A PGR And Forza Lovechild?
Posted 6 months ago By Vince - Vincent Deshaies
With Forza Motorsport, Microsoft offered fans a great racing simulator franchise. With Project Gotham Racing, they offered them a fantastic arcade-style experience that was accessible to all. Now that the PGR series is dead and buried, it was time for MS to change things up. This is where Forza Horizon comes into play…
Horizon puts you behind the wheel at a ginormous fictional racing event in the state of Colorado: The Horizon Festival. Thanks to your high-tech GPS equipment, you can easily spot multiple challenges on a map, which pin-point exactly where the events take place in the driveable, open-ended area. On your way there, you’ll be able to gain experience points by performing a variety of cool tricks and showing off your driving skills, much like you could during races in PGR. For example, using the handbrake to take a sharp turn and successfully keeping control of the car will grant you a few points, and nearly missing opposing traffic will do the same. This formula is, of course, taken straight from the competition formed by Burnout and Need for Speed, but a small addition makes the points system stand out here: You can challenge opponents you meet in-game. By doing so, you can quickly gain a plethora of experience points and bonuses, a strategy I found much more rewarding and useful than simply showing off your style while driving around.
"While it doesn’t exactly innovate, there’s nothing that could really keep me from recommending this game."
Once you make it to your marker, you enter an official competition, which is how you progress through the game. By doing so, you collect rewards that are basically what you’re more accustomed to from more traditional Forza games. For example, you’ll unlock new cars, gain more powerful parts, along with generally helping you overcome the next wave of challenges. If you’re like me and like messing with your in-game opponents, you can even build the perfect car after unlocking the best new parts and still challenge weaker opponents in the “Hub world”, which pretty much guarantees your victory. After completing each official challenge, you also have the option to go back and beat the best time of an opponent on the same track, earning extra credits in the process.
In terms of the actual challenges, we’re mostly talking about the traditional 8-player races here. However, there is still a little bit of variety in them. For example, you’re invited to race against the clock quite a few times, leaving the track open for you to master. On other occasions, you’ll find yourself racing to a particular area and having to reach it before hot-air balloons touch the ground, or even having to beat a speedy plane in a checkpoint-based race. It’s really fun stuff. The main challenges are all unlocked using a complex combination of things, a little too complex actually. In fact, you have to acquire reputation by driving in style and winning challenges, as well as needing to use credits you acquire the same way, and you need money. That’s on top of actually buying new vehicles and upgrading them in order to remain competitive. I can’t help but feel like all of these things could have been combined into one just for simplicity’s sake.
When it comes to how it feels handling the cars, let me just say that the development team has absolutely nailed it. The driving mechanics feel just as precise as they are in the main Forza series, while also being a bit more forgiving given the arcade nature of Horizon. Basically, you’ll feel like you’re driving a real car instead of it driving itself, and it simply seems like it’s YOUR skills that have improved rather than the game doing it for you. One thing I do have to mention is the fact that you are given the ability to go back in time whenever you screw up your maneuver, much like you could in DiRT. However, the mechanic can be used infinitely, which makes the game way too easy. Despite that, the more I played it, the more I enjoyed the gameplay in Forza Horizon. Most of all, I really appreciated the subtle touch-ups applied to the physics of the game. Whether it’s a slight change in handling depending on the surface you’re driving on, or the sheer satisfaction you get from tweaking a single part of your car and improving it, there’s always something in every aspect of FH that impressed me. I was never the kind of person who enjoyed tooling with the customization options in racing games. I just wanted to get to the actual racing, you know? Well, this game managed to make me feel like it was all worth it.
When it comes to playing online, the game is fully featured, as expected. You have all the basics that were already offered by recent Forza titles, combined with a few goodies taken straight from PGR. One of the most fun experiences I’ve had with the game online was in the very fun cat-and-mouse mode in which you team up with a partner to protect a single car from being rammed into by your opponents. It’s simple, yet it provided me with hours of entertainment, and I can say that more than a few laughs were had. Of course, the online mode works perfectly and is latency-free. One small problem I found with it is the fact that your single-player credits don’t transfer over to the online portion of the game. However, your cars do carry over, which makes you instantly competitive if you’ve spent most of your time playing offline.
Graphically, Forza Horizon is pretty much exactly the same as Forza 4, which is far from a bad thing. The car models are near perfection, the lighting effects are great, and the car damage looks very realistic, despite being a cosmetic change only and not affecting your car’s performance. Other than that, it’s also worth noting that the time of day changes during races, resulting in some eye-popping scenery changes that help make the beautiful vistas shine. All of that runs at a rock solid framerate, something that still manages to pleasantly surprise me to this day. Forza Horizon is definitely among the best looking racing games on the market. As for the sound work, it’s just as stellar as you’ve come to expect from this franchise. As your cars get more powerful, you’ll really feel as though you’re driving a monster of a machine, which is important in this type of game.
By keeping just enough of the core experience the Forza series continues to provide, and by integrating the best elements from PGR and other titles, Forza Horizon really found a perfect balance between arcade gameplay and simulation. No matter where you look, you can find real evidence of a lot of polish and care that went into the making of this game. Offering a variety of challenges, deep customization options, solid online play, and very fun gameplay, Horizons offers everything you could want from it. While it doesn’t exactly innovate, there’s nothing that could really keep me from recommending this game. Drive on!
+ Fantastic visuals
+ Deep customization options
+ Fully-featured online play
+ Lots of content for your money
- Doesn’t innovate enough
- Overly complex progression and rewards system
- Damage is only cosmetic
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Release Date : 2012/10/23
System : Xbox 360
Publisher : Microsoft Game Studios
Developer : Turn 10
Category : Racing
ESRB : T
7.0 / 10
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8.7 / 10