Picture the scene: You’re driving the spectacular all-new 2018 Bugatti Chiron as a stunt driver for an upcoming movie. Fast, stylish and exotic – you’re taking this performant machine through a large jump and landing it smoothly without causing any damage to the car. The Chiron is undeniably a masterclass of Bugatti’s high-performance engineering and as the world’s fastest production car, what better choice to take out onto the roads of beautiful, historic Britain? Now cast you mind back to reality – I was quite surprised at how early Forza Horizon 4 thrusts you into such an exotic ride, but within the first hour of my time on the game, I was driving one of the most exciting cars the planet has to offer in one of Forza Horizon 4’s early unique job opportunities.
Horizon Stories, as they’re officially called, is one of the big prime focuses of Forza Horizon 4, and they act as a successor to the popular Bucket List challenges of past titles. These jobs are broken down into chapters, and they intertwine a storyline into Forza Horizon 4’s fast, stylish and open-world gameplay. Whether it’s to be a stuntman job for an upcoming film or you’ve bought a new taxi firm and need to pay the bills, these fresh activities introduce a new way to experience the Horizon Festival as what was once a Summer holiday is now an all-year celebration.
Horizon Life is the key focus of Forza Horizon 4. You’re no longer a rookie trying to make a name for yourself or the boss organizing a large country-wide festival. Instead, you’re you – and nobody else. From acquiring your first sports car to personalizing your character and purchasing houses, businesses and exquisite properties – all whilst completing jobs, participating in both official events and illegal street races, and living the Horizon Life you’ve always wanted to across all four seasons of the year. In true Forza tradition, the first few hours of Forza Horizon 4 are special, introducing you to all the game’s headlining features and experiences whilst immersing you into its beautiful British landscape. Recently, I had the chance to experience it all for myself at an exclusive pre-launch preview event hosted at the iconic McLaren Technology Center in the UK – and it was something truly spectacular to say the least.
The first characteristic of Forza Horizon 4 that pleasantly surprised me had to be its beautifully-made intro screen. This one follows the game’s cover star – the 2018 McLaren Senna, on a journey across Britain through all four seasons. From snowy wintery conditions to Summer sunshine, the intro screen to Forza Horizon 4 has already become my favourite of the franchise – one that’s clearly designed to immerse the player into the experience and set the overall backdrop and tone for the game. Other supercars and exotic rides will also join the Senna throughout its journey, highlighting how Forza Horizon 4 is a shared open-world game that you won’t experience alone, but rather with the entire community around you.
It’s truly well put together, and once you’ve spent a few minutes drooling over how stunning it looks, you’ll have to choose between a few settings before progressing onto the game itself. These include naming your character – there’s plenty of names to choose from too, by the way, configuring your HDR brightness if you have a supported 4K TV setup, and choosing between the native 4K and 60FPS modes featured in the game if playing on Xbox One X, officially dubbed as ‘Graphics’ and ‘Performance’ options. The inclusion of an optional 60FPS mode is one that has been highly-requested by fans, and Forza Horizon 4 is the first Horizon title on console to feature such an option – and it’s an excellent addition to the game.
As mentioned, you can name your character in Forza Horizon 4. Most common names are featured in the game, but there’s also a large selection of nicknames to choose from too – including 'Maverick,' which I chose for my playthrough, as well as 'Arbiter' from Halo, ‘G’ and even ‘Sausage,’ should you be feeling somewhat immature. The level of choice and flexibility here is excellent, and you can even change your name at any time from the pause menu. Lovely stuff. Once you’re happy with all those initial setup options, you’ll get to watch the intro cinematic to Forza Horizon 4, and unsurprisingly, it’s truly spectacular. It reminds you of how seasons are designed to change everything in this living open-world experience, one that will continuously evolve. It’s a gorgeous set-piece to introduce the game, and I personally thought this would be a hard area to top Forza Horizon 3 on – but they’ve somehow managed to do it.
