Playground Games / Turn 10 Studios
Microsoft Studios
Xbox One, Windows 10 PC

Forza Horizon 4

review by 
Alan Walsh
September 25, 2018
Playground Games / Turn 10 Studios
Microsoft Studios

Forza Horizon 4

review by 
Alan Walsh
September 25, 2018

A Shared Open-World Wonderfully Delivered

From the moment Forza Horizon 4 seamlessly paired me with a friend and fellow content creator in its shared open-world experience, I was sold on the Horizon Life concept. Being in a shared world with up to 72 players and experiencing the exact same seasons, time of day and weather effects isn’t just special, it’s magical – and it works brilliantly. There’s no fumbling about on the controller to invite your friends, and the ability to start a Convoy within your group works so elegantly and effortlessly. Forza Horizon 4 isn’t the first game to deliver a shared open-world gameplay experience, but it’s by far the best take on this concept yet.

Forza Horizon 4 doesn’t immediately thrust you into this shared world experience, however, but the wait isn’t too long. Initially, you’ll take part in a six-hour prologue experience, which walks you through all four seasons from Summer to Spring with the goal of qualifying to the Horizon Roster. Once you complete the handful of events and challenges available in the Summer segment of the prologue, you’ll be transited into Autumn, and soon enough, Drivatars will be replaced by real-world players – seamlessly. You don’t need to do anything, and they can’t troll you or crash into you if you aren’t already in a Convoy with them. Instead, they’ll go about their day-to-day business as you go about yours, but you’re certain to encounter plenty of other real-life drivers across the vast landscapes of beautiful Britain as you all live out the Horizon Life together with the shared aim of becoming Horizon Superstars.

There’s a real special feeling to seeing other players in the world around you. Whether it’s friends, family or the wider online Forza community. They can delightfully surprise you in ways that Drivatars simply cannot, due to the unpredictable nature and imagination of a real-world driver. Meeting new people in the shared Horizon Life world can only be described as magical. It’s the first time in ages that I’ve felt like I can meet new friends on Xbox Live whilst easily interacting and engaging with the community, including my friends and followers. It’s utterly brilliant and I love it, but it’s fair to say I’m also somewhat addicted to it as well. Since Forza Horizon 4 was announced, the motto ‘Seasons Change Everything’ has been used over and over, but I believe this shared open-world experience that developer Playground Games has integrated into Forza Horizon 4 also changes everything, simply due to its near-flawless execution.

Live Your Dream Horizon Life

Forza Horizon 4 delivers a new multi-threaded campaign experience. You’re no longer a rookie who’s trying to make a name for themselves, or the boss organizing the festival. Instead, your goal in Forza Horizon 4 is to become a Horizon Superstar, and with a total of 25 distinct ways to progress, you’ll be able to enjoy the game and be rewarded for it however you desire. From the usual slate of festival races to drifting, completing challenges and even livestreaming to Mixer, everything you do in Forza Horizon 4 will earn you ‘Influence,’ which is the progression-based XP-style system used in the game across all these different campaign threads. Progression really is exciting in Forza Horizon 4, simply because of how it adapts to your play-style and rewards you for it.

Additionally, the way Forza Horizon 4 categorizes these threads into an easy-to-glance menu allows you to be always updated on which areas of the game you’re progressing the furthest. It’s by far the most personalized and curated campaign experience yet in the Forza Horizon series, and it offers players the most freedom of any entry before it. Whether you love racing fast cars, taking photos of the open-world, exploring beautiful Britain, painting or tuning rides, or simply collecting cars and sharing your experiences on Mixer, you’ll always be benefitting your progression in Forza Horizon 4 and unlocking new rewards in the process. It’s truly a wonderful open-ended campaign experience that keeps you hooked for hours upon hours.

However, there’s no denying that Forza Horizon 4 thrusts you into the action right away in such a remarkable, but elegant manner. Its opening sees you racing across all four seasons in just a short 10-minute sequence, offering a tease of what’s to come. From the McLaren Senna amongst other supercars to the RJ Anderson Trophy Truck and a Fiesta rallycross machine in an epic motocross Showcase event, you’ll experience the adrenaline-pumping fun and excitement of the Horizon Festival in only a handful of minutes. From there, Forza Horizon 4 walks you through choosing your first car and picking a character who represents you at the festival before it introduces all the different race events, story missions and gameplay features. It’s all done in a very welcoming manner for newcomers, but allows experienced players to get immediately stuck in.

The main purpose of the prologue though is how it introduces you to all four seasons in Forza Horizon 4, showcasing the differences and spontaneity of each of them. Summer is the Horizon Festival as you know it with deep blue skies and green fields as far as the eye can see. Autumn delivers a richer, eye-catching landscape in a pure natural form as leaves begin to scatter the roads and haybales cover the fields. Winter sees the trees become withered as lakes freeze over with white sheets of plush, powdery snow covering the landscape in a Winter Wonderland. But don’t worry, you’ll still get to drive supercars at top-speed as many roads, especially in Edinburgh, will be cleared, however it’s still quite fun to race through the snow-coated environments as well. Finally, Spring delivers a refreshing outlook on the world as crops begin to grow, trees and flowers flourish after the harsh conditions of Winter, and new-born lambs are found scattered across fields. There’s a very crisp, fresh sensation to the world in Spring, especially with those periodic light rain-showers and the overall dampness of the woodland and mud-covered areas.

