‘Forza Horizon 4’ Review | The ultimate driving fantasy, evolved
If we’re being honest, this fourth Horizon entry isn’t the first to deliver on this feeling. From Colorado to Australia, previous entries have brought us to fantasy versions of our world where each location is an automotive playground. Horizon 4 does the same, but this time in the U.K. The story is about the same as usual, too, with another Horizon festival starting up. Unlike the last game, you’re not the one in charge of the event, but rather just a highly skilled participant. Also, the festival is running year ’round, which introduces the game’s signature feature: the ability to race in all four seasons.
Visually, the seasons are impressive. Each one is highly distinct and offers unique weather. For instance, summer is bright and sunny more often, fall and spring are quite rainy, and naturally winter brings loads of snow. The foliage changes, so you can enjoy the fall colors, the crisp, icy winter, and spring flowers. They play an important role in keeping the environment interesting, as well, which is important since the U.K. isn’t as diverse a place as Horizon 3‘s Australia, a place with cities, rain forests, and the dusty Outback. The different weather and seasons don’t really change the way the cars drive noticeably, though. Additional visual upgrades over the previous game such as standing water, and sand and snow that deform to your tire tracks really help sell the world, too. Seasons bring unique events to the table, as well, that offer extra rewards when completing them on different difficulty levels.
And you’ll have plenty to do in Forza Horizon 4. Almost all the events from the last game return including circuit and sprint races on roads and on dirt. Showcase events against absurd vehicles such as trains, planes and Halo spacecraft (yes, really) make a comeback. Between all those main events are bonus boards to find and smash, big jumps to complete, speed traps to hustle through and barn finds to, well, find. Bucket List events are gone, but in their place are movie stunt driving tasks.
The biggest difference to the events is that there’s a bit more structure to each one. In the last Horizon game, every single racing event contributed to the same campaign goal: adding and expanding festival locations. Now, each type of race is part of its own little progression system. Completing more road races or dirt races unlocks more of the same type of each and lets you rank up in those respective areas. Progressing through also unlocks different vehicles and other goodies, encouraging you to try out all the different event types.
Competing in all of these different activities is loads of fun and easily accessible thanks to a combination of Horizon 4‘s driving physics and assists. The game’s driving model is very forgiving, allowing you to be fairly abusive with throttle, steering and braking inputs before you spin out and crash. But it still demands you to be a little sensible. All the different vehicles all feel different, too, and you can tell whether something is rear-drive, front-drive, heavy or light. And even if you’re having trouble driving vehicles, there are many assists you can turn on to help keep things on the straight and narrow. And for those ready to handle fewer assists and stronger opponents, you’re rewarded with additional credits to buy cars and parts.
There are so many cars to purchase, too, as we’ve covered previously. All of which can be enhanced with a wide array of performance upgrades from cold air intakes to engine swaps. Visual modifications are more limited. While some vehicles have a few bumpers and spoilers to pick from, most are limited to one or two bumpers, which is a bit disappointing, especially as this is the fourth game and visual upgrades haven’t progressed far. At least wheel selection and paint and vinyl customization are still very strong.
Cars and upgrades aren’t the only things to collect, though. Since you’re not adding more Horizon festival locations that you can fast travel to, there are houses to purchase. They range from little cottages all the way up to a castle. It’s a neat addition, but there isn’t really much to do with the houses. Unlike the old Test Drive Unlimited games, you can’t customize interiors or have fancy garages for admiring your vehicles. It’s a missed opportunity.
Your player character is finally customizable in Horizon 4, which is a welcome addition. There are many clothing options from classy to tacky to pick from. Unfortunately, they can only be unlocked through random chance after progressing far enough in the game, or through microtransactions. You also still have to pick a pre-made character that looks closest to you, rather than creating a custom character.
These are small gripes, though, since the majority of Horizon 4 is as great as it’s ever been. It’s beautiful, varied, and full of fantastic cars. It’s still the best way to kick back and just ramble and race around in your dream cars.