Forza Horizon Is Falling Behind
With the full game only 3 weeks away, the official car list has revealed a long lasting fault in the Forza franchise
Yesterday, Forza revealed the full car list of its latest game Horizon 5. Now, this may seem familiar from a month ago, however that was the "Day 1" list which essentially means all the cars that will be part of the game on its first day of release meaning it excludes DLC, Forzathon and Festival Playlist cars. This new list just released is the full car list of the first season of FH5. This means the list includes every car that will be in the game by the end of the month, as every week there are new vehicles to unlock in the Festival Playlist.
After much pausing and screenshotting through the gameplay clip, there were some key things I noticed in this list and some are actually quite troubling for the future of this game.
Within the first seconds I noticed that Alfa Romeo was gone entirely and overall the car list does seem quite streamlined with many model variants removed. For example, in Aston Martin the Vantage range has been heavily paired back compared with the last two Horizon games. There is of course the chance these come under the "added to the list in the coming weeks" but there is definitely going to be some of fan's favourite cars missing in the latest instalment of the franchise.
Priorities Aren't In Check
This car list has really revealed that Forza needs to get its priorities in check. Since Horizon 4, the only cars with a model year (MY) 2019 or newer are totally new vehicles like the Rimac C_Two, Koenigsegg Jesko, BMW M2, Jaguar I-Pace, Hoonigans etc. This is an important aspect of the game and we need these all-new-to-the-market models but unfortunately it leaves smaller facelifts and updates of pre-existing models in the dark. For example, the Mercedes A-Class and Jaguar F-Type are still 2014 models in the game despite there being far newer and substantially different models now on sale in the real world. So, rather than adding the all new I-Pace and the Project One, Forza should have first put in updated versions of the F-Type and A-Class because to me unless they are a classic, there is no point in having old MY cars, when on the roads around us in the real world there are updated versions.
An example of these "classics" are with the BMW M3. Forza Horizon 4 featured nearly every model in its illustrious history and think this is right as its such an iconic car thats been around for so long, so many people will have a connection to a specific model and it increases their engagement if their favourite car is there. Speaking of which, hold that thought as we'll discuss it below.
Take a look at the Forza Horizon 3 car list (yes, two games and 5 years ago), there is still the same MY Mercedes A-Class and Jag F-type, other examples include the BMW M3, Audi R8, Audi RS6, Bentley Continental, Chevrolet Camaro SS, Dodge Challenger (excluding Demon) and many many more. All the cars I just mentioned have new models that Forza has blatantly ignored. Yes, I like the latest and greatest, new-from-the-ground-up models but I want my gaming experience to be as close as possible to the real world around me.
A FULL LIST OF ALL THE CARS THAT NEED TO BE UPDATED IN THIS GAME IS ON THE WAY SO MAKE SURE TO FOLLOW ME SO YOU CAN CHECK IT OUT
A key feature to any game is user engagement and looking back at FH4 I'm honestly surprised it did so well. The story was decent but not enough to last you the game's whole lifespan. If it weren't for the side stories like Stunt Driver etc, it would barely be a story at all. The racing was good but like any Forza game there isn't really any motivation to continue to follow along the race ladder and even the story and missions once you become a millionaire and can buy any car you want. These are things I'd love to see resolved. I would love a stronger motivation to follow along with the racing and the story and I think a perfect way to do this would be increasingly more restrictive racing with tighter class and car limits.
For example, as you go on, the races could require more specific performance indices to race in them and it required you to go into the garage and fiddle with your mods to fit. Another idea would be bringing back Championships from Horizon 3 but rather than being player initiated they could be built into the game. For those who didn't have Horizon 3, or just don't remember, a player could go up to a race and in the menu to select what you'd like to do there, you could start a championship in which there would be three races all with the same restrictions for you to do. For example, there were manufacturer restricted ones and special classes like "track toys" or "best of British". Having these reinstated for FH5 would mean more effort for the player to progress through.
Forza Horizon has always been unique in its freedom it would give to players. Part of this included a very unique AI system which really took on its current form in Horizon 3 but was always headed in this direction. Let me explain. When you jump into Forza Horizon 4, you have a variety of AI difficulty settings and these determine how hard all AI in the game will race you, unlike other racing games where you get general control of how fast the AI will be but they do become harder and harder as you progress so the game becomes more challenging as you go. Forza hasn't had this since Horizon 1 & 2 meaning you would just race again and again and unless your skill improved as you went, there would be no reason to turn up the difficulty because otherwise you'd just get frustrated and would struggle to compete. The AI never got harder at all throughout the campaign, they would remain on whatever you set them as meaning racing became too repetitive.
A way other racing games get around this is by having upgrade systems. A perfect example is F1 2021 in any of its career modes. The AI teams will all do upgrades throughout the season and their cars would get faster, in turn the player has to upgrade their car too to keep up. They do this by earning resource points from successfully playing the game. You can't do this in Forza because its AI's cars are automatically selected to be as close as possible to the performance of the player's car. In FH5 they could have changed something to solve this, either the AI difficulty or their car performance rather than having the AI match the player completely in a dull cycle of racing.
In summary, Forza have needed to modernise for a long time and Horizon 5 was their chance (as was Horizon 4) and they've blown it. The car list seriously needs to be brought into 2021, the engagement is becoming more crucial than ever in a world where other games are letting you get out of the cars and do so much more (like GTA or TDU Solar Crown) and this could be done by some simple AI changes. All of which mean a game I want to like more than anyone else, is giving a poor first impression and may fall short.