Seasons really do change the open-world of Forza Horizon 4, and all four of them have their own unique quirks and personality. I love driving through the thick snow that covers the fields and pathways, whilst the deformable mud of Spring allows you to get down and dirty with your favourite off-road rally machine. Autumn delivers an atmosphere I adore, and whilst Winter offers a striking visual-style that’s in contrast to the rest of the year, there’s something about the fall season that really highlights an evolved world with bold, saturated colours that immerse you into the scene. It’s truly spectacular in photos, but to be fair, that also applies to the other seasons featured in Forza Horizon 4 as well. There certainly isn’t a bad season, as they’re all incredibly impressive in their own stylistic ways, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in each of them.

The animals and wildlife also make each season feel alive and unique in their own ways too, especially as you see sheep sheared in Spring before developing big bushy coats in Winter. Deer also roam the landscape too, especially in forests and by mountainous regions. There are also different types of birds, butterflies, rabbits, and chickens – all of which vary depending on the time of year, but don’t worry, as you can’t run into any of them with your car. Playground Games has developed some wizardry AI avoidance technology so no matter how fast you are, they’ll always be that bit quicker than you. It makes animal chasing that bit more wonderful, with the relief of knowing you can’t hit into any of them.

But if you fancy a change of scenery ahead of the weekly seasonal update, you can Blueprint a festival event to be set in any season, time-of-day and weather condition you desire. Sure, you can’t change the season in freeroam, but once you’ve had the chance to experience all four, this shouldn’t be too much of a concern for you. Overtime perhaps, it might become somewhat annoying, but the shared seasons with all other players allows for an enriched experience that feels alive and progressing. Each season change will introduce its own new events for players to discover, and Car Pass holders can look forward to two new cars every week to coincide with this as well. The result of all this is a shared, ever-changing world that has something new and exciting to dive into with each passing week, and it makes Forza Horizon 4 feel fresh and alive each time you log into it.

Not only does this mean a changing world that sees you racing through dry, wet, muddy, snowy and icy conditions, but there will also be themed seasonal events to correspond with each season change. That means new championships and challenges available to complete, featuring an assortment rewards to unlock. Each week also introduces a new Forzathon series to complete, which are themed around a certain car, manufacturer or class, and you’ll also find a handful of daily challenges which reset every 24 hours. But there’s also Forzathon Live, a brilliant new community-focused approach to these engagement-driven events that sees you working together with other players in your session to beat challenges and win Forzathon Points that can be spent at the Forzathon Shop, the contents of which includes rare cars like Forza Editions, exclusive new clothing and emotes, car horns, wheelspins, and more.

Forzathon Live always start on the hour, and you’ll be notified of it in advance, so you can drive there and meet up with other drivers. It’s like one huge social gathering of automobile fanatics, all ready and waiting to work together and complete these challenges. Forzathon Live is broken down into three rounds, and these challenges sees players working together to achieve a combined score total on various PR Stunts like Danger Signs, Speed Traps, Drift Zones and Speed Zones. Sometimes, you’ll also need to work together on achieving a total number of skills in the one designated area.

I was pleasantly surprised by how fun and addictive Forzathon Live can be. It’s a brilliant way of allowing the community to get together and cooperate to beat challenges and earn rewards. Not only is this fun, but it’s also incredibly social as it allows you to easily meet new people and complete events with friends. Your skill level doesn’t matter either as all contributions help and make a difference to the combined score – it’s just brilliant. Plus, you can easily use the new Quick Chat feature to communicate with nearby players, encourage them to drive faster, compliment their rides, or congratulate the team on success after completing a challenge.

Seasons Evolve Beautiful, Historic Britain

Seasons is undoubtedly the headlining feature of Forza Horizon 4, but they also go perfectly together with the game’s location and its take on beautiful, historic Britain. Combined with the shared-world experience, you really do have this perfect storm of unique gameplay scenarios. Britain is a country so famous for its distinct weather conditions, it’s always the topic of conversation for many British people, and it makes Seasons such a natural fit for Forza Horizon 4 whilst its sheer natural beauty and vast, spectacular landscapes result in a wonderful open-world to discover with the online community around you.

Britain offers some of the best driving roads in the Forza Horizon series. The sprawling verticality of the map, especially by the Scottish Highlands, creates some of the most unique and enjoyable roads to drive on. These include a combination of perfect cruising roads for supercars, twisty mountainous roads for drifters, and of course, off-road dirt trails for rally-spec cars. The sheer density of the map though is something to behold, and whilst the overall area size isn’t too much bigger from Forza Horizon 3, the vastly increased number of roads and unique locations to discover almost crushes the past game. The distinct road network in Edinburgh brings street races to life in Forza Horizon 4, backed by the game’s improved lighting and skybox system, whilst the improvements made to the suspension and handling model allow for a more realistic and enjoyable off-road experience. From forests scattered with trees to open-ended fields and dirt paths, there’s plenty of areas to head off the beaten path in Forza Horizon 4, and I found myself taking more advantage of these in this game than in past titles. 

Let’s just say the cross-country events are some of the most fun to be had in the series, especially when you involve racing trucks with Volvo engines thrown in under-the-hood. Forza Horizon 4 also has an updated tree language system, so you can easily tell which ones are breakable and those that are rock solid if crashed into. It makes off-roading that bit more fun and easier, and it’s one of the many subtle improvements Playground Games has introduced into Forza Horizon 4 that deliver a more polished and well-rounded product as a result.

There’s a lot of fun to be had from exploring Britain, but there’s also quite the fair-share of iconic landmarks and spectacular locations to discover as well. Be it the cute little villages in the Cotswolds, the unmissable Victorian architecture of Edinburgh to the almighty Glenfinnan Viaduct and its state-of-the-art train dubbed ‘The Flying Scotsman.’ For the record, this is the first officially licensed train in the Forza franchise, and you’ll even get the opportunity to take on this incredible piece of quintessential British machinery in a dedicated Showcase event. 

