Image copyright Microsoft Studios 2012
After an admittedly long-winded and over exhausting Wednesday, your Resident Nerd-in-the-Know has wanted nothing more than to curl up in a ball and fall asleep. However, that was not to be just yet, as I have yet to do this week’s Wright Wrecommendation gaming review. So, with that in mind, here is my review on Forza Horizon on the Xbox 360 (and Xbox One via Backwards Compatibility).
The core Forza Motorsport games have been heralded as amongst the best racing simulation games on the planet, ever. And I’m not here to disagree with that point. They are as true to life as I imagine it would be possible (having never driven a Lamborghini Murciélago, I couldn’t say). And when you want a true-to-form racing game (and still want to hold on to some degree of exclusivity – Microsoft, I’m still gunning for you!), any Forza Motorsport is an excellent choice to make.
But what about if you want something a little more than just driving around a circuit?
Filling a gap in the market that probably no-one else (including Microsoft) knew was there, Forza Horizon entered the race (pun most definitely intended) in 2012 and changed what (I thought, at least) a racing game could and should be.
Taking the core dynamics that made the previous Motorsport games a success, Horizon picked up all those mechanics, including the driving physics and high-definition graphics, and dropped them into an open-world Colorado map dominated by the fictional Horizon Festival (which we here at WTNH so desperately hope that it, one day, becomes a real-life festival. We’d attend every year, rain or shine, and despite being useless, we’d still have a ball! Make it happen, someone!)
The game was so slick, even on the 360, and the graphics effects – including the day/night and fluctuating weather conditions – were damn-near perfect. It did make me wonder how long the festival was intended to go on for though, as I certainly spent a solid three weeks in-game time driving around completing everything.
Driving was a breeze, even without Forza‘s trademark line-guide system which tells you which line is the best to take for any given corner, and, most crucially, when you should brake on a bend or what have you. For the adventurous/kamikaze drivers, the game rewards your determination with skill points which help raise your reputation which in turn will unlock new races and events.
The races take place over a variety of different terrains and within a range of different styles; one race might have you use a Range Rover (or other SUV) in a cross-country race, whilst another will force you to drive a Pagani Zonda (or other hyper-car) at speed towards a camera with the aim of breaking a set speed limit. As you can tell, the game emphasises on fun, speed, and, most importantly to Horizon, looking good when you cross the finish line.
Another side to Horizon‘s races though, take a page out of BBC Top Gear‘s book. In order to collect some of the best cars in the game (including my prized 1984 Peugeot 107 Turbo) you’ll need to take part in some of Horizon’s Showcases. As you may have guessed thus far, the Showcases are not your run-of-the-mill race. Instead of taking on another car, you’ll be (usually) given the keys to a new car and race against – amongst other things – a bi-plane, or a helicopter, or a group of hot-air balloons (harder than it sounds, trust me). If you win, you get to come over all Jeremy Clarkson and win yourself a new car.
There’s even a narrative to Horizon (admittedly one that only focuses on you racing). As a rookie in this year’s event, you’re tasked with working your way up through the ranks, beating relevant ‘bosses’ (and taking their cars which are less superior than my Peugeot 107), before making your way to the grand champion, Darius Flynt. You earn yourself wristbands the further up the rankings you go (because it’s a festival, and you always get wristbands at festivals), and after your seventh wristband, you get to take part in the championship tier races (and eventually face Flynt).
The game is, depending on your skills and choice of car, relatively easy, with a lot of the courses cropping up a couple of times. It’s easy enough to upgrade your car (in fact, it’s free if you can be bothered to track down and destroy all 100 of the Dax’s Discount Boards), and, soon enough, you’ll be raking in those sweet dunkets to spend on a Bugatti Veyron or other, similarly really expensive car.
If you’re more into your classic rides though, Horizon has you covered. Every so often – in other words, when you’ve reached a certain Reputation level – you’ll get a call over the phone telling you how there have been some rumours of an abandoned car left somewhere in a barn. These “Barn Finds” can bring in the likes of a 1981 BMW M1, a 1964 Aston Martin DB5 Vantage, or even a 1956 Jaguar D-Type.
So, with all of that on offer, plus some of the best songs from some of the best artists and bands around the world, what’s not to love?
Nerd Rating; 8/10 – as damn near perfect as a driving game as you could hope for, with something a little different on offer for people who want all the fun of driving top of the range cars without the dreary monotonous of racing them on a circuit. Throw in some truly over the top challenges, collectables, a level up system that makes you just want to keep going until you’re at the top, and a soundtrack that’ll infect your soul with awesome tunes, and you’ve got (possibly) the greatest racing game ever.
If you like this, try; Forza Horizon 2, Forza Horizon 3.