The opening segment of Forza Horizon 4 puts you behind the wheel of the McLaren Senna, the latest piece of engineering wonder from the British supercar-maker. It’s the same opening demo from E3 and Gamescom, where you’ll experience all four seasons featured in the game in less than 10 minutes. From the Senna in Autumn to an RJ Anderson Trophy Truck in Winter before taking the wheel of a Ford Rallycross car in Spring against a team of stunt motocross bikers – leading into an epic race to the Horizon Festival in Summer that sees you back in the stylish, exotic McLaren Senna. It’s a truly wonderful introduction to Forza Horizon 4’s unique gameplay, and I love it.
Following this atmospheric opening, you’ll be welcomed to the Horizon Festival in-style by selecting one of 12 characters to represent you in Britain, as well as one of three starter cars. You can choose between male and female characters, and you’ll get to personalize them with clothes, accessories and emotes as you progress further into the game. As for the starter cars, well the choice is quite splendid to say the least. You have the 2017 Ford Focus RS – a personal favourite of mine, as well as the 2015 Audi TTS RS Coupé and a 1969 Dodge Charger R/T. Naturally, I had to choose the hatchback, as it’s everything I want in a car. Speed, agility and performance, the Focus RS has it all – and for me, it was the perfect way to start experiencing everything Horizon Britain has to offer.
The first series of events that you’ll be completing in comes in the form of Horizon Road Racing. These races make up the first part of Forza Horizon 4’s prologue, which takes place during Summer. This prologue occupies your first few hours of the game, introducing various cars, features and events available to discover across Britain throughout all four seasons of the year. Following the prologue, you’ll be thrusted into the Horizon Life experience – a shared open-world with up to 72 players and Dynamic Seasons that change on a weekly basis. You’ll face the same conditions as everyone else, and seasons will also transition here for all players at the same time. Providing it all works smoothly, it should deliver a fantastic experience come launch, and I’m incredibly excited to see it in-action.
Whilst the prologue of Forza Horizon 4 allows you to experience all four seasons across a variety of different racing classes, I couldn’t help but head off the beaten path and explore beautiful, historic Britain. It’s always a treat to explore a brand-new map in the Forza Horizon series, but there’s something incredibly special and unique about this one. Britain is without a doubt a beautiful country and in Forza Horizon 4, it’s full of things to see and do. This combination of England, Wales and Scotland delivers a unique take on Britain – one that feels expressive, fun and varied, but also memorizing and distinct.
Before I even tried the first event of the Horizon Road Racing series, I was attempting to chase sheep in my Focus RS by a country field near the Horizon Festival site and pose with them for photos. Funny enough, they were always faster than me – thanks to some wizardry technology developed by Playground Games so they can’t be run over. Whether you’re a driving a McLaren Senna or a Peel P50, these sheep will always be faster than you, though I’d imagine they’re less scared of something as small and timid as the P50 in comparison to the fierceness and might of the Senna.
My adventures across Horizon Britain in its warm, green Summer season saw me exploring all its varied and diverse terrain. Be it the vertical elevation of the Scottish Highlands to the dense city of Edinburgh. I’ll say this much – the long drive to into the Scottish capital has become one of my favourite road trips in Horizon yet. It’s certainly not a short trip and driving the Focus RS on Forza Horizon 4’s authentic British motorway felt nothing short of exciting. Motorways in the real-world typically mean lots of traffic, potential accidents and just all-around boredom. In Forza Horizon 4, these motorways become the ultimate ticket to drive with speed and style. Despite those illuminated speed limits above you, I still chose to floor it as I headed into the city of Edinburgh. Driving past the Scott Monument felt surreal for the first time. It’s truly an iconic sight to see in the game, and the richness of the city makes you feel more immersed than the cities of past titles.
Driving through Edinburgh is also more fun thanks to its distinct road network, which not only leads to unique street racing opportunities, but it’s also so vast that you can easily get lost if you’re not paying attention. Its old, historic architecture combined with the various shops, monuments and parks create the overall cityscape, whilst the supercars and taxis driving around delivers a living and homely environment that feels atypical to the hustle and bustle you’d normally come to expect from a city centre. There’s so many different roads, pathways and areas to check out and discover in Edinburgh, with one of my favourite areas being the city’s castle – the most expensive property you can buy in Forza Horizon 4. This is a city that feels dense and compact, but also alive and glowing. It’s by far the best take on a city yet in Playground’s open-world racing series, and I’m sure it’ll become a fan-favourite spot in Forza Horizon 4’s incarnation of beautiful, historic Britain.
