Racing through four seasons in real life, going head to head with a hovercraft, enjoying a country lane drive in a classic Land Rover before taking to high speed in a McLaren supercar, glamping, hot air balloons and more. Microsoft had transformed the tranquil grounds of the prestigious Goodwood Estate in Chichester, England to celebrate the global launch of Forza Horizon 4, and I was fortunate enough to have been invited to join the Forza team there and experience the thrills of its latest open-world racing game in what can only be described as a bespoke real-world Horizon Festival. It felt almost surreal at times, but simply put, this has been one of best, most unique and exciting experiences I’ve ever had – and you’re about to see why.
It all began for me bright and early on a Tuesday morning. Not only did I have to an exciting day of travel and evening festivities ahead, but I also had to publish my review for Forza Horizon 4, as the embargo lifted that morning. Travelling over to beautiful, historic Britain to celebrate the game’s launch and its undoubtedly fantastic reviews made me feel extremely excited to reach the Goodwood Estate and begin to live out the dream Horizon Life. From exotic supercars to hot air balloons and even the idea of glamping, it all sounded wonderful.
As I arrived closer to the Goodwood Estate, travelling in the fancy taxis arranged for us by Xbox UK, I began to obverse how the roads, scenery, and houses, as well as the villages we passed through, were all quintessential British – and all very reminiscent of Forza Horizon 4. It’s almost as if a route was purposely planned out to give the impression, but this is just Britain, and it shows how much of an excellent job developer Playground Games has done with its latest installment in the festival-inspired open-world racing series. It truly makes you appreciate both Britain and the game that bit more, and it’s a reminder of how beautiful the country really is. It might not be as exotic as Australia or the coastlines of Italy, but there’s no doubt that Britain still has some of the finest countryside beauty in the world.
Following the lovely drive through British countryside, we arrived at the Forza Horizon 4-esque Glamping site, which was designed to replicate the look and atmosphere of the Horizon Festival. Luxury tents, also knowns as yurts, were scattered all over the site, whilst the shine and glimmer of the sun setting resulted in a gorgeous view, especially by some of the cars nearby our site, which included the 2009 Ferrari 458 Italia – the Forza Motorsport 4 cover car, as well as the 2014 Lamborghini Huracán – the Forza Horizon 2 cover star. Both cars were decked out in Forza Horizon 4 decals, and naturally, they’re available to collect, race and customize in-game.
Our first few hours at the glamping site allowed us to familiarize ourselves with the surroundings and get to know everyone who had arrived already. A dedicated marquee recreation zone offered food, drinks and music, the latter of which consisted of a fantastic selection of tunes appropriately taken from the Forza Horizon 4 soundtrack. There was also a livestream of the Inside Xbox broadcast, which was a special bespoke episode themed around all the Goodwood festivities, as well as a selection of Xbox One X consoles setup with the full version Forza Horizon 4 available to play. Did I mention there was even marshmallow roasting? It was quite an incredible setup.
Naturally, there were a lot of familiar faces from the Forza community at the event. Some of whom I’ve met on many an occasion before and it was great to catch up with them once more, whilst others I was meeting for the first time. YouTubers such as Super GT, JackUltraMotive, and TC9700Gaming were all present, as well as Jack Sangha from AR12Gaming, Kyle Patrick of GTPlanet, Tristan Banning from Sidewalk Hustle, and ForzaLiveryGuy. Like myself, they were all eagerly awaiting the Forza-themed activities Microsoft had planned for us the following day.
Microsoft’s own Xbox Games Marketing lead Aaron Greenberg formally introduced the event, thanking the Xbox UK team for pulling off the incredible setup, as well as developer Playground Games for all their hard work on Forza Horizon 4. There was a lot of excitement in the room, especially by staff and developers. After all, Forza Horizon 4 had just received a 92 score on Metacritic – making it the new highest-rated Xbox One console exclusive, and one of the best reviewed titles of the year.
