Playground Games hosted their third Forza Horizon 4 Seasons
livestream today, broadcasted directly from their studio located in Leamington
Spa, England. This one was a song of ice and tires as the multi-coloured
leaves of Autumn transformed into a white and barren Winter landscape – in
the most beautiful way possible.
This third edition into Playground’s weekly livestreams
offered an in-depth look at the snow and ice-filled conditions of Winter in
Forza Horizon 4. That include how the snowy, ice-covered roads and surroundings
change your experience of the game, as well as a first-look at the all-new Car
Mastery perk-based progression system, plus a more detailed look at Forzathon,
the user interface, and some cheeky smashing of well-placed and hidden Bonus
As usual, the livestream was hosted by Xbox On’s BennyCentral,
who was joined by Playground Games Creative Director Ralph Fulton, Art Director
Ben Penrose, and Chief Game Designer Ben Thaker-Fell, as well as Lead
Cinematics Designer Matt Turner and Lead UI Artist Rich Burns to showcase the user
interface the team has built into Forza Horizon 4. The full on-demand
livestream can be found above, whilst our in-depth recap is below. Let’s get
This week’s livestream began in the same location as last
week – the Glen Rannoch area in the Perthshire Scottish Highlands towards the
north of the map. The team wanted to show how different it looks in comparison to
Autumn and really emphasize how seasons change everything – and there was
certainly a radical overhaul to be seen in terms of how the map and environment
looks when you compare Winter to Autumn.
In fact, the Scottish Highlands looked completely different
as the surface became covered in snow with the trees withered to just their
overall framework of bark and twigs. The roads might be snow-white, but you
could see tire marks as the rest of the world appeared carpeted in Winter
conditions. It looks stunning, and you can still smash through those old stone
dykes if you desire. There’s also patches of ice everywhere, which are slippery
for your car to drive on, as well as frozen-over ice lakes and even snowmen by
houses and within towns.
Forza Horizon 4’s Creative Director Ralph Fulton revealed
that there’s also plenty of roads from the 523 in Forza Horizon 4 that aren’t covered
in snow during Winter, so those who desire to take out a McLaren P1 hypercar
without the fear of an accident can totally do so. In fact, there’s a huge
range of gameplay available in Winter – with the developer saying to expect
more than in comparison to any other season. Additionally, the snow in Winter
is also deformable with various level of depth to the snow in different
locations. As mentioned, there’s also some clear roads in Winter, especially
towards the forestry around the south of the map where there’s more frost rather
Playground Games revealed that this year’s ‘Beast from the
East’ storm – which affected the UK and Ireland hard, actually helped the team
to do additional research. Playground Games’ Level Designer and Car Coordinator
Andrew Baranowski headed back to the Mudkickers Adventure Park to see how
driving through the mud and snow felt in real-life to ensure it’s authentically
replicated in the game. You can learn more about the adventure park in our
coverage from last week, but Playground’s Art Director Ben Penrose did say
that Baranowski returned with useful data and insight for the team.
There’s also extreme snowy weather in Forza Horizon 4’s
Winter, but the developer does stop short of calling them “blizzards,” saying
it is “blizzard-like weather,” and if you’re British, you’d probably call it a
blizzard as they often have a habit of exaggerating these things. Like in other
seasons, there will be animals present on the map, and they can even carve
paths and marks into the snow – just like vehicles. Playground also reiterated
that seasons will change for everyone at the same time in Forza Horizon 4,
regardless of the time-zone, but Ralph Fulton did offer some additional detail
in terms of how the switchover works and the way the player will be notified of
a seasonal change.
Forza Horizon 4 will show an on-screen countdown for when a
season change in imminent, and when it happens, players will be greeted with a
season transition cinematic before the game fades back up in a few seconds with
the season transition complete. If you’re not on Forza Horizon 4 when a
seasonal switchover occurs, then you’ll simply see the transition cinematic once
you return to the game, and you’ll obviously be informed that the season has
Car Mastery is a fresh progression system in Forza Horizon 4
that offers new ways to earn Perks and spend Skill Points on cars. Perks were
introduced in Forza Horizon 2 and offered players the ability to acquire 25
unique special abilities that impacted their game. Forza
Horizon 3 tripled this to 75 Perks with some of them being renewable.
