real-world tracks. Leaving players to globetrot (via menu screens) from Germany’s Nurburgring to the NASCAR oval tracks of the eastern US. You chose your track, your race type, your car and off you went. Winning races earned you credits and progressed you to world champion status.
Horizon takes this formula and moves it into the open world of fictional Colorado and the Horizon festival, a pseudo-fictional celebration of music, monster engines and motorway mania.
The setting of the Horizon festival gives this game a drastically different tone from previous Forza games. The soundtrack is heavy on dubstep and electronica, much of which is fantastic, and the addition of casual road traffic, off-road rally races and a splash of pink make this spinoff look distinct and feel fun.
Winning races is no longer your only option for gaining credits and popularity. The racing skills system has been greatly expanded; rewarding players for everything from extreme speed to perfectly executed two-wheel drifts. This isn’t anything wholly new to the racing genre, or even to the franchise, but Horizon pulls it off with style.
The skills system is also improved by the elimination of most of Forza’s calm cobalt menu screens. In Horizon you choose your car and actually drive from place to place. This adds a whole new level of freedom and allows for exploration, a first for the series. Gaining points from blowing past a traffic camera at top speed on your way from race to race is as rewarding as gaming gets. The addition of collectable discounts and hidden ‘Barn cars’, all while gaining popularity, makes driving around aimlessly fun by itself.
All the famous Forza realism is present as well. Seeing an Aston Martin line up next to a Ferrari looks and sounds as real as anything we’ve currently seen in gaming. While the tuning options present in former games have been removed, the customization of both the cars and the gameplay is unpatrolled.
With an expansive open world, full day/night cycle and all the classic realism that this series is known for, Forza Horizon is a great game for hip gear heads, casual gamers and hardcore online speed demons alike. Driving around an open world in these beautifully crafted automobiles adds a depth and a sentimentality that the series was lacking.
Turn 10 tried something new with the Forza series in Forza Horizon and it worked wonderfully. See you on the starting grid.