As for the rest of the night, it was full of insightful conversations, plenty of laughs, and even a speedy drive up the iconic Goodwood hillclimb course at night in Super GT’s Abarth Punto. Let’s just say it was one to remember. Some time was also spent on Forza Horizon 4 before bed, but it involved The Flying Scotsman steam train sending a Ford Transit Van flying well into the distance! Once midnight approached, it was time to the head back to the yurt for a good night’s sleep ahead of all the planned activities for the following morning.
The yurt itself was surprisingly cosy, with a large double bed and lovely Christmas tree-style lights wrapped around a pole. It was also quite spacious, but despite the inclusion of a small portable heater, it was freezing. Let’s just say this environment would’ve been perfect during that intense British heatwave over the Summer. There were also toilet and shower facilities, but these were located separately on the other side of the campsite.
As the sun rose upon the glamping site at Goodwood, there was a feeling of tranquil among everyone. The yurts might have been a little too cold for our liking, but there was a sense of freshness and excitement in the atmosphere. Once I had woken up, gotten ready and walked towards the line-up of food trailers for breakfast, the reality of the Horizon Festival began to hit. An unmissable hot-air balloon was positioned at the bottom of the campsite, whilst the 458 Italia and Huracán adorned the front of the site with a beautiful sunrise casted over the backdrop of the scene. It was truly stunning to behold, and at this moment, I know we were in for something special. The Horizon Festival had been well in truly brought to life in beautiful, historic Britain, and we were just getting started.
The view of supercars backed by a glorious sunrise wouldn’t be the only incredible sight we’d see that day, however. A fleet of Range Rovers would take us to the entrance of the Goodwood Estate, where we would see even more incredible cars – led by the Forza Horizon 4 cover star, the McLaren Senna at the front entrance of the iconic estate. A fitting welcoming to say the least. Whilst the Senna was well and truly the star of the show, the classic James Bond cars used in the series of films most certainly stole my heart. Then we had a fleet of McLaren supercars drive into the estate one by one, with Horizon flags blowing on poles scattered across the grounds of Goodwood House. The festival was well and truly underway, and Playground’s Creative Director Ralph Fulton would soon introduce the day’s activities and welcome everyone to the Goodwood Estate once we had all snapped our photos and calmed down from the excitement of everything that surrounded us.
With so many influencers and media in attendance, we were all assigned into different groups, which would dictate when we would do each of the different activities on offer. I certainly think ours had to be the best, because we had all the outdoors fun and excitement initially before the more calming gameplay sessions and interviews in the afternoon. It was the perfect schedule to say the least. From rallying in four different seasons and racing a hovercraft to being drove around in a Land Rover and a McLaren supercar before heading on Forza Horizon 4 on incredible simulation setups inside a transformed Goodwood House. How could you get any better than this? I know we were well and truly in for an exciting day.
Microsoft had also assembled a special robotic camera system, designed to deliver cool slow-motion videos with a Forza Horizon 4 flavour added onto them. These included smoke effects and brown Autumn leaves that would be scattered around you. However, that wasn’t enough for Microsoft, as they also wrapped a classic Jaguar E-Type in Xbox Game Pass codes. I took to Twitter to immediately share these out, and the tweet undeniably went viral as people scrounged to get their hands on a free Xbox Game Pass code before they were all redeemed. The subscriptions ranged from one-month to 12-months, and rumour has it there was even a lifetime Xbox Game Pass membership to be found somewhere throughout all the codes. With Forza Horizon 4 having been made available day-and-date on the service, the Game Pass-wrapped Jaguar made perfect sense.
The first activity of the day for us came in the form of the Seasons Rally Experience. With a total of three different cars from the legacy of Subaru’s Impreza models, as well as a bespoke rally course designed to authentically capture and replicate all four seasons of the year just as they are in Forza Horizon 4, this was certain to be an incredible, one-of-a-kind experience. It’s worth noting that we had two goes in whichever Subaru rally cars took our fancy, and these ranged from the classic first-gen Impreza to the latest STI hatchback – all decaled out in lovely Forza Horizon 4 designs.