However, in Forza Horizon 4, all cars have their own series of Perks to unlock
– and these are acquired via Skill Points.
Think of it as a skill tree for every car in the game. The
Ford Raptor F-150 was shown as an example, with one of the new Perks forcing
skill chains to take two collisions before they break. There’s also Car Collection
Influence to earn from these Perks to benefit your campaign progression. Each
car will have up to 16 Perks within a mastery tree, with each costing anything
between 1-25 Skill Points, depending on the usefulness and benefits of the
Different cars in Forza Horizon 4 will have different Perks,
including Forza Editions such as the Aston Martin Vulcan. Some of them are tuned towards cross-country racing,
whilst others are made for off-road dirt racing, street racing, drifting, and
so on. Another Perk example showcased allows car skill multipliers to build
twice as fast, which is great for the progressive Forzathon Live events. There’s
also one that offers a certain percentage increase for different Skills performed.
Barn Finds will also have their own Car Mastery Perks to unlock
as well, but remember, some Barn Finds only appear in certain seasons, with
Ralph Fulton saying that each season has at least one seasonal Barn Find associated
to it. One of the examples you’ll likely be familiar with is the island in the
middle of an ice lake, which will have a Barn Find that can only be accessed in
Winter when the lake it is situated upon has frozen over.
Forzathon events were introduced
in Forza Horizon 3 with weekly challenges available to complete. Forza Horizon
4 turns it up to another level with the introduction of daily challenges,
alongside the weekly events we’re familiar with and the Forzathon Live on-the-hour
cooperative challenges that Playground has already showcased. There’s not a
huge time investment needed for the daily or weekly events. In fact, the daily
challenges will likely be completed for you without even thinking of them – it’ll
just be a nice reminder of your progression as you play.
The weekly challenges, meanwhile, are always about a
specific vehicle, car type or manufacturer. There’s four stages in a weekly
challenge which you’ll need to complete if you wish to unlock the associated
reward. An example of these challenges shown on the livestream was the
‘Antiquated Roadshow’ – a dickens of a job well done there and a nod to some
fantastic British telly.
There’s also the Forzathon Shop, which allows you to spend
the points you earn from Forzathon events on a variety of rare and exclusive
items. The stock refreshes every week with the seasonal change, and includes cars,
wheelspins, clothing, horns, and more. Super Wheelspins are also available and
they allow you to win some of the best prizes in the game. It’s like a proper
slot machine, and they include more rare and legendary-graded items – plus you’ll
earn three prizes every time you spin one.
In addition to the Forzathon Shop, the Auction House will
make its return in Forza Horizon 4. This is where players can sell their
vehicles or buy cars on auction from the community and outbid others for a
chance to steal a cheap or rare ride. The Convoy feature from Forza Horizon 3 will
also be coming back in Forza Horizon 4, but instead of teaming up with
Drivatars, it’ll be used to team up with real-life drivers instead. This turns back
on the collision model for the players in your Convoy, which is perfect for
Playground Games has heavily modernized and innovated upon
the user interface in Forza Horizon 4. It takes some key areas introduced in Forza Motorsport
7, but repurposes them for the open-world beauty and action-packed fun of
Forza Horizon 4. Lead Cinematics Designer Matt Turner and Lead UI Artist Rich
Burns were on-stream to discuss and showcase the changes in Forza Horizon 4’s menu
interface and how it has been built to fit into today’s modern world.
Forza Horizon 4’s interface is mostly centered around the
pause experience. It wraps info around a selection of core pillars – Home,
Horizon Life, Team Adventure, Creative Hub, Cars, Rivals, Clubs, and Marketplace.
Some of the neat little visual cues include a radio toggle in the pause menu
that highlights the album art of the song you’re currently listening to
in-game. There’s also a weather indicator with the current outdoor conditions
Outside of the pause menu, there’s a new ‘white-space’ that
combines the UI and gameplay cinematics together as one. It allows live
gameplay to naturally flow into the user interface, which is reminiscent of
Forza Motorsport 7’s persistent loading experience – where there’s always
something to do on-screen as the game loads within the background. UI elements
will display in Forza Horizon 4 as you enter events and different locations,
and it’s all seamless without unnecessary loading breaks.