However, my Summer road trip didn’t end in Edinburgh. I passed through several smaller towns and villages whilst driving my favourite hatchback – including a trip through the small, beautiful cottages located in the Cotswolds. In fact, I drove across 120 roads of the 531 featured in Forza Horizon 4’s Britain, which after a few hours of game time just dedicated to exploration and racing, isn’t bad at all. Despite being much the same size as Forza Horizon 3’s Australia, this one feels denser with more roads to discover, increased elevation, and a greater density of things to see and do. It also feels more vivid and lush, with so many colours that shine immensely in HDR – it’s honestly spectacular to look at and you can easily tell that this game was built with 4K and HDR technologies in-mind. I’d often just pull over to the side of my road in my Ford Focus RS and enjoy the spectacular views or even the incredible architecture of the various towns, villages and of course, Edinburgh City itself. It’s a world that feels alive – and it’s full of colour and diversity. It’s truly a British playground.
Meanwhile, the beach located by the east coast of Forza Horizon 4’s Britain is long, wide and beautiful. The small powdery pebbles of sand shine brightly under the British Summer sun and the detail of each sand particle is almost surreal. There’s also a nearby shipwreck, as well as a distinct lighthouse that you’re highly unlikely to miss when driving by the coastline, however my journey took me to another British landmark – the Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland. It’s a real sight to look at from the outside, but it’s an even bigger pleasure to drive through it. You can race around the historic castle and take in the thrills, enthrals and captivates it offers to all its visitors. Perhaps pose for a photo, enjoy the dramatic views from this iconic British landmark, or even explore it in detail using the Drone Mode.
Britain in Forza Horizon 4 is lovely. It really is. Be it the recognizable street signs or road network, the stunning historic monuments and figures like the Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire, or even the acquaint cottages and houses scattered across towns, villages and countryside. I love it, and despite living in Ireland – the West of the country to be specific, a lot of Forza Horizon 4’s Britain feels very similar and recognizable. Sure, we use kilometres instead of miles and our currency is different over here, but the similarities between both countries, especially in terms of the countryside and the landscape itself, is immense.
I love the fact Playground Games chose Edinburgh as its headline city in Forza Horizon 4, but the vast countryside and its towns, villages and landmarks that scatter the region also make this world so exciting and fun to cruise through. It’s great, and at this stage, I can only begin to imagine the experience of exploring it all with my friends and the wider community in Forza Horizon 4’s online and shared 72-player worlds. One day, we could be driving through Ambleside or by the Derwent Water on our way towards Lakehurst Forest or the Scottish Highlands of the Glen Rannoch. The next day, we could be heading east towards Arthur’s Seat before driving south into the Astmoor region and drifting into small country villages like Broadway and the Ashbrook barn located within the rolling hills of the Cotswolds.
Maybe you’ll head off-road to experience Forza Horizon 4’s deformable mud at the Mudkickers Adventure Park before spending a day at other prime spots to discover like the Moorhead Wind Farm, Greendale Airstrip, Slate Quarry, or Queensforth Golf Course. If you’re British – or even Irish like myself, these beautiful English country road-trips are going to feel just like home. Heck, I was even excited when I saw the street bollards and road signs for the first time – and that's not to mention those old-fashioned red telephone boxes! When Playground Games said Forza Horizon 4’s Britain was like a greatest hits collection of the country, they certainly weren’t kidding around. This is a Britain without the politics of today, and the game makes you truly appreciate how beautiful and incredible it is as a country.
Despite focusing on exploration instead of racing, I was still progressing in Forza Horizon 4. The new Horizon Life system allows players to experience the game as they desire and be rewarded for it. Whether you’re a racer, drifter, painter, tuner, photographer, explorer or car collector – all of this will benefit you in Forza Horizon 4, levelling you up across the different tiers of progression in the game and unlocking new rewards for you to check out in the process.
