Microsoft and Playground Games are about to unleash a new entry in the Forza series and it’s a departure from what has come before. Playground has taken the series and moved it from being entirely simulation based to something that embraces all kinds of car culture. For better or worse, Forza Horizon is a much different racing game.
Right off the bat, Forza Horizon has flipped the tried and true script for a Forza game on its head. Gone are the detailed list of events and dry hardcore racing data that gearheads love. Sure, these lists and data still remain, they’re hiding behind the cool kids palette of day glow and trance music. As all of the press releases and promotions are wont to say, Forza Horizon is about car culture!
New to the series, Forza Horizon brings a open-world map system reminiscent of Burnout Paradise and some of the Need for Speed games. This approach means that players get to spend a lot of time behind the wheel even when they’re not racing. Like Burnout Paradise, there are a ton of side missions and tangents that pop-up while traveling to new races. This insures that going from event to event is not a boring or repetitious experience in the least.
Also new to Forza is the day-glow design focus, the over-the-top club culture infusion, and the ridiculously unnecessary race babes. The neon color choices pop incredibly well in this game, making the dark levels more visually appealing and making Forza Horizon look distinctively modern. The radio includes only three stations of non-programmable music: two stations of trance/dance music and one station of rock music. I don’t mind club music and it kept me focused while driving. But, I’m sure Foo Fighter fans like our own Erik Norris will want to supplant these stations with their own tunes.
Finally, this game brings to Forza the first appearance of scantily clad women. For the most part these women are only at the start of races; however, they present a certain sexist bent to the series that is 100% new. I found their inclusion bizarre, unfortunate, and wholly unnecessary. These things make sense in a lesser game, but for a series like Forza (the cream of the crop), this distraction is just silly.
While I haven’t had the opportunity to delve into the tens of hours of gameplay that Forza Horizon affords, I can say that my short time with the game insures that the best part of the series remains intact: the physics. What has set the Forza series apart from the competition is a fantastic physics system that makes driving very challenging, fun, and, in some instances, improvisational. Starting this game felt like putting on my favorite glove.
At first, I wasn’t prepared to like Forza’s evolution into a more arcade-style experience. And, even though this game owes a lot of it’s inspiration to Burnout Paradise, it’s nice to see the developers taking some risks on a premiere title. Forza Horizon feels like an intriguing remix to that hit song you’ve loved for a long time. It’s like Deadmau5 breathing fresh life into a Beatles song. Forza Horizon is definitely interesting.
Because we haven’t had the opportunity to play more than a couple hours of Forza Horizon, this is not a review of the game. Instead, it represents our first impressions of the game and it looks to at least be starting off on the right foot (even with the car babes). It’ll be very interesting to see if the sales of this new direction inspire Forza Horizon 2 or if Forza will return to it’s roots. Check it out for yourself and then decide to vote with your pocketbook!