It’s truly a work of engineering art, and it fits right in to the beautiful, historic approach that Playground Games has chosen for its take on Great Britain. But nothing expresses it more than the vast castles you can acquire as property, Edinburgh Castle and Bamburgh Castle – the most expensive in the game. In the case of the latter, you can even drive through it and explore it up-close before heading down to the nearby sprawling beach that lasts for miles. You’ll also find a prominent lighthouse as well as some fantastic coastal driving roads. It’s all simply spectacular to behold.

There’s also plenty to be discovered outside of man-made objects too. The Lakehurst Forest is full of sprawling trees and shrubbery that changes based on the time-of-year, the Derwent Water is a vast lake that is just glorious to observe across all seasons, but freezes over in Winter and becomes fully driveable with its own dedicated drag strip and mini-festival site, whilst the Astmoor region offers spectacular landscapes of natural beauty that surrounds you as you head onto the motorway leading straight into Edinburgh. Speaking of which, this one is authentically British in every way without the massive traffic pile-ups, which means you hit top speed on the motorway towards the Scottish capital and pay little to no heed to those speed limits displayed above you. It’s long and takes you from the south of the map to the top in little to no time if you step on it – and is simply incredible to drive and race on in some of the fastest cars available in Forza Horizon 4.

The Derwent Reservoir is also another spectacular sight to behold in Forza Horizon 4, especially when you drive across it and look at the surrounding houses, countryside and river as water splashes all around your vehicle. The Slate Quarry is also a fun location to visit, especially for mini-games like Survival or Flag Rush – which we’ll discuss in greater depth later – or just general mayhem with friends. The Greendale Airstrip by Edinburgh though is one of my favourite playgrounds in the game. Not only is there a clear straight here to test drive your fastest cars, but there’s also plenty of stunts setup so you can ‘hoon’ about in your favourite drift rides. The Express Railyard is another similar location, full of stunts to pull off and unused train lines and carriages.

However, beyond all of these, the Mudkickers Adventure Park is the most exciting of the bunch. This is where you’ll find the ultimate off-road dirt racing course, combined with enough deformable mud to make this the perfect location for Forza Horizon 4’s large roster of rally machines, off-roaders, trucks and SUVs. There’s a wide variety to choose from here, but whether you’re opting for a Jeep Trailcat or a Mercedes-Benz Unimog, these vehicles are certain to shine both here and all-over the various off-roading paths and forests in Britain. It’s also a lot of fun to drive through the mud too, especially when its nice and damp after a lengthy rainstorm – but don’t expect that coat of paint to be left clean after a few minutes spent here.

You simply cannot deny the sheer beauty and diversity of Forza Horizon 4’s Britain. This location offers far, far more to discover than the destinations of past titles, and it’s tied perfectly together into a greatest hits collection of what the country has to offer. Whether it’s the quintessential British architecture that surrounds Edinburgh or the verticality of the Scottish Highlands, which are simply gorgeous to drive upon, the open-world of Forza Horizon 4 is simply spectacular. There’s just so much to discover, and every British road-trip you take in this game will be remarkable, unique and enjoyable in its own personalized way.

You'll never get tired of driving around Britain and discovering all its incredible quirks and nuances. It’s spectacular and I’ve loved every moment I’ve spent there. Kudos to Playground Games on making this by far their most beautiful, natural and exciting open-world yet. Everything about beautiful, historic Britain is just remarkable in the best way possible. It’s truly a masterpiece to discover, and thanks to the shared open-world technology used in Forza Horizon 4, you can explore it all with friends and the wider online community. Who knows what kind of road-trips or adventures you’ll head on once paired together, but they’re certain to be full of awe and surprises.

Discover More Than 450 Forzavista Cars

There’s a total of 460 Forzavista cars in Forza Horizon 4, available out of the box to enjoy from day one. That doesn’t include all the wonderful classics of the Best of Bond Car Pack, one of the best pieces of downloadable content in the history of the Forza franchise, as well the Formula Drift Car Pack, which feature seven drift-tuned machines that are eager to go sideways. That number also doesn’t include all the Forza Edition cars available to unlock in the game, and like past titles, these feature unique bodykits and perks.

As always, there will be a vast number of classics to discover in abandoned barns, and of course, rare cars can be once again acquired via the Auction House, but likely at a high price tag. It’s worth noting that the cinematics played as you locate Barn Finds include some nice descriptive writing to introduce these iconic vehicles to you. There’s also one Barn Find exclusive to each season of the year, including one you’ll find on an island that’s only accessible in Winter via the ice lake. Overall, the car line-up in Forza Horizon 4 is simply wonderful, and I’ve had a lot of fun diving into all the different types of automotive culture that’s represented. From the latest supercars to ever-brilliant classics and off-road favourites, I’ve already been able to assemble a line-up of cars that I love driving and racing across beautiful, historic Britain.

Many new cars introduced into Forza Motorsport 7 have made their way into Forza Horizon 4, including one of my personal favourites in the McLaren 720S and the latest Porsche 911 GT2 RS. There’s also some unique classics in the Peel P50, the world’s smallest production car, and the Austin FX-4, the beloved London Taxi. In addition, there’s now also racing trucks in Forza Horizon 4, with the Mercedes-Benz Tankpool Racing Truck, the Volvo Iron Knight, and of course, the beloved Mercedes-Benz Unimog. There’s also some other acquaint British classics with the Morris Minor 1000 and the Triumph Spitfire, as well as cover stars of Forza Horizon 4 in the McLaren Senna and the Land Rover Defender 90.