Finally, as you pass the finish line in a race in Forza
Horizon 4, the game’s transition from the event into the interactive post-race screen
will be entirely smooth. This means you can spin your car in the finish line
and allow it to appear the same way as the game transitions to the post-event
user interface screen. Again, it’s like how the post-event screen displays in
Forza Motorsport 7, and it’s a welcomed addition no doubt to Forza Horizon 4.
Bonus Boards make their return in Forza Horizon 4 as Influence Boards. They were
a gameplay mechanic first introduced into the Forza Horizon series as an easy
way of allowing players to explore the open-world and discover new locations. Over
the years, the team has improved at Bonus Board placement and innovating on the
gameplay around them – and this can be most recently seen in Forza Horizon 3,
and it’ll certainly be showcased once more in Forza Horizon 4.
In fact, this week’s livestream highlighted some of the most
deviously hidden Influence Boards around the map, with excellent driving skills
needed to reach and hit some of these boards. Many of them will also have “real
problem solving and skill-based gameplay,” the developer says. One example includes
an Influence Board stuck in a cylinder. This one requires the player to perfectly
drive off a land upset at a precise speed to squeeze the car directly into the tube
and hit the board. Once you get it, your car should fly out the other side!
Another Influence Board is in Broadway at the south of the map.
It’s at a house, the back garden of one to be precise. The board is inside a
children’s football goal, and as a driver, you’ll need to ruin the garden to
get it. Hopefully the family won’t be too bothered by that one!
Playground Games also demonstrated a Danger Sign using Ken
Block’s Ford Hoonigan Mustang in an effort to smash yet another Influence Board – and it was certainly a tricky one to land! This
took place during the night, at which Ben Penrose noted that night-time in Forza
Horizon 4 now has “proper shadow casting lights” from the car, which adds a new
dimension and an all-new form never seen in the series before. The surrounding
environment also does the same, and Penrose noted that it looks particularly
fancy in a race with a bunch of cars driving together.
Seasons do change everything in Forza Horizon 4. It’s
something that has been made clear from these recent livestreams from Playground
Games and Ralph Fulton also clarified during today’s broadcast that there’s no
ability to manually change the season in private freeroam or solo gameplay. The
online server or the system clock of your Xbox One console or Windows 10 PC
will control the season transitions – and as previously mentioned, everyone
will experience them at the same time.
However, there is an exception to this rule, and that’s the
fact that Horizon Blueprints – which are custom-made player-curated events that
can be shared with the community, will include the ability to force a seasonal
change for that specific race event. Players can choose between Summer, Autumn,
Winter or Spring when blueprinting new events in Forza Horizon 4.
As for next week’s Forza Horizon 4 Seasons livestream, the
snow and ice will be long-melted as Spring sets in on beautiful, historic
Britain. It’ll be the final broadcast of Playground’s weekly seasonal
livestreams on Forza Horizon 4, and fans can expect the reveal of a
Spring-themed map on social media – like the one we received today for Winter,
as well as a guided tour of Edinburgh City and a showcase of the competitive-inspired
Team Adventure online mode. Both were supposed to be highlighted in today’s livestream,
but they were mysteriously pushed back onto next week.
The Forza Horizon 4 Winter livestream also ended with a
video recap of the past broadcasts so far, so be sure to check it out if you
missed them. It’s also worth having a look at our detailed recaps for the Summer
livestreams, as well as our hands-on
impressions of the E3 2018 demo for Forza Horizon 4, which goes deep into
seasons and discusses how they really do change everything in Playground’s
upcoming open-world racing game.
Forza Horizon 4 will be available for Xbox One and Windows
10 PC on October
2nd, 2018. It’ll also be available on the Xbox
Game Pass subscription service from its release date. However, those who
wish to experience the British Horizon Festival before anyone else should check
out the Ultimate
Edition, which allows you to start playing four days early from September
Don’t forget to tune into next week’s Forza Horizon 4 Spring
livestream on Tuesday, July 31st at 7pm BST (11am PDT, 2pm EDT) on Mixer. It’s sure to be a little
sunnier and warmer than Winter, but periodic rain showers are expected, so you
best be bringing a coat or jacket with you.