Forza Horizon Review

  • Platform: Xbox 360
  • Developer: Playground Games
  • Publisher: Microsoft Studios
  • Release Date: October 23, 2012
  • Price: $59.99
  • Official: Forza Motorsport

“You’ll want to visit this festival”

Driving games have been around a long time and unlike role-playing titles or first person shooters, they aren’t able to change much. There is no story pulling you to the end, there is no awesome piece of loot you may find, and there is no boss to overcome, it’s just you and the road. That isn’t to say there is no variety, as there certainly is, but the differences are of a smaller scale. The bigger choice for driving fans is whether to choose the more straight forward track racing, or opt for a game that features an open world design that is less rigid. The popular Forza series has been known for its perfect attention to detail and its deep simulation rooted gameplay on real world tracks, but now the series has its first spin-off, Turn 10 Studios has handed control to Playground Games and the new studio has brought the Forza brand onto the open sandbox racing frontier.

Playground Games may be a new studio, but they are made up of dozens of veterans from the racing developer scene such as Codemasters and Bizarre Creations. Forza Horizon leaves the rigid professional racing structure behind and takes its drivers to a fictitious version of Colorado in the United States. The structure of the game is based around a car and music event called the Horizon Festival, where veterans and newcomers alike party and race all day and night.

The gameplay of Horizon is a much more forgiving beast than its predecessors. The simulation aspect has been toned down into a more manageable middle area between sim and arcade. The cars each feel unique, but they are far easier to handle and speed through turns with than a regular Forza Motorsport title. The game feels perfect and it also still includes the car tuning and upgrading that Forza fans expect. Each vehicle can be fine-tuned and customized with dozens of parts, both cosmetic and under the hood. The amazingly detailed livery editor also makes a return from past titles.

Not only does the game feel great, it also boasts an impressive number of events to partake in. The amount of variety in the competitions keeps the racing fun and exciting. One race you are barreling towards oncoming traffic while racing through twists and turns along a mountain side, the next you are competing against a Bi-Plane, and then you are simply trying to mark the fastest time through a speed trap; there is always something fresh and enjoyable to do in Horizon, and there are always multiple choices at any time.

Horizon also offers the opportunity for you to waste your time in ways that don’t involve driving very expensive cars at very fast speeds. The state of Colorado that Playground Games has built up is extremely impressive, offering gamers the chance to speed through well forested hills, small towns, desert highways and winding roads alongside cliffs. Each area is well realized  and decently sized for the player to not feel restricted to only the road. Not only is Colorado huge and fun to explore, the world also has 100 signs to find and smash through, as well as antique cars hidden in barns to discover and fix up.

Turn 10 have not only built one of the finest racers in gaming with the Forza Motorsport series, but also one of the most graphically impressive as well, and Playground Games continues that trend with Horizon as well. Forza Horizon is gorgeous to look at, the cars are incredibly detailed, both inside and out, and the environments are picture perfect. Some texture work may not hold up when put under close scrutiny, but when whizzing past at 150 MPH it blends together beautifully. Particularly impressive is the use of color and lighting, the Colorado depicted within Horizon is set during Fall, and the leaves are a stand out orange and yellow, this coupled with the fantastic lighting effects for when the sun sets and rises gives this game its own unique flavor.

This abundance of single player content is coupled beautifully with multiplayer. The same fantastic auction house from past games returns, as does the multitude of multiplayer race offerings, but this time they are partnered with an Auto log feature similar to NFS Hot Pursuit and SSX. As you free roam and complete events the game is always keeping track of your speed, times, or position and will build challenges based on your friend’s performances as well. This game simply has a ton of content that will keep racing fans happy for a long time.

Outstanding presentation, fantastic gameplay, and a great creation suite make Forza Horizon a stellar addition to the franchise. Playground games has consistently released additional car packs since release for fans to enjoy and has also announced a Rally Expansion set for the end of December. The pack will bring with it a new area chock full of mud and winding paths as well as additional Rally centric vehicles and should only boost the games variety and length.  If you are a racing fan you shouldn’t hesitate to pick up one of the finest offerings this year. -Chuck

The Rundown

  • + Great amount of content
  • + Impressive graphics
  • + Social aspects are stellar
  • – Music selection doesn’t impress
  • – Not as many cars as past titles

Final Score

9.0 / 10

“Incredible”

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