The folks at Playground Games delivered yet another excellent racing experience with Forza Horizon 4. While the mainline series Forza Motorsport aims to simulate the international racing scene, Forza Horizon throws players into a massive open-world so that they can drive to their hearts’ content. Although Forza Horizon 4 isn’t flawless, it does a hell of a lot to keep players engaged. It has everything Forza Horizon 3 had to offer and more.
While Horizon 3 had players roam the sunny wilderness of Australia for the Horizon Festival, Horizon 4 takes racers to the UK countryside for decidedly more varied racing conditions. Whether you’re sailing through forests or speeding through Edinburgh, the game looks crisp and gorgeous. It’s already fun to take a leisurely drive, but the in-game radio stations help by providing a modern, upbeat soundtrack to drive to.
While the presentation is as strong as ever, the game’s true highlight is also its newest feature — the changing of seasons and dynamic weather. Once a week, the in-game season changes to unlock new tracks and events that were otherwise inaccessible. Rain muddies dirt roads, hillsides freeze over, and weather affects driving conditions as it would in real life. The weather physics aren’t new to the franchise; Horizon 4 simply places a special emphasis on them and how they can be used to create new racing events.
The spotlight on weather and seasons only further compliment the stellar driving controls. The series has always had tight, responsive controls and not much seems to have changed. The series’ difficulty customization also makes a return, making it easy to personalize your racing experience. Want to make braking easier? The game has an option for that. Want to turn off vehicle damage? There’s an option for that. Whether you’re looking for a casual, arcade-racer, a car collectathon, or an authentic driving simulator, Forza Horizon 4 delivers.
Regardless, there is plenty more to do than just race. Sure, you could kill entire days just trying out the different kinds of races — all of which are also (still) fully customizable — but side activities and collectibles are everywhere. There are stunts to hit, billboards to smash, hidden vehicles to unlock and more, all of which feed into progression. However, progression isn’t very rewarding, which is the game’s biggest issue.
This is a problem that even the previous game can’t seem to overcome. While there is plenty of content in Forza Horizon 4 and plenty to progress through, the game doesn’t feel very rewarding. Seasoned gamers likely already assume this means that the game is a grind and it doesn’t reward players enough, but it’s actually the opposite. The game practically showers rewards on the player.
This is only worsened by the wheelspin feature, a roulette wheel that offers anything from cosmetics to supercars to millions of dollars of in-game currency. Rewards come easily, and the game never provides a lofty goal to work toward. Thankfully, the core gameplay is so solid that it’s fun to play for fun’s own sake — sometimes you just want to take a drive without a destination.
For the first time, Forza allows players to customize their driver. Preset characters can be outfitted with clothes and emotes to express themselves with, online or offline.
The game also has a housing system, where players must buy homes to use as bases. These used to be Horizon Festival areas, the series’ fictional racing convention. Think Coachella, but for car enthusiasts.
Now that these areas aren’t spread throughout the map, players must purchase homes to customize vehicles and characters. These additional features feel somewhat unnecessary (especially housing), but they don’t throw a wrench into the already-great core gameplay loop.
Multiplayer options are as robust as ever, with seamless online integration and plenty of community events to keep players coming back for more. However, if you’re not one for the competitive online scene, the single-player route is just as engaging. Solo players aren’t neglected in Forza Horizon 4 — they have just as much to do as the online community, and that is a rare find in today’s gaming industry.
The base game is already dense, but true gearheads and automotive aficionados may crave more. There is plenty of extra content to pay for in the form of DLC. There are loads of additional cars to purchase and expansion packs that add entirely new maps to explore.
You would think that a franchise this big would stuff its games with microtransactions, but Forza Horizon 4 is relatively tame in this respect. There is plenty to pay for after you buy the game itself, but it feels like a solid product out of the box and not one that has been shipped half-baked. Unfortunately, you still have to pay in-game credits to fast travel — but with no microtransactions to speak of, this acts as incentive to drive more, rather than pay more.
It’s hard to call Forza Horizon 4 anything other than great. It’s a game that caters to everyone without cheapening the experience for one kind of player or another. Although it doesn’t change that much from its predecessor, Horizon 4 is still just as excellent — with sharper graphics, updated features, and a new playground to explore. This is a game that will win over non-racing fans and keep veterans of the genre busy for a long, long time.