Our drivers would be professional “rally pilots,” and they naturally knew the course inside out. This meant I thankfully didn’t have to provide co-driver calls, because that probably wouldn’t have been the best idea. The drivers weren’t the most talkative, but they did inform us that should we become queasy during the ride, we could always wave our hands and they would take the course a little easier. However, that wasn’t needed at all. The adrenaline rush and excitement of being in these cars made me wish for more. After my first attempt in the classic Impreza, I was eager to get back into the car for my second run. It was brilliant in every right.
The course begins with a swift drift around a twisty bend before heading into the four different seasons of Forza Horizon 4, authentically replicated in this bespoke rally experience. I was truly surprised at how real and alive it felt. From the striking colours of Autumn as leaves covered the asphalt to the glorious snow-covered landscape of Winter, followed by fresh flowers blossoming in Spring before we drove into a beautiful Summer with flourished greenery. There were even checkpoints to mark the beginning of each season, themed after the ones used during official festival races in Forza Horizon 4, as well as some warning signs too.
The effects used to bring all four seasons to life in the real-world on a blazing hot Summers day also deserves credit. Cellulose was used to create the snowy Winter Wonderland, whilst bluebells and daffodils were covered trackside during the Spring segment of the course. Autumn also had an interesting fog effect to mystify itself, whilst Summer was well, the best British Summer you could possibly imagine. It wasn’t all artificial either, as real people were involved in each of the different seasons too. From those sweeping leaves in Autumn to others dressed in warm clothes as they threw snowballs and built snowmen. There were also some ready to hit the beach in Summer with their bouncy balls, whilst a Spring picnic setup had people using their umbrellas to escape the drizzling Spring showers. The result was a seasonal showcase that felt alive and tranquil, but also surprising. How it was pulled off manages to bewilder me, but it was simply fantastic.
I’m sure all the actors involved in the seasons rally showcase found repeating the same actions over and over a little repetitive as the day went on, but I doubt the same can be said for the drivers, who got to enjoy this course repeatedly at top-speed with its thrilling drift zones and jumps. The level of excitement in me always built up as the pilot would put his foot down and floor it – the adrenaline rush of this is something that simply cannot be described in words, but my second run on the course would have an interesting turn to say the least. It was in the newer STI hatchback, and shortly before the main course began, the engine cut out as sparks appeared from underneath me. I initially believed this was a purposeful effect enabled by the driver, but once he began to slow down and eventually stop, I knew the situation had to be more serious.
The hatchback’s engine wasn’t receiving any power, and to allow a technician to assess the situation and provide repairs, I was offered another run in the Impreza I was in earlier. “Back again?” the driver surprisingly says to me as I inform him of the situation. It was quite the surprise overall, and it certainly makes my Goodwood experience a little more unique and out of the ordinary to everyone else’s. I also had the pleasure of being drove around the bespoke seasons course once again in one of the most iconic rally cars in motorsport history. It was a pure joy to say the least, and I enjoyed every moment of it. Following the second run, professional stunt driver and television personality Tanner Foust made an appearance – and this was undeniably a brilliant opportunity for a group photo with the rallying legend. Unfortunately, I don’t have the picture, so I can’t share it in this article, but let’s just say it was yet another one of Goodwood’s brilliant little surprises.
Following the rally action would be a real-life take on one of Forza Horizon 4’s headlining Showcase events. This one had two perspectives, as a Ford Raptor would be taking on a Hovercraft using a bespoke course designed to be as fair as possible. The Hovercraft used for this activity was significantly smaller than the one seen in-game, but it was still just as exciting – except all the grass that blew into my face whilst on it. For this one, we also had to wear some tailored racing suits. Picture the classic race outfits in Forza Motorsport 7.
For the most part, it would be neck-and-neck between the Hovercraft and the Raptor, but the off-road truck had the edge. As unique as it was to be on a Hovercraft taking on a Raptor, I personally preferred the perspective of Ford’s off-road performance machine. It makes you feel so lifted from the ground, and the viewpoint from it means you can really observe the Hovercraft’s position, leading to a more surprising, tenser race – without any grass hitting into me! Whilst it felt close, the Hovercraft had the edge on both runs that I was involved in.
