- Format: PC
- Source: GamesPass
- Completion: All businesses/stories, various other events.
Forza Horizon 4 starts off extremely promising. Introducing you to a scaled down version of Northern England and Southern Scotland, Horizon 4 features a beautiful landscape with lots to explore. You start off with some simple races before your first showcase: a fantastic set-piece where you race against a hovercraft.
The game slowly opens up more and more as you progress between seasons and the game gives you a bigger choice of events to pick from. The seasons all look spectacular and feel different. The only downside is that once you’ve been through each season once (around 2-4 events each), you’re locked into the “server” season, which lasts a week in real time. If you don’t like driving in snow, you may find yourself logging into the game, realising the game is in Winter and just not touching the game that week.
Most events are usually a road race, cross country race, dirt race or street race (essentially a road race but with traffic left on), with a few extras. Some limit you to certain categories of cars, while others let you design your own. While this would be a nice bonus thing to have for events, these events feel like the developers couldn’t be bothered to finish it.
Within a race, there are a ton of accessibility and difficulty options to cater the game exactly how you want it – from basic things like opponent difficulty, to lots of car terms that I won’t pretend to understand. The biggest option is probably the rewind option – some people would consider this cheating as any mistake can be undone. You race special AI drivers called “drivatars”. These use your friends usernames and gamerpics and supposedly have a “customised AI” based on how they drive. Unfortunately, none of them drive anything like a human player would, and the game even uses people who have never played the game. The Drivatar system feels like going to meet up with your friends only to find a load of mannequins with your friends skinned faces attached to them – absolutely creepy.
Outside of the normal races are stories or businesses. These mostly involve driving from A to B with some dialogue. There’s one that’s about “cars in video games” that is entirely this, while the Top Gear and movie stunt ones offer much more variation, with specific jumps or stunt areas. For me, these and the showcases were the main highlights of the game.
As you complete events you earn experience and credits which can be spent on cars, houses (which can be used for fast travel) and some other goods. as you progress, you’ll unlock wheelspins, which are the main way of unlocking cars. This is literally a roulette wheel of prizes. This means the game feels like a mobile game in terms of progression – fairly pointless. Any cars you gain just feel like they’ve been randomly given to you and not earned. There’s little attachment to them, although it is still awesome looking at user-made skins available for each one.
Not helping the “mobile phone game” feeling is the advertising for the game’s DLC and expansions. Each time you boot the game, you’ll either get a screenshot/text advert for a car pack or an unskippable video trailer for the two main expansions. These expansions are also heavily featured on loading screens within the game itself. The game menus are also designed in a way so you have to scroll past the greyed out menus for the DLC to get to commonly used sections of the menu – such as the menu for changing car. If that’s not enough, there are colossal icons on the map screen, which even cover up other icons. As one of these expansions is LEGO related, get ready to see lots of LEGO logos as you play Forza Horizon 4. The game feels extremely desperate to try and get you to spend more money.
That said, the map of the game is phenomenal and it’s a lot of fun to just explore. There are jumps, hidden cars (the only cars that feel like yours) and other secrets to find, and it’s a joy to just cruise around. I only wish that there was an option to do so on your own. The game automatically places you in online servers (to their credit, other races can’t troll you as you glide through each other) and if you choose to go “solo”, these are replaced with the creepy Drivatars which can get in your way.
Forza Horizon 4 is frustrating. There’s an amazing game hidden underneath a meaningless progression system (which makes completing events unsatifying), horrendous in-game advertising for DLC and creepy bots pretending to be your friends.