Forza Horizon 4

Opinion: It’s Time for Forza Horizon To Go “Beyond Cars”

Article By 
Alan Walsh
April 29, 2021
Forza Horizon 4

Opinion: It’s Time for Forza Horizon To Go “Beyond Cars”

Article By 
Alan Walsh
April 29, 2021

I love Forza Horizon’s Showcase Events. They are crown jewel of Playground’s open-world racing games. They have only got better overtime too and what is brilliant about them is the sheer variety of vehicles you get to take on, from helicopters and jets to boats and trains, not to mention the blimp, hot air balloons and hovercraft. There are so many incredibly fun vehicles to race against and it almost makes Forza Horizon feel like an extreme sports game.

However, after beating these unique opponents so many times now, I want Playground Games to take Showcase Events to the next level and let me command these incredibly impressive vehicles. With each subsequent release, the Forza Horizon series heads in more of a sandbox direction – heck, the recent Super7 mode and its accompanying Blueprint Editor is proof of that as for the first time, it provided players with the tools to place objects into the open-world and create their own stunt challenges. These can even take players far beyond the ground, despite ForzaTech’s limitation with rendering the world at height. It proves that Playground are willing to let players transform the world of Forza Horizon into their own open-world canvas – one that is prime for experimentation and custom sandbox activities.

Vehicles are a core component of any sandbox game and the Forza franchise is the best in the business when it comes to its car line-up. Forza Horizon 4 has over 750 cars, the amount of choice is both impressive and just mammoth. The variety is also endless, there is something for everyone and now is the perfect opportunity for the series to expand outside of its comfort zone. It already has buggies and trophy trucks – there’s even the Unimog and the Top Gear Track-Tor. Motorcycles are therefore an obvious next step, they even appeared in Forza Horizon 4’s Motocross Showcase Event, though personally, I wouldn’t stop there.

That Crop Duster from Forza Horizon 2? Let me fly it, heck I’ll take the Cargo Plane while I’m at it too – that way I can easily transport my friends, as well as their rides, and drop them off at any location I desire. Later, we can hit the ocean in our speedboats before catching a hot air balloon ride to relax as the sun sets over the Horizon Festival. You might say that driving a train in Forza Horizon would be tedious, but everyone always wants to in GTA. I’ve personally spent hours doing it in Red Dead Redemption 2 – and those steam trains are far slower than those of today! In this instance, it’s about letting the player interact with all aspects of the world and everything that exists within it with nothing to stop them.

Credit: Forza Horizon 2 Cargo Plane. Image via IMPDb.

When I think about Forza Horizon, I picture the greatest cars in the world driving along wide-open roads in some of the most exotic locations on earth. I also see freedom. It breathes life into the game – it is a crucial component that must always be considered when the series evolves. We’ve entered a new generation of gaming and with it, Turn 10 Studios has an all-new ForzaTech engine to support it. We saw a glimpse of it last year in-action during the Forza Motorsport reveal and I cannot wait to see what it means for Forza Horizon. It should hopefully fix the issue of the map disappearing at height, which not only enables the possibility for aircraft, but also grander Showcase Events with more ambitious stunts, increased areas of elevation across the map, and a larger open-world that’s more diverse and beautiful than ever before – one that’s so vast, it’ll require new ways to get around and explore.

Forzavista allows players to fully delve into their car up-close and personal, but it often feels very underutilized. If players could exit their vehicle and use Forzavista capabilities anywhere in the open-world, it’d drastically increase my usage of the feature, as it would lead to some truly unique role-playing opportunities. This also perfectly accompanies the idea of Forza Horizon as a sandbox-first game. Being able to explore the world by air or sea would give you an entirely new perspective on the world, but so would exiting your car – as it’d allow you to soak in all the details under a closer lens. Just think of how awesome it’d be to park behind a friend, get out of your car and open the hood of theirs to see what’s under the hood. An evolution of Forza Horizon wouldn’t shift the focus from cars or even racing for that matter, but instead give motoring enthusiasts more ways to engage with their vehicles and the world around them than ever before.

At the count of ten, I see cars. I see planes, boats, helicopters, blimps, hovercrafts, motorbikes and hot air balloons. I see the greatest vehicle sandbox that has ever been made. I dream of a Forza Horizon that is even bigger and more ambitious than the one we see today. Horizon is about self-expression. It defines freedom and fun. It also allows me to be bold and go beyond the scopes of reality. This would be my ideal Horizon – but I also believe it’d be one for everyone. There has always been curiosity around driving the “traffic” vehicles in Forza Horizon games, such as buses, trucks and the beloved snowplough. I’m sure this interest also extends to the more unique and vast vehicles we associate with Forza Horizon’s Showcase Events. For the future of Horizon, it’s time to blast open the doors and unleash the creative freedom the series aims to capture and inspire inside all of us.

Who knows, there may already exist a basic handling model for planes and boats in ForzaTech as Turn 10 supposedly experimented with the idea over a decade ago. In 2009, before Forza Motorsport 3 shipped, former Turn 10 Community Manager Che Chou stated he was working on “some pretty awesome community features and ways for those who love cars (and speedboats, helicopters) to interact with each other.” No more was said about it and there is no confirmation that this was specific to Forza Motorsport 3 either. It’s just interesting to think about and ponder the potential concepts the studio had at the time.

Quite possibly the best photo I've ever taken in a Forza game.

Obviously, Forza Horizon wouldn’t be the first game of its kind to introduce new vehicle types, but I believe it could do it better than anyone else. When you consider Turn 10’s physics engine – by far the best in the business, the results could be phenomenal. Microsoft already created an accessible, but realistic flying simulation in Microsoft Flight Simulator and I could see Turn 10 and Playground leveraging this technology to create something truly special. Not just in terms of handling models, but also in map design and world building – but that leads us into another discussion altogether.

In 2018, The Crew 2 introduced multiple vehicle classes, which includes boats and planes, but they were severely underutilised and ignored in the game’s post-launch content. Playground would be remised to make that same mistake. Ideally, I’d love to see how multiple vehicle forms can be integrated into a singular race, like Criterion’s pitch for “Beyond Cars,” its extreme sports game that was sadly shelved. That one would’ve even allowed vehicles to be attached onto each other – so a parachute could be clipped onto a buggy, for example. Someone on a helicopter would also have been able to jump onto a vehicle below them, which would’ve led to all sorts of fun and creative stunts had it come to fruition.

It’s time for Forza Horizon to have its “Beyond Cars” moment and create a gameplay experience unlike anything else. After all, the possibilities would be endless.

Alan Walsh

Alan is the co-founder and co-owner of FullThrottle Media. As someone who enjoys spending all his free time playing video games, he keeps the website updated with new and relevant content, including news stories, reviews and opinion pieces for the games he likes writing about the most. He also tweets too much, probably.