Progression is one area of focus that Playground Games has doubled down on in Forza Horizon 4. It’s no longer do race after race anymore, or even attempt to become the best racer the festival has to offer. Instead, Forza Horizon 4 sets you up to become a Horizon Superstar, but how you get there is totally up to you. It might be from race events, completing jobs, painting cars and tuning vehicles, capturing the world of beautiful, historic Britain around you, or just exploring the map and everything it has to offer. I was surprised at how much I progressed each segment of my Horizon Life career based on my play-style in less than three hours of game time. Sometimes I’d often feel bad in games for heading off the beaten path and doing my own thing, simply because I wouldn’t be rewarded for it or earn any form of progression – but Forza Horizon 4 actively encourages it and glowingly rewards you for it in the process. It’s all about how you want to experience the world of Horizon, and because of this, it made those first few hours spent on the game even more special.
Forza Horizon 3 had you gain followers to upgrade your festival and expand it to new locations, but progression in Forza Horizon 4 is tied to Influence. This essentially replaces the fans system of the game before it, and the more Influence you build up – the more you can dictate how you live your Horizon Life. That means you’ll start getting invited to new racing series and being asked to complete more jobs. After I had completed a couple of events within the Horizon Road Racing series in my Ford Focus RS, it wasn’t long until I had the chance to compete in the first of many Horizon Rally events. However, I didn’t need to buy a car for this one either as Forza Horizon 4 offers you yet another free ride in the form of a rally-tuned beast to add to your collection. The choices include a 1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth, a 2005 Subaru Impreza WRX STI, and a 1982 Lancia 037 Stradale – but as a Subaru fan, my choice of the Impreza will come as no surprise to anyone.
Each of the different racing series in Forza Horizon 4 is broken down into various ranks, and the further you progress these ranks, the more rewards and events you’ll unlock. New clothes, emotes, vehicles and credit bonuses, not to mention all-new race events made available around the map. That’s a ton of different unlocks tied to your progression in Forza Horizon 4, and it also means there’s plenty of choice in terms of what you want to do next. I had the chance to continue increasing my Influence from these official Horizon race events, but I was also introduced to an opportunity to act as a stunt double in a movie – driving the incredibly fast Bugatti Chiron across British countryside to record some airborne action.
Being a stunt driver for a film isn’t a one-and-done gig, however, as there’s a total of 10 chapters within this specific storyline, all of which are completed with their own unique objectives, voiceovers and cinematics. It’s a nice touch and upgrade over the Bucket List challenges of past games, and with different star unlocks associated with each chapter, it’ll make them worth replaying in the future as well. Some Horizon Stories are also unlocked from purchasing businesses, such as the taxi firm which sees you driving fares around in the Austin FX4 – based on the classic London Taxi. There’s also the World’s Fastest Supercars rental business in Edinburgh, which will see you driving exotic supercars for fun as a job. This type of business will also earn you bonus credits every time you log into Forza Horizon 4 as supercars are rented out to wannabe motorists.
Influence, which is earned by doing everything you love in Forza Horizon 4 – be it race events, PR Stunts or Horizon Stories, is needed to progress through the prologue segment of the game. As mentioned, this initially starts at Summer and walks you through all four seasons in Forza Horizon 4. Once you’ve earned enough Influence, you’ll unlock your first house within the first few hours of playing, depending on how fast you accelerate through the different events available. This one is called ‘The Gables,’ and it comes at no cost. Not only can it be used to customize your character and explore your car up close via Forzavista, but it also acts as a fast travel destination and spawn point when loading into the game. When you unlock your first house, you’ll also transition into Autumn for the next segment of the prologue experience. By now, you’ll have also unlocked the autoshow to acquire new cars, as well as vehicle upgrades, character customization, the Drone Mode, and more.
