Forza Horizon 4 Review: The New Benchmark
The long awaited Forza Horizon 4 hasn't come out yet, but the demo does show some pretty amazing results.
What is this game again?
It's the long awaited sequel to the brilliant Forza Horizon 3, rightfully named - Forza Horizon 4. This time, they've gone home, to where the game developers from Playground Studios are stationed, Great Britain.
Great Britain? That doesn't sound like an exciting place...
You might think that Great Britain is not the best place for an open-world game, but what makes this game stand out from anything in the market - is the 4 season weather system. For the first time, they've implemented not only a full weather system, but also a climate system. Which means you may hop onto the game one day, and find falling leaves on the tarmac, and the next day you may encounter heavy snow where your rear-drive sports cars just struggle to find grip. You basically get four maps rolled into one.
But what's within the map? Is it any good?
The variation of roads within the map is also truly impressive. As you can see, there are city centres, forests, jungles, full-on mud and gravel, lakes, rivers, airports, runways and many other places where you can get your rides to explore.
What's the most significant change, besides the map and the climate, is the Horizon Festival itself. The whole vibe for this game is just completely different to anything in the Horizon Series. In the original Forza Horizon, it was very American, everything looks and feels - dry. Horizon 2 was miles better, it was much more crowded, it feels like a real place, and the whole game just looks very Italian and French, which is probably a good thing. The last one feels very Australian, it's definitely good seeing that it's based in Australia. This forth one just feels miles different to the other ones in the series. It's somewhat inexplicable, but it's definitely immediately recognizable once you boot up the game for the first time.
This time however, you get a dedicated area for you to play around in the Horizon itself too, you got dirt paths, a circle for you to drift around, and many crests, blind corners which makes for a great mini circuit if you fancy. It's just a very refreshing place to be.
I get it, the game looks good, so what about the handling itself?
In the demo that we got to play, the handling on the cars that we are allowed to use really feels like the real deal. The McLaren Senna is just the best car there is, there is a mild hint of understeer on the way into a high-speed corner, then the front end just grips up and the rear will not move around at all. The amount of confident that you build up after driving this car in this game for the very first time is truly insane, you can safely push this car to its absolute limit with no assists on and you can still get away with it.
In many way it feels much better than it's big brother - McLaren P1, the P1 always feels a bit hairy, you always have to be on your toes when driving the P1. The sense of scariness is more than anything, you won't build confidence when going in the slow stuff, because the rear-end will give up and the front end will wash wide, it's a mess. The low-speed corners is a mess but the high-speed sweepers are the real scary bit, because the car is always somewhat inconsistent, you have 1% too much throttle, you wash wide, and you spin. It's that lethal.
I understand that it's wrong comparing a Senna to a P1 which are in different games, but trust me, every single car in the game drives exactly how you feel it would. The trophy truck in the opening scene feels soft, so soft in fact that you'll think the shock absorbers are made of jelly. The Focus RS that you get to choose is a somewhat understeer-y, as you do with an all-wheel-drive car. The rear-end will not let go unless a lot of persuasion, i.e. a yank on the handbrake. Everything has it's weight, it's own handling characteristics and it's very consistent. It's just very good indeed.
The handling is good, but is it good on any other surfaces?
Very much so. If you drive a rear-wheel-drive car on snow, your rear tyres will lit up in a matter of milliseconds. The steering inputs will become more dull and dead because of the lack of grip, and overall it's just a very well tuned system.
The most impressive thing among them is definitely the physics when the car is in water. Because, as you'd expect, there are loads of deep puddles everywhere in this country that famed for rain, so the cars naturally would be slowed down dramatically every time you encounter one. The top speed, after testing, when driving through water is 50kph, which is about 30mph. Which is acceptable considering the depth of water and etc.
Is there any customisation like in the old games?
Yes, as you'd expect, if they don't bring back the customisation options, the whole community would literally go after them and kill them. So they could have put in the old system and carried on.
But this time they didn't. Due to the different conditions, there are now different tyres that you can put on to make your car suit whatever environment you fancy. Wide bodykits are back too, as are the rims and suspension tuning.
The most noticeable change is definitely the ability to change the track of the car, which means you can alter the track width of the car to make it just that much more aggressive.
Any other merits that I need to know?
Not only is the map impressive, the handling plausible, and the physics on point, the environment that the team at Playground Games have created is truly heavenly. Just look at it, yes you might argue that this is a press pic to fool the public, but trust me on this, on a good 4K TV, with 60 frames-per-second, it looks every bit as pretty, if not prettier in game. It's that good.
The level of detail the team have put into each car is truly mind-blowing too. You might never notice that these details exist, but they do. Not only does the rev counter and the speedo work, but also the odometer on the gauges. THE ODOMETER! As does the clocks on some modern cars. They match the real-life time too. Seriously who would pay attention to the odometer or the clock when they're driving on a gorgeous B-road? But they've made it, it's there and it's epic.
Even the engines that you might never pay attention have been beautifully recreated in the game. Every nut and bolt, even the light reflections on those exhaust manifolds look immaculate. That's the level of detail they've gone to to make it just that much better than the other games on the market. It's truly stunning.
But are there any demerits?
Unfortunately, as with anything on the market, it's still not perfect. The map for instance, some of the parts are still blocked off - it's open enough, but it'd be just that much more perfect if we were able to just point at something and go as the crow flies. That's what the old TDU2 used to do very well, and they should learn from them.
Knowing Great Britain, we'd know that the country is full of tiny city streets and streets that are generally not wide enough for anything. And that is what the game lacks unfortunately. Having seen some YouTubers who got their hands on an early build of the game, it would seem that Playground Games have widen some of the city streets to make it suit the usual supercars more. It's a shame because those tiny alleys would make for a different challenge when racing and certainly test the ability of the drivers.
It's also pretty sad that Toyota and Mitsubishi have decided not to play ball at all and didn't join the Horizon franchise. It's definitely a shame considering there are a lot of cool cars from them that we'd like to modify and customise. Playground Games have done what they can, but they still couldn't get the two onboard. Sad times.
You have to really nit-pick to really figure out the bad points of this truly amazing game. Without a doubt the highlight of the year in terms of motoring games. Certainly better than the Crew 2, as it seem to have one of the most horrendous physics engine in existence. And that pretty much sums up the game. If you want to have a right old laugh without caring too much about laptimes, grab one of these, you won't regret it.
All the photos in this article are courtesy of Playground Games and Turn10 Studios, the developers of Forza Horizon 4.