It’s a solid list of cars, including both returning vehicles and those which are new to the franchise, and as mentioned earlier, Turn 10 will continue to add new vehicles to Forza Horizon 4 on a weekly basis, so there’s a lot to be excited for. In fact, the game allows you to see which cars are coming soon with its built-in Car Pass Calendar, which is a welcomed addition to the series to say the least. In addition, there’s some cars you won’t find on the in-game Autoshow, and these instead are acquired by progressing through the different Horizon Life campaign threads within the game as you earn Influence. As always, these cars can be fully-explored in the Forzavista mode, so you can walk around the car, sit inside and start up the engine, and even drive it out.

The number of cars with bodykits has also been expanded upon in Forza Horizon 4. You’ll find all your usual favourites from Rocket Bunny, Liberty Walk, and RWB, as well as Forza Aero kits and brand-new off-road tuned kits. Supercars like the Lamborghini Huracan and McLaren 650S now have bodykits for the first time in Forza, whilst all-new drift suspension upgrades have been made available in Forza Horizon 4 for the first time after debuting in Forza Motorsport 7 earlier this year. You’ll also find new adjustable track width offsets, drag slicks and rally tire compounds, as well as some new engine swaps for a wide variety of cars in the game.

Like your character, there’s plenty of ways to customize and personalize your car, and as always, you can download tunes and paintjobs from the incredibly talented creators in the Forza community. Speaking of which, Storefronts are back in Forza Horizon 4, but they’re now dubbed as ‘Creative Hubs,’ in which you’ll find photos, tunes, liveries, vinyl stickers and more that the player has shared – and you can also follow your favourite creators to easily come across their content when searching for new tunes, designs and photographs. I also like the interface that’s now used for discovering paintjobs and tunes, as it’s slick, quick and easy to use.

Similarly, all the different cars and upgrades available in Forza Horizon 4 are also curated into this easy-to-navigate and eye-pleasing user interface. It’s by far the best that’s ever been in the Horizon series, and the new car selection screen shows several vehicles grouped by manufacturer or user-defined criteria and is rapidly fast to navigate. You can even designate your ‘favourite’ cars into one accessible menu, which allows you to easily pick your most beloved cars whenever you wish to change. Furthermore, you don’t even need to travel back to the festival or your house to change car, you can instead do this on the fly by opening the pause menu – it’s free, and it only takes a couple of seconds to find your car and allow it to load in.

Whoever worked on these changes to the user interface certainly deserve a hell of a lot of praise, because they’re simply excellent, and it allows to game to flow so elegantly. Additionally, the way cars and your character merge into the user interface from gameplay is also incredibly smart, and it shows the attention-to-detail Playground Games applies into the overall navigation experience to make it both slick to use and easy to discover what you’re looking for. In fact, everything you’ll need can be found within the pause menu or the purchasable player houses, and the interface does a fantastic job at showing you all the different content available in the game, whilst keeping you updated with seasonal events, your Horizon Life progression, and of course, if any of your friends are currently playing Forza Horizon 4 or are present in your shared world.

Car Mastery is the new RPG-style progression system that applies an individual skill tree to every car in the game. Whilst most of these skills are the same across all vehicles, they must be unlocked individually on a per car basis. Therefore, if you want to earn the best perks possible for each car, you’ll need to save up enough Skill Points to acquire them. The various benefits of the Car Mastery perks include unique Skill Score, Influence and Credit bonuses, as well as instant wheelspins and even the elusive ability for Skill Chains to receive one hit before breaking – a first for the beloved kudos-style system in the Forza Horizon series.

Some vehicles also feature unique perks that focus on their speciality. For example, an off-roader will offer unlockable perks for dirt racing and cross-country events, whilst supercars will feature bonuses for road races. Similarly, Forza Editions will also feature their own exclusive Car Mastery perks to unlock as you earn these rare vehicles. The result is some of deepest progression you’ll ever find in a car game, and it’ll keep you addicted as you rank up your favourite rides with unique perks and benefits. None of these will provide you with a gameplay advantage over other players during race events though, so you thankfully don’t need to worry about that – this is all simply related to Skill Score, in-game bonuses and overall progression.

What’s more is the improved handling model used in Forza Horizon 4, which offers a far greater distinction between racing on-road and off-road driving. You’ll certainly need rally-tuned vehicles if you want the best performance and traction when heading onto dirt trails and driving through forests, fields and even muddy paths. In addition, the updates made to drift suspension with up to 60-degree steering results in some amazing angle when sliding sideways, and I love how it looks with the new wheel offsets applied, too!

Playground has also rebalanced the power-to-weight ratio for vehicles in the game, so the cars that were considered overpowered in Forza Horizon 3 should no longer be in Forza Horizon 4. This also goes together with the refined class system, which has been updated to make vehicles both fairer and more balanced. There’s also been updates made to the overall grip and suspension of vehicles, and the overall pressure and sensitivity of the tires has been made more realistic to offer a greater feeling of connection on the road when driving at high-speed. All of it sounds quite remarkable, and combined, it delivers some of the best and most realistic handling and physics to-date in the Forza Horizon series.

Represent Yourself at the Horizon Festival

For the first time, Houses are available to purchase in Forza Horizon 4, and act as one of the many new ways you’ll live the Horizon Life. The Gables is one of the first you’ll receive towards the beginning of the game, and it’s free. VIP members will also receive a house for free, that’ll cost all other players 5 million credits. All houses also come with their own various perks and benefits, including Drone Mode, which comes with The Gables, as well as fast-travel anywhere, bonus wheelspins, exclusive clothing items, and more. Houses range from cute cottages to exquisite mansions and vast castles, with the most expensive property costing 15 million credits.