PR Stunts make a return in Forza Horizon 4, and you’ll begin unlocking these throughout the prologue. Speed Traps, Drift Zones, Danger Signs and Speed Zones – and no more traffic or Drivatars to worry about as they’re all now ghosted. It’s a welcomed change to Forza Horizon 4, and it certainly makes completing these stunts far less infuriating than before. There’s nothing worse than a Drivatar slamming right into you in the middle of a perfect drift. Thankfully, this change also applies to real-life players in the shared open-world, too.
Kiera, the Irish PR personnel from Forza Horizon 3’s festival is also back in Forza Horizon 4, guiding you throughout the various ins and outs of the British Horizon Festival. Also making a comeback is ANNA, your AI GPS assistant which can notify of you nearby events, points-of-interest located around the map, and help you earn more Influence. They’re also joined by some new faces, who you’ll meet throughout Forza Horizon 4. Some of these will be at the festival, others will be asking you to help with jobs and other tasks in Horizon Stories. You’ll oftentimes overhear them during the game too as you progress further and unlock new events.
Forza Horizon 4 is a truly special open-world racing game, one that’s fused with RPG-style and MMO elements to deliver a unique, ever-changing experience. Not only is the gameplay on-point – a feat you can always expect from the Forza franchise, but it’s also visually stunning. Whether you’re enjoying the crisp, sharp native 4K output on the Xbox One X or its blistering fast and silky smooth 60fps experience, Forza Horizon 4 – based on our initial experience with the game, is shaping up to be a true technical marvel and yet another incredible accomplishment for Playground Games.
Of course, to back this, the audio is also superb. From its impressive soundtrack and festival atmosphere to the thrilling noises, toots and whistles of automobiles racing across beautiful Britain, this is one of the best sounding racing games out there. It even applies to the surrounding wildlife and environment, as the “baa” from the sheep just sounds adborable! But that’s not all, Forza Horizon 4 also supports Dolby Atmos surround sound, and it delivers an incredible experience all-around, regardless of your audio setup. It’s just remarkable.
But the accolades don’t end there. Another impressive feat of Forza Horizon 4 is its crossovers with other games. The iconic Warthog from Microsoft’s Halo franchise is making a return in this game after debuting in Forza Motorsport 4 before being playable in Forza Horizon 3. It’s accompanied by a new dedicated ‘Halo Showcase Experience,’ which sees you take on the role of Master Chief escaping Covenant-controlled Banshees in an elusive mission. The Halo soundtrack-inspired horns also return in Forza Horizon 4 with new horns from other Microsoft titles, including musical horns from Sea of Thieves and Killer Instinct. There’s also a Windows XP Shutdown horn which I couldn’t get enough of listening to at the event – it’s great, and it’s so cool to see Microsoft and Playground Games feature this iconic shutdown tune in the game.
Despite having written all of this about Forza Horizon 4, I still feel like I haven’t even made a dent into the game yet – or scratch the surface if you will. There’s just so much here in this one package, it’ll most likely require hundreds of hours to truly experience and appreciate all of it. That’s when you know you’re onto a real winner, as this simply is without a doubt The Witcher 3 of automotive racing games. It’s just brilliant, and there’s so much to be excited about in Forza Horizon 4, it’s almost impossible to detail every little nuance that makes Playground Games’ latest installment in the open-world series so astonishingly beautiful and incredibly unique.
Whether it’s something as small as the potholes, street signs and roadworks found on the side of British roads that feel so common to home, the all-new player houses and businesses – or the ever-changing Dynamic Seasons feature which headlines the game, there are many, many reasons to look forward to Forza Horizon 4. Personally, I cannot wait to dive back in – and we don’t have too long to wait either. The game launches worldwide on Xbox One and Windows 10 on October 2nd, 2018, it’ll be available day-in-date on the monthly Xbox Game Pass subscription service, and Ultimate Edition owners can start playing four days early from September 28th. Autumn may be upon us, but thankfully, so is Forza Horizon 4.
Alan is the co-founder and co-owner of FullThrottle Media. As someone who enjoys spending all his free time playing video games, he delivers the latest in news stories, reviews, and feature articles to the website, as well as videos on his YouTube channel and livestreams over on Mixer.