Forza Horizon | Gameguide Forza Horizon – Gameguide

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I was a bit worried when Microsoft announced that an open world racing game would be the next installment of their much loved Forza series.  I had fears of a dumbed down arcade racer that would destroy the high standards that Forza has consistently bought to the racing genre.  My fears however were unfounded, as Forza Horizon is as much a part of the Forza world as any previous title is.

The obvious difference is that it’s set in an open world, with a myriad of races available, along with the option of just driving around.  It’s as if Microsoft took a little bit of Test Drive Unlimited, sprinkled it with a little Codemasters style presentation and gave it a total Forza overhaul.

Everything you know and love about Forza – the cars, the handling, the engine sounds, the stunning visual presentation is all there in Forza Horizon.  But because it’s an open world game, you have the day/night cycle, a massive play ground, populated with other drivers, and it still looks and sounds as nice as Forza 4.  Add to this the varying road surfaces, with dust, leaves and such being kicked up by you and your competitors and you’ll be left scratching your head as to how they managed to keep everything looking so good.

But they did.  There doesn’t seem to be any area where the game has had to compromise.  It is a joy to just get in the car and drive.

Of course, you don’t arrive in the middle of Colorado during the annual Horizon Festival just to go on a Sunday drive.  No, you came to this idyllic place to race fast cars, and race you will.

Progress is a simple, you race in the initial number of races available to you until you’ve reached a certain level of points that will unlock the next wrist band that will allow you entry into the next tier of races.  Along the way, be it in the races or as you travel between them, you can score popularity points by drifting, slip-streaming, doing burnout’s, having near misses, basically making the audience love you, and when you reach a certain level, special events will become available to you.  These events are the stuff Top Gear Challenges are made of, with one of the best being a race between you in a 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 429 and a World War II fighter plane, the P-51 Mustang.  Just by entering these events you get money, but win the race and you’ll also walk away with the car.

Money of course allows you to buy new cars or upgrade them.  How much you pay for upgrades is up to you.  The official race mechanic had put up 100 advertising signs around the Colorado country side, and for everyone you destroy, you get a 1% discount on upgrades.  Destroy them all and you get a 100% discount!  It’s a great way to encourage players to explore the game world, as is another new feature, Barn Finds.  Barn Finds is a neat little distraction, where every so often there will be an announcement over the radio that there is a rumour of a classic car having been left to rust in a barn.  You’re given the genera area where the barn is located, but you have to actually find it.  When you do, the car is all yours.  The mechanic will even restore it for free.

Whilst these are only distractions they are a great excuse to do a bit of exploring, and whilst you’re out exploring, you can always challenge any other competitor to an impromptu street race, if you’re feeling the need for speed.

There’s a whole lot more I could rave on about, like speed traps and customising paint jobs, but it’s all stuff you already expect from Forza, so instead I’ll go onto the online modes.

When you take Forza Horizon online you have the standard 8 player race modes and these are as much fun as you’d expect, but the real highlight for Forza Horizon’s online play is with the Playground Games.  Here you have three modes, King Mode is where on player is King and you have to try and crash into them, when you do you become king and you have to try and avoid being crashed into.  The winner is the person who is King for the longest.  Cat and mouse is a circuit race where you are split into two teams.  Only one player from each team can win the race, so it’s up to the team mates to either protect you, or try and prevent the other teams car from winning.  Finally there is virus, similar to King Mode, but where one player starts the game infected and has to infect other players by crashing into them.  Each time another player is infected they join the hunt in infecting the remaining players.

Racing purists might be aghast at these playground modes, but they really are the highlight of online play with Forza Horizon, and add a well thought out element of fun to the game.

Forza Horizon may still only be a spin off for the Forza series, but it is certainly the Forza pedigree, and adds a welcome open world game-play to the circuit racer.  The only downside I can see is that there is no engine damage setting, so whilst you can adjust the driving helps, the old crash into your opponent to make it round the corner starts to creep into the game, especially on online races.  Still, it’s only a minor asoect in an otherwise stellar game.

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