 

Character customization is also unlocked at your house, and here you can choose between the different character models available, including both male and female options, before you customize their style. That includes shirts, jackets, pants, accessories, outfits, and more. I quite like the different clothing options available in Forza Horizon 4, and despite not being able to customize aspects like the character’s hair or facial features, I found that I could still make a character that represented the type of person I am today and would be if I was at the Horizon Festival. There’s also emotes, including the ever-so infamous dab and floss moves, as well as various gestures that can be used to taunt opponents after a race victory.

Your character showing off their flashy outfit and emotes will appear ahead of events as they load in, as well as in the post-race screen if you’ve managed to achieve a podium finish. With this, you can show off your best outfits and moves to others in online play. It’s worth mentioning that all clothing items and emotes are unlocked via progression, earning Influence and in wheelspins. Forza Horizon 4 does not feature microtransactions of any kind, and there’s also no loot boxes either, with Turn 10 having assured players that these will not be added to the game post-launch. However, there are new Super Wheelspins, which allow you to win three rare items at once from a slot machine. These are also earned via progression and Forza Rewards, so they cannot be acquired with real-world money – but from experience, you can most certainly win big on these, and I quite like their addition to the franchise.

In addition to customizing your character, you can also access the Autoshow and Auction House from your house, upgrade and tune your vehicle, and you can also use your properties in the game as Forzavista environments. Not only does this allow for some beautiful scenes for exploring your car in close detail, but it also provides a stunning backdrop for both painters and photographers alike. The natural lighting conditions of designing a car at any of these houses will also allow painters to fine-tune their liveries so they look as perfect as possible when taken out onto the wide open-road of beautiful Britain. Finally, you can choose any house to be your initial spawn point for whenever you load into Forza Horizon 4.

Music has always been a significant component of the Forza Horizon series, and this is no different in Forza Horizon 4. All your favourite stations are back, from the newest pop singles on Horizon Pulse to the chilled dance music of Horizon Bass Arena. Hospital Records are debuting new drum and bass music that you’ll hear for the first time in Forza Horizon 4, whilst the rock-and-roll riffs of Horizon XS makes its return to the series after skipping Forza Horizon 3. You’ll also find the beloved classic radio station in Timeless FM, which features the full orchestra playing symphonies at their best, as well as some music taken from the soundtrack of Halo 5: Guardians.

Speaking of Halo, there’s now a full-fledged Halo-inspired experience in Forza Horizon 4 in the form of a Showcase event. You’ll be racing a Warthog as Master Chief in a time trial-style event featuring Banshees and a Pelican chasing you, as well as other Warthogs with marines by your side. Cortana even makes an appearance as a voiceover. You’ll also see various landmarks and objects from the Halo universe scattered around you – including the almighty Halo ring. It’s truly a remarkable Showcase event, one that should be adored and replayed by both Halo and Forza fans alike.

Forza Horizon 4 includes a total of five Showcase events. Whilst the Halo experience will be the headlining one for many, there’s also a few that fall more in line with the universe of the Forza Horizon series. These include a battle against a Hovercraft called ‘The Behemoth’ by the Scottish Highlands in a Toyota Baja Truck in Autumn, a race against ‘The Flying Scotsman’ train that leads into Edinburgh in Winter, and a showdown between the Aston Martin Vulcan and a fighter jet in Summer. There’s also a Motocross Showcase event in Spring, that sees you racing a team of dirt bikers – just like in the opening of the game. This Showcase is identical to that segment and isn’t any longer or shorter, unfortunately, which is a little anti-climactic to say the least, but also in a way, somewhat unsurprising.

Overall, these Showcase events are all excellent and enjoyable in their own unique ways, and none of them are certainly bad! They’re also the ultimate expression of yourself at the Horizon Festival, as they unlock as you earn enough Influence and highlight the fun and thrills to be had in Britain. I’ve already replayed them all quite a few times, and I always continuously enjoy them. Best of all, they can all be experienced in co-op play, and in the future, Playground Games will also remix them using Seasons. This means that you’ll be able to revisit these standout events at other times of the year with different vehicles, weather conditions, and more.

A More Natural, Story-Driven Horizon Experience

Businesses are also available to purchase in Forza Horizon 4, with the most notable example being the ‘World’s Fastest Rentals’ venture in Edinburgh, which allows you to take on a series of supercar challenges. These tie into the Horizon Stories available in Forza Horizon 4, but you will earn daily credit bonuses from this business when you log into the game as supercars are rented out to wannabes, but don’t worry, they aren’t taken from your garage or anything of the sort. Instead, it all comes from your initial investment into the business.

As for Horizon Stories, these will begin to pop up early on in Forza Horizon 4 and they’ll continue to unlock as you earn Influence and progress further into the game. These story-driven events act as an evolution of the Bucket List challenges of past titles, in which you’ll be tasked as being a stunt driver for an upcoming movie production, a supercar enthusiast, a drifter, and more. One of my personal favourite Horizon Stories threads sees you enlisted to help a popular online and social influencer as you get behind the wheel of exotic cover cars that appeared in iconic arcade racing franchises of years gone by. I won’t spoil which ones, or the real meat of this storyline, but trust me – it had a racing fan like myself overwhelmed with pure joy and nostalgia. A real nod to the developers and fans of these classic racing games.

