When it comes to racing games, it seems developers have a hard time of balancing out the level of realism and the enjoyability of their offerings. Some games go too far the direction of the arcade and lose any real-world credibility, whereas others get so technical and detail-oriented, that they require effort to even play, let alone enjoy. With Forza Horizon 4, as well as, to be honest, most of the Horizon series, Microsoft Studios look like they’ve hit a sweet spot. Unlike the more simulation-oriented Forza Motorsport games, Horizon 4 is just arcadey enough to get your adrenaline running, but still based very well in the real world of racing, offering a boatload of car customization and tuning, as well as an impressive number of vehicles (450!) to get even the most picky car enthusiast interested.
Fans of the series might note too many similarities with the previous Forza Horizon 3, but when you’ve hit a winning formula, why change it? Even so, Horizon 4 still offers plenty (and I mean a lot!) of new additions, including the changing of seasons and team modes, as well as the opportunity to see Britain in a new light, vibrant and colorful as opposed to rainy and gloomy (there’s still some rain and gloom, too, don’t worry).
FH3 took you driving all over the Australian continent, and this time we’re going back to the place of origin of the Union Jack, that little island at the edge of Europe, Great Britain. It’s refreshing to see a racing game take place here, as we’ve had probably too many games focused on North America or the well-established racing circuits in Germany or France. The British weather might be somewhat of a downer in the real world, painting a gray picture of this particular part of the world with almost half the year being rainy days. In Forza Horizon 4, though, the seasons fuel the action instead of hinder it. The seasons change and with them the racing conditions, making an already familiar location completely new and challenging. The same turns that you’re used to navigating perfectly in the bone-dry summer heat might become a sliding mess in the winter snow. This gameplay element introduces so much variance that it’s like playing four different games in one, requiring new strategies and driving styles to acclimate to the weather conditions. The seasons change every Thursday and are the same for all players.
Speaking of which, as you already know if you’re familiar with the Horizon series, Forza Horizon 4 is a massively multiplayer game, where you play concurrently with thousands of other players. Don’t worry, though, unless you’re in a convoy (team) with them, you won’t be bothered as you complete races around the open world, as they can’t bump into you or hinder you in any other way. Speaking of bumping into things, the environment is wonderfully destructible, and you’ll have a hard time finding something durable enough that you won’t be able to tear it to shreds going into it at 160mph with your Ferrari 458.
As for cars, there are an amazing 450 vehicles to choose from (with some wacky additions like Halo’s own Warthog). Notably, however, there are no cars by Japanese powerhouses Mitsubishi or Toyota. What is there, though, is sure to impress even the most staunch car fanatic. You can unlock cars by purchasing them or winning them at the almost loot-box like feature Wheelspin. The cars are fully customizable and you can spend hours tuning your vehicle to fit just your design. The drivers, too, are customizable, and you can set your avatar to look just like you (or as much unlike you as possible), as well as choose a victory dance for those moments of glory. There’s a plethora of options to choose from and a load of activities to take part in, including drifting, drag racing, car tuning, and even car photography for those visually inclined.
Speaking of aesthetics, Forza Horizon 4 is possibly the best one yet in terms of graphics, bringing an almost photo-realistic image of Britain, but with a much more engaging palette of colors that you’ll normally see, making the place vibrant and resplendent, a true joy to explore. Whatever the season, you’ll find the landscapes in Forza Horizon 4 to be awe-inspiring, if you can even take note of them as you race along the tracks or through the towns.
All in all, Forza Horizon 4 is an excellent continuation of the series, with enough novelty to interest even die-hard fans of the series. As for casual racing game fans, or players new to the series, they’ll be enchanted by the beauty and fluid gameplay of FH4.