What is there to say about Forza Horizon 4 that the trailers don’t already say? It’s loud, it’s fast paces, it’s thrilling, it’s ambitious, and its full of over the top fun. Horizon 4 does what its predecessors failed to do for me, and that’s making driving without an objective an attraction worth coming back for.
More than just a shiny new paint job
Like most racing sequels, I was wary of coming into Horizon 4. I expected more of Forza Horizon 3, which wouldn’t have been entirely negative, and I expected the season changes to be nothing more than a gimmick.
Luckily, Horizon 4 subverted these expectations right at the starting gate. The game boasts its seasons along with the changes each season brings from the start. This encouraged me to come back to previously completed races and check out the changes that the seasons brought.
On top of the new seasons is a slew of progression improvements. While I wish there was a little more in the sense of progression since you unlock cars left and right without any real effort, leveling up events is handled nicely this time around. Instead of leveling everything up through influence, each race style is leveled up individually.
As pretty as a post card
Forza Horizon 4 delivers never ending beauty though its English/Scottish map. The world features some of the most stunning visuals to date in the Horizon series, and the extreme verticality really helps take your breath away at times. Especially when you launch yourself over one of those gorgeous cliffsides at 100mph.
The total size of the world map is sized down a bit compared to Forza Horizon 3, but the changing seasons make the shrinkage negligible. Every time a season changes the map truly feels different. Sure, every single curve, bump, and hill aren’t reworked completely, but the variety does just enough to spice up driving.
The dead trees and snow filled roads of winter give way to some of the most exciting driving. Slipping and sliding through the countryside couldn’t be more enjoyable. Spring is blooming with flowers and drenched in rain, and the muddy tracks make for some of the dirtiest, and most fun off-road races. Summer is a lovely shade of dark green and is as dry as could be. Thankfully there’s no English heatwave for us to deal with, so the only thing we have to worry about is flying down the highway at max speed.
Roads are clear and dry, and summer is all about speed. Fall is similar to spring. It’s wet and rainy, but the amazing fall colors brighten up the world, and driving through leaves (and walls) feels entirely new again. Horizon 4 somehow makes itself feel new every time a season changes.
An open road for everyone to enjoy together
Horizon 4’s social aspects are some of the cleanest I’ve seen in gaming, period. The game takes place in a shared open world, much like The Crew 2. But unlike The Crew 2, it does so flawlessly. There’s no bullshit always-online requirement. Instead, if a connection is available you get put into the shared world, if not, you play just as you would offline, other drivers are replaced with AI. The best thing about this is that if you drop connection mid lobby, the game gives you a notification that you’ve gone offline and you keep racing normally. There’s no reload or anything. It’s a seamless transition (take note Ubisoft).
Once you’re through the lengthy prologue where seasons are preset, seasons change weekly for everyone at the same time. After a quick loading screen, you’re back in the world as you were, but now it’s the next season in the cycle.
Horizon 4 does a great job at using the seasons to its advantage by giving players shared goals in the open world. Every now and again, players will get an alert that a group mission is taking place. You could ignore it if you want, or you could drive to the designated location and join in with a small group of cars to try and complete the given task. While it may be trivial things like drifting a certain combined distance, it’s still fun to engage with other players in the shared open world.
Bucket list no more
This time around, there’s no bucket list. Instead, there’s Horizon Stories, and they’re a nice improvement over the previous 3 games’ bucket list. Instead of driving to cars placed around the map, you go and complete car-related tasks for people.
They’re great fun, and one of the missions even references many of the racing games that have inspired the racing in the Forza series.
The roar of the engine
Forza Horizon 4 sounds just as great as Horizon 3. Here and there some upgrades are noticeable, but everything is largely equal to the previous game. Not so say that’s a bad thing though, because it sounds remarkably good. It is easily one of the better sounding racing games to date, and its great to hear it improve, even slightly.
Where the game realty shines is in the sounds of the environment. From the sounds of gravel pecking against your car during a race on gravel roads to the sounds of the wind slowly moving through the trees while you’re just looking at the scenery, the sounds of everything around the car are something else.
I especially loved the sound of smashing through stone walls. Crashing head on into the ancient stone walls was satisfying every single time I did it.
A little too easy
Like I stated at the beginning of the review, I think Horizon 4 suffers a little bit in the progression department. Don’t get me wrong, leveling up individual race types is fantastic, but you ear so many damn cars within the first 2 hours it’s a little over the top. Within 5 hours of play time I had almost $1 million in cash and a good selection of medium to high end cars.
While there are so many cars I understand them handing out a few, it would just be nice if the top tier super cars were special. There’s something nice about earning that Lamborghini or that Pagani, but since everyone can get one without even trying it makes them feel worth a little less.
The only solution I could see to this issue would have been slowing down progression at the beginning of the game, because it feels too cheap being gifted a whole bunch of nice cars right after the intro sequence just because I owned Forza Horizon 3.
What’s a microtransaction?
While I’ve always had a little hate in my heart for the many car packs that get released in a Forza game’s lifecycle and the high price the game demands if you want the chance at earning some great cars, Horizon 4 does an almost flawless job in the monetization department.
Sure, those aforementioned car packs have already hit, but there are no microtransactions to be found here. I was a bit scared when I saw the return of the spin to win a prize system come back, but yet again they’ve continued to keep it free of any real money influence.
They even introduced a new triple spin to win slot-machine style prize system, but it’s free of microtransactions as well.
*Slaps roof of car* This bad boy can fit over 450 cars in it
Forza Horizon 4 is packed full of content, and it makes it hard to put down the controller and quit playing. From its beautiful scenery to its changing world to its great racing Forza Horizon 4 is an amazing racing game. It’s sitting at the top right now, and the only thing I could see getting close to the level it sits at is another Horizon game.