Since its announcement, Forza Horizon 4 has been full of reveals and surprises. Fans thought the series was surely heading to the land of the rising sun but instead Playground Games, based in a landlocked West Midlands county of England, decided it was time for the Horizon festival to head to Great Britain. The reveal brought mixed responses, but we had faith that the team would want to re-create their home to the best of their abilities. Join us as we explore Forza Horizon 4 in every season, as we decide if this is the best Forza Horizon to date.
In the first few hours of Forza Horizon 4, you’ll find the game to be somewhat limited. There’s not much to do on the map, and the only real thing you’re working towards is increasing your influence enough to unlock the next season and showcase. Influence is the new ‘fans’ meter that gives you your core leveling system, and as you get more influence and smash through some epic showcases eventually the real game begins. Luckily doing this allowed us to experience all four seasons, and we took plenty of time to cruise around and check out Great Britain before completing the final showcase event.
With just one Horizon festival site in Britain, more of the map is freed up for players to explore. There are over 500 roads to drive along in Forza Horizon 4, ranging from narrow dirt trails to wide freeways, and there’s a road for every style of racing such as twisting hill-climbs and drag strips. Edinburgh is full of both wide and narrow streets with plenty of round-a-bouts as well as long straights for dragging, while escaping the city racers will find a wide open beach along the east coast, deep dark forests, and plenty of waterways to get wet and muddy. Interestingly Playground Games said some parts of the map would be inaccessible when the winter ice had thawed, however we found we were able to drive across almost all of the rivers and lakes in every season, even the large Derwent Lake which has two islands.
Speaking of seasons, unless you’ve been living under a rock you should be more than aware that Forza Horizon 4 introduces seasons, and with each real-world week a new season will change everything. When Playground Games said every new season will be different what they mean is that there are seasonal challenges and Forzathon events, as well as seasonal rewards. The actual map stays the same, i.e. every Spring you’ll find puddles in the same locations, but the new seasonal variety definitely gives more reasons to return to Forza Horizon 4 each week. Currently there are 007 seasonal challenges with the first week being based on a series of Skyfall stunts and the following week aimed at the latest movie Spectre. There’s a lot of Bond-themed stuff in-game such as the James Bond car pack and it’s nice to see the movie-game crossover in what we believe to be the best re-creation of Britain ever in a video game.
New to the Horizon franchise is Horizon Stories & Businesses. Each story consists of ten events and comes with their own unique line of rewards. Stories range from joining the Drift Club to owning a rental car business, with many more on the horizon (pun intended) as the seasons change. Forzathon has also received a massive overhaul with the new hourly events and Forzathon points. Every hour, racers can head to a different location in Britain where the Forzathon event will commence. There are three objectives to be completed in 15 minutes and players are then awarded a maximum of 40 Forzathon points. Objectives are typically different PR stunts such as speed traps, drifts and danger zones, and the more players working towards the event the better chances you’ll have of getting the maximum rewards. The Forzathon store has weekly items ranging from rare and exclusive vehicles to wheelspins to vanity items, and we haven’t had any issues being able to purchase every unique item within each seven-day timeframe before the items refreshed.
Wheelspins have been revamped as well, and you’ll find yourself rewarded with many more than previous Forza games. There is also now a Super Wheelspin where you win three items and have a greater chance of getting rare items. The perks system has also completely changed and is now based on each individual car. It was a lot easier to earn perks points and unlock some of the perks, however some require as many as 25 points to unlock, such as the perk that gives you the ability to have one crash before your points score resets. This perk is actually amazingly essential and allows you to bank those big skill chains that would have otherwise been lost – just don’t get too greedy!
Forza Horizon 4 introduces homes which are scattered across Great Britain. You get your first home for free in the first hour of gameplay, and Gold Edition owners get another nice free home by the lake. The homes in Forza Horizon 4 almost seem like a bit of an afterthought though, or something that Playground Games wanted to do more with but ran out of time. Each home grants you a new perk that you would have otherwise unlocked in previous games such as fast travel to anywhere on the map, however there’s not much else to them. We were hoping for garages where we could display our favourite vehicles or even the ability to walk around the homes like in The Crew 2, but unfortunately each home is just a location you can fast travel to and a place to access your Festival menu screen to buy/sell/upgrade/customise your cars.