Located around the area was also the latest Ford Ranger Raptor, the only one in Europe so far that’s designed specifically for this side of the world. It takes everything that makes the Raptor so iconic and popular in America and brings it over to Europe. Unfortunately, this model wasn’t used in the Hovercraft showcase, but it was still cool to see it decked out in Forza Horizon 4 decals. Similarly, there was also a Lamborghini Gallardo on display with the same decals, as well as a BMW i8 hybrid sports car. At this point, there was a lot of engine noises and tires screeching that could be heard all over the Goodwood Estate, and lo and behold, this was from Ken Block’s ‘Hoonicorn V2,’ who was filming a promotional launch video for Forza Horizon 4 – and the result was undeniably spectacular.
With the Hovercraft showcase wrapped up, it was time for a bite to eat. We returned to the glamping site for lunch as everyone reflected on the morning’s activities before awaiting what the rest of the day had in store for us. Country Lanes Driving across bumpy, elevated roads in the Land Rover Discovery, a scenic view from a hot air balloon, a drive in the latest and greatest McLaren supercars, and some hands-on time with Forza Horizon 4 inside the Goodwood House was all coming up on our schedule.
But before that would all begin, we headed back to the estate to capture some more photos of the Senna and those beautiful Bond cars, including a wrecked Aston Martin DBS sprayed in bullet-holes. This one appeared in 2008’s Quantum of Solace, which saw the stunt team wreck a total of 14 DBS vehicles to capture all the shots they needed for the Lake Garda sequence in the film. The other Bond cars on display included the classic DB5, the futuristic DB10, and yet another DBS, but this one was in perfect condition. These cars are just incredible automotive icons, they’re film stars – and play such a massive role in bringing the James Bond films to life. Such an extraordinary sight for both Bond fans and car enthusiasts alike.
Before we headed off in the Land Rovers for our lovely country drive, I had the opportunity to sit inside a McLaren Senna, as its dihedral doors were open and inviting to guests. The hand-crafted cover star of Forza Horizon 4, which is made in celebration of the legendary F1 driver Ayrton Senna is most certainly a star to look at from the outside, especially with its dramatic and sporty curves designed to reminisce the styling of the 720S. That’s not to mention its see-through glass towards the lower area of the doors and the carbon-fibre air intakes at the back combined with that unmissable electronically-controlled wing.
Despite all this, it’s even more exciting on the inside. The interior is exposed in carbon fibre and Alcantara – even the seats can be covered in Alcantara or leather, depending on the customer’s preference when buying the car. This particular Senna, model number zero of five hundred, is worth millions of pounds, so it’s quite the expensive car to sit in to say the least. Getting my hands on the wheel of the McLaren Senna also felt incredible, and the few minutes I spent inside the car left me feeling even more excited for what the rest of the day had in store.
The Country Lanes Driving experience would undoubtedly be one of the most exciting aspects of this entire trip. Land Rover Defenders would take us on a little tour of some of the more discrete, bumpy roads around the Goodwood Estate, dropping us off in the middle of a field in which we would enjoy scenic views from a hot air balloon before being taken in McLaren supercars that would blast us back towards the Goodwood Estate. It would be an exhilarating few hours to say the least.
Our country drive began with the old-school Land Rovers, which allowed us to get behind the wheel of this beloved British classic and drive it along some of the backroads and country lanes around the Goodwood Estate. Well, except me since I don’t drive yet, but despite this, the passenger experience was just as exciting. The inside of the Land Rover felt old-fashioned and reminiscent of its era from years gone by, with the back of the vehicle openly exposed to let in a nice cool breeze on this spectacular sunny day. An oddity for British weather in Autumn you might find, but it did allow us to make the most of the Goodwood experience and all the activities Microsoft had lined up for us.