Overall, these Horizon Stories threads allow you to experience the vast line-up of fast, unique and incredible cars that feature in Forza Horizon 4’s amazing roster of 460 Forzavista-built rides. They also introduce you to the various stunts available to pull-off in the game, but I must say, the Drift Club storyline does a wonderful job of providing experienced drifters with a dedicated series of events whilst introducing newcomers to the art of sliding sideways. This is a great addition to Forza Horizon 4, and I can’t help but adore the amusing Welsh voiceover commentating over your drifts. There are quite a few brilliant British accents in Forza Horizon 4, but this is certainly one of my favourites simply due to his overall wittiness. There’s also a decent chunk of cinematics and voiceovers featured throughout Forza Horizon 4, and I have to say, the voice acting and animations are quite good for a racing game – and certainly far better than other attempts in the same genre.

Outside of Horizon Stories, there’s several different race events available to take part in and complete. These include the Horizon Road Racing series, which sees you racing exclusively on-road, whilst the Dirt Racing Series sees you heading onto dirt trails for some rally-style events. Cross-Country Racing sees you heading off the beaten path altogether as you go off-road and plough through fields, trees and mud. Street Races all take place during the pitch darkness of night with flares lighting up as checkpoints, but you must be aware of traffic – and yes, they can oftentimes be in the way. All these different events offer circuit races, as well as point-to-point sprints. Finally, there’s also several Drag Races in the game thanks to the various drag strips available in Forza Horizon 4’s Britain. You’ll also come across a selection of long, endurance-style Goliath Races as you progress through each of the different racing threads.

Competing in any of these events will naturally earn you Influence, allowing you to rank up within each series to unlock various new rewards and bonuses, as well as new route destinations. I love the fact that you also don’t need to finish first place in every event to earn Influence either. Whilst this makes the progression somewhat slower, it isn’t a complete radical difference to someone who’s always coming in first place. In addition, some cars in the game are exclusively unlocked by progressing in these events and earning enough Influence to have them added to your garage.

It’s another incentive to keep playing through the various races and different story threads available in Forza Horizon 4. Influence allows you to keep progressing in a fast, but fair manner – and you can speed it up or slow it down based on how you play, but no matter what you’re doing, you’ll always be progressing in Forza Horizon 4. I personally managed to blast through mine by collecting Influence boards and discovering new locations on the map. Fun fact, there’s a total of 200 Bonus Boards scattered across Forza Horizon 4’s map that span both Fast Travel boards and Influence boards – and you can absolutely bet that I’ll be aiming to smash through them all!

As mentioned earlier, you can also personalize these different races using Horizon Blueprint, which allows you to customize the season, time-of-day and weather condition of the event, as well as the cars used, and the number of laps to be raced if it’s a circuit event. Horizon Blueprint is also vastly improved in Forza Horizon 4 over its initial outing in Forza Horizon 3. You can name save multiple templates of the one event, find curated blueprints chosen by Playground Games, easily locate popular blueprints, as well as those made by friends and the wider online community. You can also easily search for blueprints too. Oh, and did I mention that you also earn Influence by making your own Horizon Blueprint events? You can in fact progress simply be making your own custom events and sharing them for the entire online community to discover.

These discoverability updates that have been introduced to the Horizon Blueprints system will be crucial for the upcoming Route Creator feature. Whilst this won’t be available at launch, it should add even more longevity to Forza Horizon 4 as players can experiment and create new custom event routes over the months and years following the game’s release. The addition of a Route Creator ticks off one of the most fan-requested features in the history of Forza, and it’ll arrive with the first major post-launch update for Forza Horizon 4. Whilst I haven’t been able to try it out for myself just yet, Microsoft says the Route Creator will allow inspired players to design and share their own custom race routes, offering “complete freedom” to create point-to-point and circuit routes from anywhere in Britain. When Route Creator joins the Horizon Blueprint suite of tools, supposedly a few weeks following the game’s release, it’ll undoubtedly make Forza Horizon 4 the most customizable and community-friendly Forza game yet.

Compete Online in Team Adventure

Team Adventure is the new competitive-inspired online mode available in Forza Horizon 4 that acts as an evolution of the Online Adventure mode from Forza Horizon 3. The biggest change this time of round, however, is that this mode has been designed to be purely competitive from the ground up, which means Skill Chains no longer contribute to your overall position on the leaderboard. Instead, it’s all about the racing and teamwork, and after spending some time with this mode, I can say that not only are these changes welcomed, but they make Team Adventure far more enticing to play – especially with its new Leagues-style integration and custom teams.

Not only can you hop into both ranked and unranked Team Adventure lobbies, but you can also create your own private sessions for friends and choose the different type of events you’d like to play. These include all the usual festival race routes, including road races, dirt trails, and of course, cross-country races. There are also different mini games to choose from, including a revamped Flag Rush mode and an all-new infection-based Survival mode. Between main events, all players will also compete in a Freeroam Rush, which acts as an evolution of the ‘drive to the next race event’ objective from past titles.

Freeroam Rushes count as a race of their own, but with a major twist as there are no checkpoints. It’s up to you, the player to figure out the best route. Freeroam Rush certainly adds a level of fun and ferocity to Team Adventure that would otherwise be missed, as figuring out the best route to the finish line doesn’t only require smartness and wits, but it also means you need to have the necessary skills and map knowledge to avoid all those trees and get to the finish line before anyone else. Not only does Freeroam Rush deliver quite a few laughs, but it’s also addictive and rewarding, which makes it a highly-welcomed addition to Team Adventure.