Obviously the game includes all the token Forza customisation options, ranging from creating decals and sharing them online to searching for a tuning setup to win that tricky drift event. The Autoshow is still a little tricky to navigate until you get the filters set up (mostly due to there being over 450 vehicles) but we found we got enough wheelspins and super wheelspins to not have to purchase many cars at all. At level 100, we had already won several Ferraris, Porsches, Lamborghinis, a Zonda Huayra, and more, all from wheelspins. There were even a couple of nice barn finds this time around. Credits are actually pretty limited in Forza Horizon 4 so it’s best if you carefully consider your purchase options. It may not be the best idea to save up for a 3 million credit car early on.
While we’re discussing vehicles we might as well discuss the way they handle. Forza Horizon has always been an arcade racing franchise and this game is no different. While you can turn simulation steering on and fiddle with traction control, ABS and even fine tune parts of the car, the game still doesn’t compare to simulation racing games. We actually found our Thrustmaster TX wheel to be semi-unresponsive and unusable despite it working perfectly in Forza Motorsport 7. Hopefully Playground Games can provide some better wheel controls in updates soon after launch, but for now we’re sticking to a controller.
The absolute best new feature of Forza Horizon 4 is the ability to have any of your cars delivered to you instantly, for free. This option was hidden away or needed to be done creatively in previous Horizon games, but this time around it’s in a very large tile right below the map on your main menu, and it’s fast. Not only is it great to be able to switch vehicles quickly in solo when you find a new speed trap or drift zone, but also in the hourly Forzathon event we found it was great to be able to quickly swap out to a vehicle that could get much better scores than that which we showed up to the event in.
Visually, the game looks stunning. Each season brings a breath of fresh air to the game and racers simply won’t get bored of an environment as it only lasts for one week before the new season hits. Winter is cold and harsh with deep snow in areas and iced over waterways, Spring is wet, muddy and full of puddles, Summer brings England’s 2017 Summer sky to the game and gives some absolutely stunning sunsets, and finally Autumn scatters leaves all over the many English countryside roads. Dirt 4’s Michigan zone could take a note out of Forza Horizon 4’s Autumn season as to how trees and the environment should look, as we found Forza Horzion 4 pushes the boundaries of what the Xbox One X is capable of.
With every Forza Horizon game comes an amazing soundtrack spread out across several radio stations. This time around there’s no Groove Music to add your own, but each channel offers something different ranging from Mozart to Chvrches to Kendrick Lamar. As usual, engine sounds are all spot on as Playground Games and Turn 10 meticulously record each vehicle’s sounds for the game. Car horns are back as a vanity item you can unlock as you play, and there are plenty to choose from. We unfortunately found a lot of the car horns to be too quiet, even when turning all other sounds down a bit in the menu. Hopefully the horns can get a bit louder as they can be fun to use in the Forzathon event and other online activities.
Forza Horizon 4 squeezes a lot in to a small package. We found the revamped parts of the game welcoming albeit slightly too easy. Racers don’t really need to have much skill to progress and level up at a fairly quick rate, and we had no issues reaching level 100 in a couple of days of solid play. The map was a little disappointing, but Forza Horizon games generally aren’t able to cover as much as we’d like to see. Hopefully we get Japan in the next game and the map size increases significantly, though some rumours suggest we might be heading stateside to none other than California. Wherever Forza Horizon 5 ends up, we hope Playground Games can build on the ideas they introduced in this game such as homes, businesses and stories, and that the map size increases to compete with the likes of The Crew 2 or whatever other open-world racing games we’re playing in 2020.
Rocket Chainsaw reviewed Forza Horizon 4 in 4K on an Xbox One X console, and the game is also available on Windows PC and is an Xbox Play Anywhere title. For more information, head to the official Forza Horizon 4 website.
- Revamped Forzathon is actually interesting - Seasonal environments and shiny cars look incredible in 4K - Getting vehicles delivered to you for free, wherever you are on the map, is a game changer.
- No increase to map size, and not enough British landmarks - which seems like a missed opportunity - Still no leaderboards for the majority of races