Forza Horizon Preview

Fans of the Forza series may be used to seeing sterile and perfect racetracks as the setting for their racing exploits, but when I played Forza Horizon I was instead treated to a new kind of racetrack, a surprisingly alive American city. While it initially seemed like more of an arcade racer than past games, the more time I put in, the more I could tell this was still a Forza game at its core.

Forza Horizon still has the series trademark focus on driving accuracy, but instead of being directed at shaving tenths of a second off your lap times on famous race tracks, that driving accuracy is instead directed out onto the open road in a much more pick up and play fashion. This game is about taking a car, driving it far too fast with your music blaring far too loud, and enjoying every minute of it.

The premise is simple, you’re heading to the Horizon Festival, a music and automotive festival that encompasses a large driving competition. Having managed to get a last minute chance to enter the competition you try to race your way to the top of the rankings. You can win money to buy new cars, win respect and points for doing well in races or driving in an impressive manner and challenge other racers to street races for pride and success.

I’ve played through around two hours of the retail version of the game and have a pretty good sense of what the opening hours have to offer. In my first two hours with the game I took part in a multi car street race to win a place in the festival, took on a rival in a one-on-one race, bought about five new cars, won a car from another driver and even raced a Mustang (plane) in a Mustang (car). The game’s races all felt varied and offered a lot of different settings and challenges to overcome.

The game does a lot to make itself more accessible than previous Forza games, like having driving lines visible on the road which advise you on corner speed as default. In spite of this, the accuracy of the driving simulation is still top notch. You’ll find that the cars drift, corner, accelerate, brake, bounce and even lock their brakes in a way that feels incredibly natural. These will feel like powerful machines, but ones that require a gentle and subtle touch to get the most from.

While the lighting effects, car models and open world all looked fantastic (crisp, bright and colourful textures caught my eye and were constantly impressive), the pre-rendered cutscenes looked very heavily rendered, with a horrible plastic sheen over the characters on screen.

One of the biggest surprises up the game’s sleeve is how seamlessly the huge open world loaded as I raced across it. I spent some time just free driving and exploring. The game world is enormous and when free driving around the world, not selecting missions, I didn’t notice a single load point regardless of my speed or my changing location.

I highly recommend playing Forza Horizon with headphones if possible, as the music is one of the highlights of the game. With a soundtrack hand picked by Rob Da Bank, the game’s in car radio features 66 tracks, which apparently works out as around six hours of music and is split between three different radio stations. You can choose between a drum and bass themed station, an indie and acoustic style station and a rock station which was my personal favourite. The music selection was fantastic and really helped add a great sense of atmosphere to the races.

All in all I was very impressed by my time with Forza Horizon. It keeps the series hallmark accuracy and realism of its car simulations, but allows you to do what everyone really wants to do with a super fast car and take it out on the open road. You could enjoy just driving the streets with the radio turned up loud just as easily a you could enjoy the actual race content. It’s fun, it’s fast and it’s got me very excited by the future of the franchise.

Forza Horizon is available to play this weekend on the show floor at the London MCM Expo and is out now to buy at retail.

Copyright © 2012 MCM BUZZ – Movies, TV, Comics, Gaming, Anime, Cosplay News & Reviews