Exhilarating drives across all seasons

Daniel Lim

With the recent announcement of the fifth instalment in the Forza Horizon racing game franchise, the hype surrounding the series is probably justifiable, as it is well known for thrusting players into pure make-believe scenarios with a wide assortment of vehicles taken straight out of a Hollywood action movie while remaining somewhat rooted in reality.

Exclusive to the Xbox console for many years, the series recently marked its debut on the Steam platform with the fourth entry in the series, Forza Horizon 4, ushering more players to the game.

With each entry in the Forza Horizon series taking place across in various scenic locales across the globe, from the streets of France in Forza Horizon 2 to the wide expanse plains of Australia in Forza Horizon 3, each installment brings something new to the table in delivering new and exciting renditions of real life locations condensed and simplified for one singular purpose – fun.

This philosophy extends to Forza Horizon 4 and no doubt the upcoming fifth installment, as booting up the former for the first time will immediately bring players into the deep end of the experience in the series’ signature showcase events.

“I see a festival that never ends,” are the first words the game mutters to the player, and they mark the start of the title, where players are put into the game’s cover car, a McLaren Senna, to speed through the vibrant autumn season of British roads.

Shortly after, the game transitions into one of the many core features and mechanics, namely the change in weather and seasons, from winter, spring and summer.

Forza Horizon 4 gameplay. PHOTO: PLAYGROUND GAMES/MICROSOFT STUDIOS

From driving on a frozen lake to blasting through an abandoned quarry surrounded by dirt bikes, each season is a spectacle to behold without a moment to rest, before ending back in autumn with a penultimate finish to the focal point of the show, the Horizon Festival.

This Horizon Festival serves not only as a starting hub for players to gain a foothold in the world, but also ties into the story that the game has to offer, which plays out in an oddly similar fashion with the character acknowledging the player’s skills and introducing players to a new set of vehicle for a new set of disciplines.

These disciplines make full use of the open world nature of the game, from the lush rustic scenes of open rally, to the tight 90-degree corners of street racing. Each of the game’s modes is slowly fed to the player at a manageable pace, which also helps the player gain not only credits to use in-game, but more importantly reputation.

Reputation not only serves to unlock new game modes but also to progress the story. This is bookended with transitions in season as well as epic Showcase Exhibitions that puts players into the heart of the action.

Similar to the introduction to Forza Horizon 4, Showcase Exhibitions are what the game is well known for, and while it is easy to summarise the experience as a glorified time trial or race, the way it is depicted and shown to the player makes up for it in style.

From racing against a hovercraft to a literal flying delta bomber airplane, Showcase Exhibitions are where players will be able to make full use of their skills gained from the multiple races prior.

Like all good things, it does come to an end as there are only a five showcase events, with one being homage to another Microsoft series, Halo. But that does not mean the game has nothing left under its sleeve as all the racing and exhibitions are merely a pretense to the actual experience of the game, in the form of Horizon Life and Forzathon Season.

Combined, these two form the bulk of what draws players back to Forza Horizon 4 and are what make the world feel lived in and ever-changing. Whereas previously the seasons only change when players complete a certain amount of races in gaining reputation, now seasons change on a weekly basis, with each season delivering a wide variety of challenges and rewards.

While all this additional content would bring back players, it is the wide selection of cars and what players can do with them that make the experience worthwhile. Not only are there major manufacturers from BMW, Land Rover, Porsche and Toyota, but more niche car manufacturers are also represented, such as Rimac, Morgan and Mosler, to name a few.

Furthermore, unlike real life where tuning and altering vehicles to one’s liking are out of reach for many, Forza Horizon 4 makes it easy to customise to the player’s heart content, with each car being an empty canvas to be worked on, which can result in a Mona Lisa-level masterpiece, or a brightly coloured vehicle complete with anime characters.

This experience also extends to the two expansion packs along with the myriad of downloadable content, with the standout being Fortune Island, which takes the formula established in the base game and turns it up to 11, while the Lego Speed Champion basically speaks for itself, as players are able to drive life-size variants of Lego cars that are replicated perfectly from the actual sets down to the stickers used.

With the recent announcement that no new content will be coming to Forza Horizon 4 as production shifts toward the latest upcoming sequel, Forza Horizon 4 is still a game worth checking out, especially with all the available content.