The acquaint drive through some backend country British roads in the Goodwood Estate reminded me of the wonders of adventure and exploration that I’d typically experience in Forza Horizon 4. There’s nothing like a nice, soothing drive across one of the most spontaneous locations in Britain, especially as we drove towards a beautiful view of the Isle of White and Portsmouth Harbour. All the nearby fields, wildlife and natural wonders of the beautiful countryside of Sussex were truly brought to life in this relaxing, calming drive – even if it was a little bumpy, but for me, this simply added to the experience. It made it all pleasingly delightful to take in. We also drove by the iconic Goodwood racecourse, which is used for horse racing and is renowned for being one of the most beautiful flat racecourses in the world.
As we arrived at the drop off site for our next activity in the middle of a field, there was a Jaguar F-Type and a Porsche Cayman awaiting us, with three Horizon Festival flags blowing above each of them. However, we wouldn’t be travelling in those, instead we’d be in a hot air balloon that was stood in front of us. It felt huge, especially the scale of it compared to the cars. One by one, the Land Rovers dropped off each of us and all parked in a row across from the balloon. This was a short and sweet ride, but a cool experience I had never done before. It’s certainly quite loud and you can feel the heat above you as the gas is actively flowing, but the glorious views on the British countryside made it feel so lovely. It also makes you feel immense above all as you look down on everyone below you. The Land Rovers looked tiny this high up from the ground, whilst the shadow silhouette casted from the balloon made for a unique, eye-catching photo opportunity. If I had to sum it up in one word, I’d say it was marvellous. A truly marvellous, delightful experience.
With so many hot air balloons visible all over the Horizon Festival across every Forza Horizon title, it’s almost become a staple of the franchise – and mostly certainly the festival itself. It was undeniable a fitting experience in bringing the Horizon Festival to life at the Goodwood Estate, but the short relaxing ride was certainly in contrast to some of the most action-driven experiences from earlier in the day, such as the seasonal rally course, as well as the imminent McLaren supercar drive. Once the balloon landed and we climbed out of it, we headed across the field to find a fleet of dazzling McLarens. All present in Forza Horizon 4, and ready to escort us back to Goodwood House in time for my planned interviews, as well as some hands-on time with the game. But first, it was time to experience the speed and ferocity of some of McLaren’s finest automobiles.
You could argue that we saved the best for last, and it was certainly my favourite moment of the day. A choice from a bespoke selection of McLaren supercars, driven by their engineers at high-speed across some incredibly British countryside roads. It’s hard to top this, especially when the cars on offer included the likes of the 720S, the 570GT and a 570S Spider. The 720S had a few different colour variants, but the flashy orange model immediately caught my attention. The way the colour sparkled and reflected the sunlight was simply a pure pleasure to look at, and it certainly had the most boldness and striking looks of this exquisite line-up of cars. Out of all the models on display, the glistening orange of the 720S is undoubtedly the one that catches your eye first.
My pick had to be the 720S. It’s a pure masterpiece from the British automaker that truly highlights both their technical excellence, engineering capabilities and design philosophy. It’s everything you’d expect from a McLaren supercar, and it most certainly delivered when I finally sat in it for that eagerly-awaited high-speed drive back to the Goodwood Estate. Not only did I select the 720S for its spectacular looks and technical marvels, but it’s also the car I used the most in Forza Horizon 4 whilst reviewing the game. So now, after experiencing it behind-the-wheel in beautiful, historic Britain, I would finally be getting that same kick in the real-world.
The driver asked me if I prefer to keep the windows down or up, warning that it could get a little breezy at higher speeds. But I had to keep them down, as it simply added to the adrenaline kick from the car, and it meant I could more clearly hear its spectacular engine noise. Blasting down the acquaint country rides of beautiful Britain at 120mph surrounded by hedgerows, sheep and beautiful scenery is a pure absolute treat in Forza Horizon 4 but doing it at that same speed in the real-world delivered a level of adrenaline I’ve never felt before. It made me wish the experience didn’t end, as it was truly incredible.
