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Forza Horizon Review

by Ryan Lineker October 18, 2012

Engines are revving in the valleys of Colorado today as the Horizon festival opens its doors for motorsport enthusiasts. This spin off of the popular Forza Motorsport franchise mixes the simulation racing with open world free roaming.

You take the spot as a rookie looking to make his name at the Horizon festival. Looking to work your way up the ranks, and improve your garage at the same time. Like you would expect from any Forza game there are many exotic purchases to be made, Ferrari and Lamborghini to name but a few. But because you are a newbie you start off with your old, trusted Volkswagen.

As previously mentioned this is the first open world Forza game. I really enjoyed throwing my car round the map while free roaming. But if that is not your cup of tea Playground Games added in some extra challenges to entice you into exploring the map’s wonderful scenery.

Dotted around the world are speed traps and average speed challenges. Where the speed that you clock while driving through is uploaded to a leader board where you can compare with your friends and the rest of the world.

There are also Burnout Paradise-esque signs – that, once smashed, give you discounts on car upgrades – and hidden barns. In these hidden barns you can find unique classic cars to add to your garage. If you happen to see another racer, you can line up behind him and challenge him to a race that results in a nice cash pay-out at the end.

While cruising around you can earn skill points, these are awarded for successful drifts, near-misses, high speed etc. Linking these together will result in a combo and big points. So basically the more dangerously you drive the more points you’ll earn.

And as you all know points mean prizes! Or in this case big pay-outs from Horizon’s corporate sponsors. It also unlocks Skill Challenges where you can race against hot air balloons and a P-51 Mustang! (Which is a fighter plane, if you didn’t already know).

If you do eventually want to participate in a festival event there are multiple types for you to choose from. Whether you want to go for a traditional Forza closed circuit race, a head-to-head rival challenge or high money street showdowns, it’s up to you. As you progress through the game’s races you will unlock a new wristband, which in turn will unlock a new set of harder and better rewarding races.

It’s not just the different types, races also happen on multiple surfaces, including dirt tracks and tarmac. And some races have a mixture of the two. In these races your choice of car selection will definitely matter. If you go for a car with lots of power on the back wheels you will be quick on the tarmac but handling on the dirt will be hard. The choice is yours.

After every race the game gives you an option to beat a ghost time for that track set by an online rival. It may take a few attempts to beat a friend’s time, but the effort and commitment is definitely worth it in the end.

Dotted around the map are outposts which allow you to fast travel to the corners of the map without the drive. (Why you would ever want to do this on Forza Horizon is unknown to me!) At these outposts you can complete a number of events including speed trials, photo shoots and stunt runs. Each completed event will lower the cost to travel to that specific outpost.

As with the previous titles you can still upgrade your cars, with new parts to improve their top speed and handling. You can also make the car your own with the game’s ability to paint them. You can either make your own unique design using the built in tools or you can buy a user made creation off the in game marketplace.

The game includes three different radio stations, each satisfying its own genre. There should be enough diversity to keep everyone happy, although I have to admit I did mute the game music and put my own driving playlist on.

The menu system has changed greatly (or now lack of menu system). Everything is done by driving into the different tents at the Horizon festival’s main hub. Here you can access your garage, the marketplace, race central, car club, etc. There is a definite emphasis on the free roam side of the game for everything and I am not complaining.

Unlike in previous Forza incarnations this game is lacking split screen racing which I found disappointing, as it is always good to beat your mate when he pops round. But I guess if he buys the game you can beat him at all the challenges in single player and then beat him on an online race.

The online multiplayer has the standard race modes that you would expect from a racing game but also has some different game modes which include Cat & Mouse and Infected.

These add a fun different side to the game which you can play if you want a break from racing the AI on single player mode. Like the offline story you will still gain XP and level while playing.

Sometimes you may even win a car or some credits. Car Club is back where you can incite you friends into your group to ease the process of creating races and challenges with them.

If you are a diehard racing simulation guy (or gal) then this game may not appeal to you as much as the traditional Forza games will, but if you like Burnout Paradise and Forza for the casual racing then I think that this game is for you.

The mix of the Forza racing with the open world is a great combination and has brought me hours of fun with more to come.

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