The revamped Flag Rush mode is certainly an iteration of the one that debuted in Forza Horizon 3. Instead of all players rushing to grab the flag, that’s now only the objective of one team. They must take the flags on their side of the arena and bring them towards the goal as the opposite team attempts to crash into them and null their flag captures. It’s a more team-focused approach towards the mini game, and I already prefer it over the last iteration. It allows you to focus on either capturing the flag whilst avoiding the opposing team or crashing into them to void their flags. It’s a fun mode, and Forza Horizon 4’s new arenas scattered across Britain make it even more enjoyable.

Meanwhile, Survival delivers a vastly-improved take on the Infection mode of past titles. Instead of there being one zombie who tries to eliminate all other players, there’s now a team of zombies and a team of survivors. The clue is in the name, as the team who manages to survive the longest of two rounds of play will be deemed the winner. After round one, both teams are swapped, but it’s not as simple as the zombies infecting all the survivors upon each impact, as when a zombie crashes into your car, your teammates have a chance to revive you by hitting back into you. The result of this is a less intimidating mode for newcomers and unskilled players alike, whilst providing a more team-based experience where cooperation and communication is key.

The new Quick Chat feature introduced in Forza Horizon 4 works wonders in Survivor, as you can inform your teammates if you’ve been infected, or if there’s a survivor or zombie nearby. For the record, Quick Chat also works in freeroam and during race events too and can be used for communicating to new players you meet without a headset. It’s a nifty addition to Forza Horizon 4, and I’ve found myself using it far more than I anticipated. Whether it’s to just say hello to new players, compliment their ride, or ask them to follow me or request help with something, there’s quite a few possibilities to be had from this new addition to the franchise. I think Quick Chat isn’t only great for shy players, but it’s also a wonderful accessibility feature too – and it’s also great for those of us who prefer to not use a headset.

With Quick Chat and Forza Horizon 4’s shared world experience, you can genuinely make new friends to drive, convoy and drift around with – and isn’t that just fantastic? My only gripe with this feature, however is that you can only have four assigned phrases at once and can’t access a bigger list of commands using the d-pad. Instead, you must pause the game, navigate to the Quick Chat menu, and reassign your d-pad phrases. It takes quite a bit of time, and certainly breaks the flow of communications, but this is certainly a step in the right direction for online play, and something I’d love to see more games adapt. The way chat bubbles appear on top of cars and in the Quick Chat text menu is just wonderful. I also like how additional phrases can be unlocked as you play through the game and progress in the various Horizon Life threads. It’s a cool feature to make its debut in Forza Horizon 4, and it’s something I hope we see evolved and improved overtime.

Team Adventure also features its own dedicated Leagues integration, and as you play in ranked online matches, you’ll be able to level up to higher tier leagues and unlock unique rewards. Forza Horizon 4 features a prestigious ‘Grandmaster’ title for Team Adventure players to aim for, and this league will feature only the best of the best, including both the top teams and top players. Leagues will commence immediately once the game launches, but you can also create your very own team for Team Adventure with a personalized logo and name that will show up in-game. You can have a total of 25 members on your team and racing with them in events will earn you additional bonuses. This isn’t only great for competitive teams already present in Forza, but it’s also a welcomed addition for newcomers, casuals and pros alike who can form teams and easily race with their closest friends and competitors.

Similarly, Clubs are also back in Forza Horizon 4, and the number of players these can hold has been doubled from Forza Horizon 3. Now, a total of 2,000 members can be in the one Club on Forza Horizon 4, and like teams, you can create custom logos and backgrounds that appear in-game for all Club members. In addition, the beloved global Club leaderboard of past titles also makes a comeback, so Club members can check how their Club is doing in comparison to the competition. It’s always fun to see which Clubs end up rising to the top with each Forza Horizon release. Furthermore, both Clubs and Teams have official Xbox Clubs integration, and you’ll find corresponding Xbox Clubs for your Forza Horizon 4 Club and Team on the Xbox Dashboard and Xbox App.

Using this integration, Club leaders and Team captains can add an official logo and bio, invite new members and accept requests. Club and Team members meanwhile can use it to chat, share photos, videos and livestreams, and even create or schedule Looking for Group sessions. This allows players to more easily chat, interact and play with one another, whilst discovering new friends and online sessions. It’s a wonderful update over the standard Clubs system in Forza Horizon 3, and the doubled member count will be sure to please many. Plus, the ability to access and engage with your Forza Horizon 4 Club and Team from a PC or phone without launching the game is simply fantastic – and a nifty little improvement all-around.

ForzaTech’s Most Impressive Technical Outing Yet

Forza Horizon 4 is undoubtedly the most impressive technical showcase yet for Turn 10’s in-house ForzaTech engine, which it develops in collaboration with Playground Games. Each game sees an improved iteration and expansion of the world-class engine, and Forza Horizon 4 truly showcases it at its best. This is the first time we’ve seen an open-world game integrate Dynamic Seasons in this fashion with an ever-evolving open-world, not to mention the impressive scale and verticality of Britain. It’s truly impressive stuff, and the Xbox One X can render it all in native 4K at 30FPS, or 1080p at 60FPS, depending on your preference.

I’ve spent enough time with both modes to assure you that they’re the real deal. No matter which you choose, Forza Horizon 4 hands in an impressive and excellent all-around experience, with these modes delivering on exactly what they say on the tin. There’s no dynamic resolution scaling, no framerate drops, no screen-tear, and no stuttering. A pure, locked 4K experience or 60FPS refresh rate, depending on which you choose. The standard Xbox One, in the meantime, hands in native 1080p gameplay at 30FPS, just like in Forza Horizon 3. There’s also HDR support too, for those on Xbox One S, Xbox One X or Windows 10 PC with an HDR-enabled display, and it’s Forza’s best showcase of the technology yet.

