[Review] Forza Horizon — Somehow It Doesn’t Have Rocky Mountain Way in It

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The Forza series has always been car porn for car freaks, but it’s also always maintained an accessibility for those who are intimidated by rival auto-erotica series Gran Turismo. Forza Horizon tries to steer the series into an even more accessible genre, the open-world racer, while staying true to its simulation roots. A new day for Forza is on the horizon and let me tell you — it is good.

A list of Forza Horizon’s best qualities reads like a “Who’s Who” of the recent racing genre. It combines the open-world collecta-thon from games like Burnout Paradise, the closed-course racing you come to expect from simulation racing games, the adaptive driving line that’s ubiquitous with Forza, and a bumpin’ soundtrack with radio DJ’s that would make 2010′s Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit jealous.

The core conceit of the game is that it takes place during the fictional Horizon festival, a Colorado music festival set against the backdrop of really fast cars. Racing as a burgeoning rookie who happenstances his way into Horizon’s initial heats, it’s up to you to push your way through the ranks if you want to take home the grand prize.

Getting there is simple — all you have to do is win some events.

The core driving feels like Forza, though necessary tweaks to things like collision rules have been to make the racing work on open roads. Forza Motorsport 4 has, in my opinion, the best driving model in the business. Horizon manages to take that stellar model and place it into a world that you’ll actually want to drive around. You’re now free to take that Ferrari onto the Interstate and see if you can get it up to 250 miles per hour.

The Colorado presented by Forza Horizon makes it seem like a racer’s wet dream. It has plenty of straightaways, highways, freeways, curvy mountain roads, and even occasional city driving. Driving around the world never gets tiring, especially with the new points system that’s highly reminiscent of Project Gotham‘s “Kudos.” Doing cool and/or risky maneuvers like driving close to other cars, drafting behind other racers, or drifting gain you points which will boost your popularity with the patrons of Horizon. Starting at 250, you’ll rise through the ranks, gaining “showcase events” along the way, allowing you to win unique cars by racing against planes, hot air balloons, etc.

Be careful with your driving, though. Driving dangerously will boost your score and maybe even your multiplier as you cheat death, but one wrong move and you’ll lose the whole chain. Every single point.

Just trying to get those points will occupy you for a while, but keep your eyes out for red discounts signs. Each one you demolish gets you a one percent discount on all of your car upgrades. Hit all one hundred and you’ll never have to pay for an upgrade again.

There aren’t nearly as many cars to buy as in the Motorsport games, but there are more than enough. The upgrade system remains, but the tuning aspect has been removed entirely. If you’re a fan of pimping your rides with custom decals, the robust decal system is back and as intricate as ever.

A lot of the races themselves are the traditional closed course races that you’re used to in past Forza games, but they’re more fun now than ever. You no longer have to pay for damage done to your car and though driving offroad or crashing into rival racers is never encouraged, it’s never frowned upon either. Crashing through signs and drifting through turns to keep your multiplier going make the races exhilarating even after you’ve positioned yourself in the front of the pack.

It’s important to note that this is not Need for Speed. There’s no boosting, no police chases, and no physics-defying drifting. You may occasionally find your car in the air, but it’s never for more than a few feet. If you’re looking for realistic driving in a real-world setting, you’ll find it here, but you won’t find the over-the-top antics you’re used to in other open-world racers.

Forza Horizon is the first game to truly emulate “going for a drive.” It’s just as fun to take a joyride through the mountains of Colorado as it is to compete in the events. It’s every bit as calming as a Sunday drive, provided you don’t spend the whole time spinning out or crashing into oncoming traffic at breakneck speed. Since the game’s release, it’s given me my fair share of cathartic redlining in a way that no other game has before it.

Simply put, Forza Horizon is slightly less of a simulation, but much more of a game.

[Final Breakdown]

[+Terrific Driving] [+Awesome Open World] [+Improved Scoring System] [+Plenty of Content] [-Less Cars Than Its Predecessors]

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Tyler Humphrey is a bearded fan of all things video game, Tarantino films, comic books, and professional wrestling. Follow him on Twitter (@AlmostApollo) to keep up with his nonsense and misadventures.

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