Since it was a warm sunny day, the nice breeze that blew into the car as the driver put his foot down made it all even better. Combined with the adrenaline rush from the high-speed down those long straights, it makes me hope that I could eventually own this car – and even inspires me to keep working hard as maybe someday, eventually, I’ll be able to afford one of these masterpiece beauties of the open-road – made right here in Britain.
I had never sat in a supercar before, well except the McLaren Senna outside the estate from earlier in the day, as well as the 458 Italia outside our campsite. Okay, that’s three different supercars in the one day, all hours apart from each other as well, but before the Forza Horizon 4 Goodwood experience, I had never sat inside a supercar. I had never touched one or felt the steering wheel. I also had never opened or closed the doors of one either, but that all changed within a few hours of each other. Even something as small as opening and closing the gull-wing doors of the McLaren 720S when I was asked to do so felt surreal, but it was also incredible and almost felt like a privilege.
I also loved the inside of the 720S as well, from the digital dashboard that highlighted the speed and mileage to the large GPS touch-screen display that showed how far we were from our destination. It felt futuristic and out of the ordinary. All this stuff isn’t the kind of thing I’m used to seeing in our average everyday cars at home, that’s for sure. Between all of this, I also ended up having a fantastic conversation with the driver. We naturally spoke about the car and McLaren’s overall engineering and technical excellence, as well as the experience of driving the 720S in Forza Horizon 4 and how it feels in comparison to the real thing.
Let’s just say there isn’t a bad way of experiencing the exotic line-up of McLaren automobiles, but the adrenaline rush and level of excitement I felt inside the 720S as it hit 120mph is something I’ve never felt before. It was most certainly an entirely new experience for me. Our 720S drove back into the Goodwood Estate and parked up alongside the other McLarens, all lined in a row across outside the house. If the Duke of Richmond was to look out his window, he’d have been greeted to a spectacular view of exotic automobiles. However, he’s also the founder of the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the Goodwood Revival, both of which are iconic automotive festivals that celebrate our love of all-things fast on four wheels – so I’m certain he’s seen his fair share of motoring delights over the years.
With all the outdoor fun out of the way, and thankfully no rain to spoil any of it, it was time to head inside the Goodwood House for some hands-on time with Forza Horizon 4. After all, that’s the reason we were all here in the first place, and with only a few days until release, it was the perfect opportunity to take out a McLaren Senna onto the streets of beautiful, historic Britain to replicate experiences like what we had been doing around the Goodwood Estate.
However, before I headed inside, I was prompted that it was time for my scheduled interview with Xbox’s chief executive of games marketing, Aaron Greenberg. I was led into a special parlour room around the side of the house, before sitting down and briefly waiting for Greenberg to arrival. The room was full of classical, historical artistry and unique ornaments. It felt like everything you’d expect from a guest room in a British manor, where you’d sit down to drink tea, eat biscuits and talk about last weekend’s horse racing. However, the wait would also be somewhat nervous for me as well. This would be my first time officially interviewing someone from the Xbox executive team. Despite the nerves, this was an incredible opportunity for me – and a huge privilege to say the least.
As Greenberg walked into the room and spoke to me, the nerves immediately went away. I knew this next 20 minutes I had exclusively with the Xbox marketing legend were going to lead to some incredible discussion all about Forza and Xbox. I’ll be publishing a full feature story centered around my Greenberg interview in the near future, but for now, I can say that we spoke about the backstory of how Microsoft brought the Forza Horizon 4 experience to life in historic Goodwood, the way Turn 10 and Playground are tackling post-launch support for their games, as well as their initiatives in esports with the Forza Racing Championship racing series.
As for Goodwood, Greenberg mentioned that this was a “dream” idea for the launch of Forza Horizon 4, and the team managed to pull it off. “This was our dream to be able to come to the Goodwood Estate, the historic home to racing here in Britain, and it’s the setting of our game,” he says. “There’s nothing more quintessential British than this, and the team here in the UK actually came up with the idea and started putting this plan together about six months ago. We all thought it was kind of interesting, it was one of these things that was so big, and so kinda crazy that we just thought ‘there’s no way we’re gonna be able to really do this.’”