Dynamic skies are even more immaculate and alive than in Forza Horizon 3, and they also change depending on the time of year. The same capture tech is used to recreate these skies, but to an even bigger degree as its now deployed in every season and condition to be more immersive and beautiful than ever before. Those purples, reds, blues and whites are all strikingly perfected in HDR – it’s truly a masterpiece backdrop whilst racing the most exotic supercars and off-road rally beasts. Cloud formations are so natural and lifelike, almost indistinguishable from reality, and like the real-world, they’re constantly changing and adapting as time progresses. It’s often wonderful to just sit and watch the cloud coverage move by as conditions change and the day moves forward. Houses also deliver a similarly striking backdrop too, which makes them perfect for painting and tuning your ride before capturing photographs or enjoying the scenery and its ambient noises.

Forza Horizon 4 on the Xbox One X also delivers some of the best lighting conditions I’ve ever seen in the franchise. The quality of reflections and shadows have been vastly improved, with all-new true shadow casting from both cars and the environment delivering a more realistic and immersive world. Playground has also implemented up-lighting to major monuments such as castes, and this results in a gorgeous, almost cinematic-level effect when playing the game from dusk to dawn. It’s beautiful, and the overall game feels so pristine, crisp and wonderful on Microsoft’s latest console. A real triumph for the ForzaTech engine. Dolby Atmos also makes its Forza debut in Forza Horizon 4, introducing 3D spatial surround sound audio to the franchise for the first time, and it’s the most immersive audio experience in Forza yet providing you have the supported speaker equipment or a relevant headset. Even if you don’t, Forza Horizon 4 is still the best sounding Forza game to date, and this is especially highlighted in those roaring V8 engine notes and the festival atmosphere, not to mention the noises of rally and dirt machines ripping through the forests.

The PC version of Forza Horizon 4 is also the series’ best outing yet on the platform. It’s no secret that Forza Horizon 3 had its fair-share of performance issues and bottlenecks when it first launched on Windows 10, but it did slowly receive improvements in post-launch updates. Forza Motorsport 7 also took things a step further by optimizing the ForzaTech engine to run across a larger variety of devices. However, Forza Horizon 4 delivers one of the most impressive PC releases out there. Not only has the minimum spec been reduced, but it’s ready for 4K at 60FPS with new extreme-level visual settings. There’s a host of options to toggle, including field-of-view settings, and you can even use dynamic optimization to have the game lock down the visuals based on your hardware to target 60FPS gameplay – and for the most part, on my Nvidia GTX 970 configuration, it’s been solid.

This is the ForzaTech engine showing what it’s capable of doing on the PC platform, and it’s great to see such a polished and almost perfected PC release from Turn 10 and Playground. There’s even a new Benchmark tool as well, providing a deep analysis of your hardware and how it will perform in Forza Horizon 4. It’s all good stuff, but if you’d like to check it out for yourself before splashing your hard-earned cash on the game, you can always download the free demo from the Microsoft Store. Either way, regardless of which platform you play Forza Horizon 4 on, you’re in an absolute treat.

The Definitive British Playground

Forza Horizon 4 delivers its biggest and best festival yet in beautiful, historic Britain, in what is not only the new must have exclusive on Xbox One and Windows 10 PC, but also the best open-world racing game ever made. This is by far the ultimate celebration of cars, music and freedom. For developer Playground Games to come out and top Forza Horizon 3, a brilliant game in every way that I poured hundreds of hours into and deliver such innovation and brilliance in Forza Horizon 4, really is a testament to this team’s credibility, workmanship and dedication. There’s simply no other way to say it, Forza Horizon 4 is brilliant in almost every way possible – and as I noted in my hands-on preview, it really in truly is The Witcher 3 of automotive racing games.

The experience of a shared open-world game is one that has never been perfected, but this is by far the best one out there. The fact it doesn’t kick me out to the title screen if I’m idle for a few minutes, the way it seamlessly returns me into solo play with Drivatars if I’m disconnected from the session, or the ability to use Rewind and Photo Mode in online play is just completely and utterly brilliant. It sounds simple on paper but seeing this working in a shared environment is wonderful. Not to mention the spontaneity of meeting up with friends, followers and the wider online community in such a seamless and elegant manner. Horizon Life has me hooked in the best way possible, and it’s simply the definitive way to experience Forza Horizon 4. I always thought I’d be one of those solo players, but I always intended on giving Horizon Life a chance – and I’m so glad I did, as I have no plans to return to solo play anytime soon. I highly recommend you also do the same.

Forza Horizon 4 is the game for many where you’ll intend to stop by for just a cuppa tea and a cream bun ahead of this year’s incredible line-up of game releases. But that lovely little village you just drove through will make you realize how magical and truly special this open-world racer simply is – and before you know it, you won’t be able to put down the controller. Perhaps you’ll encounter a fellow driver down the road who comes towards you, uses Quick Chat to say ‘Hi,’ and asks to be friends with you. Soon enough, you’re both drifting through the Cotswolds before speeding towards Edinburgh to participate in a Forzathon Live event. This is the Horizon Life I see, one that you’ll become absorbed into, one that you’ll enjoy not only with your friends, but where you’ll also meet new ones too. Forza Horizon 4 isn’t just a racing game, but rather a wonderfully-executed shared experience that’s been made open and accessible to everyone – and I love it.

10
Incredible
Forza Horizon 4 is the culmination of several arcade racing experiences fused into the definitive automotive open-world package, ready to be explored, raced and shared.
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 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.