“And the more time we spent thinking about it, iterating on it, and putting our heads together, we started to realize, ‘actually, this would make a lot of sense.’ So, it’s just incredible. People working for many months, it took a large team of people to put this together, and it’s just great to see it all come to life and to be able to share it with our fans around the world. That’s the idea as to why we did the Inside Xbox from here, why we have so much content we’re streaming from here, why we have so many content creators here – to let people be able to experience folks like yourself share these experiences, so they feel like they’re with us at Goodwood, which is pretty neat.”
“It is the estate and it is a real Horizon Festival, that was absolutely the idea,” Greenberg adds. “I had tea with the Duke of Richmond yesterday. This is his estate as you know, and they’ve been great. His grace has been great, helping us with a lot of things, but also just all the folks here. They do some really incredible large-scale events with the Festival of Speed, and the Revival, and other things, so to be able to do – they did say this is the first major video game launch that they’ve ever done here, so it’s kinda neat to be the first ones to do that. And they’ve given us the run of the whole place, which is also pretty special – and I think we’ve made full use of it.”
After speaking to Greenberg for a solid 20 minutes about the “the Forza Horizon takeover” of the Goodwood Estate, it was time to spend some time on the game itself ahead of my next interview with Ralph Fulton, the Creative Director of developer Playground Games. There were several Forza Horizon 4 stations scattered across the main halls inside the Goodwood House. One larger room featured a dedicated setup for Team Adventure, the new competitive-inspired team-based online mode in Forza Horizon 4, whilst another had a series of simulator setups where you could enjoy the game on wheel. There was even a hydraulics simulation setup with the opening seasons segment of Forza Horizon 4, which allows you to feel true motion from the sled as you drive the McLaren Senna into the Horizon Festival. This area of the house had also been covered in Forza Horizon 4 posters that replicated the official screenshots from the game. It really was the ultimate Forza setup.
You could even livestream from the Goodwood House if you wished, as Microsoft had setup a dedicated streaming room with PCs hooked up to webcams and microphones, ready to broadcast Forza Horizon 4 to the world ahead of its global release date. It was an insanely sleek setup, and certainly perfect for streamers of all kinds. If streaming isn’t your thing however, you could even capture at the event. Imagine recording live Forza Horizon 4 gameplay or streaming it directly from the Goodwood House? Well, it was all there and freely available to attendees – and any viewers that would’ve tuned in via Mixer would also benefit from in-game Influence, the XP-style progression system that levels you up in Forza Horizon 4.
I decided to opt, however for the force-feedback Fanatec wheel setup, which featured the official Forza Motorsport Playseat rig, as well as the accompanying pedals. I hadn’t played Horizon before with a proper sim-setup, but I have to say, it actually felt really good. The feedback given back into the wheel from driving the McLaren Senna down beautiful Britain at high-speed felt immense. It certainly gives you a lot of pressure and constantly keeps you focused and engaged with what’s happening on-screen. Any little distraction, and you’d be in the ditch. I don’t typically play racing games with a wheel, but if I had this kind of setup at home, I’d totally do it more often. Fanatec are noted for manufacturing some of the best force-feedback wheels in the business, and their official Forza Motorsport setup at Goodwood certainly showed this.
Following my hands-on time with Forza Horizon 4 on the wheel, and several crashes that we’ll skim right by and forget about, it was finally time for my interview with Ralph Fulton. It was the last thing on my to-do list for Goodwood, and despite having interviewed him at the McLaren Technology Centre only a few weeks beforehand, I still had plenty of burning questions on my mind to ask him, especially after sinking hours of my time into the full version of the game. After all, my review had been published the day before, and I was ready to pick Ralph about what the team has planned in terms of post-launch support for the game, as well as talk about their never-before-done and spectacular launch event at the Goodwood Estate.
“It’s the most spectacular event,” he told me. “I think I’m as blown away by it as you are to be honest, and if you spoke to Aaron, he maybe told you that we don’t do events like this all that often. You know, right across Xbox. But it’s the brainchild of the UK team who really wanted to mark the launch of this game in Britain. It’s British-developed, it’s set in Britain. There is a real opportunity to come to somewhere like this and put on a range of activities – which just reflect why we made the game here, what the game is really and give people the opportunity to meet the developers and play the game and have some fun experiences just ahead of launch.”
“Goodwood especially is relevant to us because way back in 2010 when we were first coming up with the idea of Forza Horizon and specifically, the Horizon Festival, when we tried to explain it to people, we used this shorthand of saying ‘okay right, imagine Glastonbury meets Goodwood Festival of Speed.’ And people were like ‘ohhkay,’ and sometimes they were like ‘that’s still a bit weird,’ but they kinda got that it’s about music, big crowds and cars and sorta crazy car experiences, and stuff like that. So, coming here to celebrate the launch of the fourth game which is set in Britain is just perfect.”
I also asked Ralph which car he’d take home with him from the entire line-up of exotic supercars and classics at Goodwood, and his response was certainly surprising – but also one that I can completely relate to. “We had that conversation yesterday, like we did that exact thing and it was at a point when all the Astons, all the McLarens, you know the fleet like there’s an i8, a Ferrari 458, and a couple of Lambos – like all of that, and Ken Block’s Hoonicorn was here as well,” Fulton says. “I said yesterday that I would take the DB10, the Aston Martin from Spectre, but actually, I would take the McLaren 720S. It’s just amazing, it’s just amazing.” Like my interview with Aaron Greenberg, I’ll be covering my full 15-minute discussion with Ralph in a dedicated feature story, so be on the lookout for that if you desire plenty more chatter on Forza Horizon 4 and its ever-expanding future.
With the interview wrapped up, my schedule of events was almost complete. It was time to relax and enjoy the rest of my time at the Goodwood Estate and take it all in before catching one of Microsoft’s pre-booked luxurious-style taxis back to Gatwick Airport to return home. I was looking forward to the country drive back. It’s a long, relaxing journey, which really highlights the overall beauty of the British countryside. However, before leaving, it was a chance to catch up with everyone, play some more Forza Horizon 4, and absorb as much of what was happening as possible. Forza Horizon 4 had taken over not only the inside of Goodwood House, but the entire freaking estate, and the prospect of that is simply brilliant. How Microsoft managed to pull it all off is well and truly beyond me, but I’m so glad they did.
We said our goodbyes before leaving the Goodwood Estate at 5pm on the dot. It felt almost bittersweet to say the least. I would’ve loved to have stayed longer, simply due to the incredible atmosphere and the perfect weather conditions. It wasn’t too warm or too cold, but the sun was out and shining – it was just right for me. Knowing that international media and influencers were only arriving now, ready to face everything we just did over the next 24 hours made me wish I could do it all again, but that was it. For me and many others, the Forza Horizon 4 Goodwood experience had wrapped up, and all I can do now is look back on my photos and memories from the event whilst preparing coverage like this to reminisce it all.
From experiencing all four seasons of the year in iconic Subaru rally machines to driving at top-speed in a McLaren 720S, not to mention the battle between a Ford Raptor and a Hovercraft, the Forza Horizon 4 Goodwood launch celebration was overall an incredible, unique experience and something I’ll never forget. It was by far the best event I’ve ever attended, and it wasn’t just a fantastic launch party for a new game, but also one of the best and most exciting life experiences I’ve ever had. Kudos to Xbox UK and the entire Forza team on such an excellent event, this is simply how you launch a game.
I’ve only had one thing on my mind since coming back home, and it’s been this entire experience. If only I could be taken back to Horizon, though saying that, Forza Horizon 4 is finally here. It’s available on Xbox One and Windows 10 PC, as well as the Xbox Game Pass subscription service, and as I stated in our review, this isn’t just one of the best racers ever made, but its take on a shared open-world has most certainly delivered the ultimate British playground. I think it’s fair to say that should suffice all my high-speed automotive cravings following this incredible, unforgettable Goodwood experience.
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.