A Smashing Good Time

Forza Horizon 4

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Forza Horizon 4

Something happened when I crested a hill near the Glenfinnan Viaduct and saw the wide- open fields of the Scottish Highlands: I fell in love with Forza Horizon 4. 

Make no mistake, Forza Horizon 4 isn’t a normal racer. It’s for those who like their racing unfiltered and dirty. If it’s a track or circuit you’re after, you’re probably better off playing Forza Motorsport 7 instead. 

Cross Country and Dirt Racing events are easy highlights though. I’ll never get tired of power-sliding around muddy corners or scoring air time from massive jumps. And the whole off-road experience stays fresh due to a new dynamic seasons feature. It’s like you get four different games in one, as vehicles handle very differently between seasons. I personally found autumn and winter the most fun to play, with all the mud and snow making off-roading especially awesome. 

Forza Horizon 4’s coup de grace are its Showcase Events, where you take on various machines on a straight-out, balls-to-the-wall race. 

There are only a handful of Showcases, but each one is in a league of its own. I raced a train, a hovercraft, and even a Delta Wing aircraft! There’s even a Halo Showcase, where you are Master Chief behind the wheel of a Warthog. Pelicans fly overhead, Banshees strafe the ground, and other Warthogs all join you in a race to the evacuation point. It’s the closest we’ve got to a full-on Halo racing game. 

The new progression system puts the focus on fun. Even coming in dead last gets you a little bit closer to your next next level, unlock, or car. Simply driving around gets you skill points towards a meter that awards Car Mastery points when filled, used to unlock car-specific bonuses. 

Except Showcases, everything else in Forza Horizon 4 belongs to an event category. Increasing a Category level unlocks more events of that type, while raising an Influence level nets you a Super Wheel spin, with the prizes being cars, money, and customization options like clothes, shoes, exclusive horn sounds, etc. 

While I love the idea of getting exclusive rewards via wheel spins, I hate that it’s the only way of getting customizations. Fortunately, we have plenty of choice when it comes to vehicles. From concept cars and limited edition models to fictional rides like the Warthog; from TVR to Honda to Bugatti; whatever your preference, there’s a car with your name on it. I personally love the Dodge Viper ‘99 GTS ACR. 

Most vehicles can be upgraded, turning even the lowliest option into a racing beast. Gearheads can fine-tune nearly every single aspect of their ride to eke out that extra horsepower. Artists on the other hand can play around with decals to create custom looks. 

There’re even houses to buy. I heavily recommend saving up for Fairlawn Manor as soon as possible, since it unlocks fast travel to any road in the game. It’s such a huge timesaver that I can’t stress how essential this is. 

When you’re not racing, the majority of your time is spent in Horizon Life, the game’s Free Roam mode. They’ve brought back the collectible boards you can crash through for extra Influence, credits, and subsidized fast travel. Barn Finds are also back. These have you hunting a small area for an abandoned garage, with a car prize waiting inside. There are 15 altogether but the lack of clues can make the experience frustrating and repetitive. 

While you can play solo, a better alternative would be  a Team Adventure with up to 11 other friends trying out different multiplayer races and activities. Even if you play solo, I recommend staying online to take part in the Forzathon Live events, which are really fun. 

Forza Horizon 4 is undoubtedly the most visually distinct entry in the series yet. Seasons gives the game a new look, and extra trappings like snow or mud enhances what is already a great looking game. It’s the little touches that impress the most.

The Xbox One X can run Forza Horizon 4 at 60 FPS, which is reason alone to get or upgrade your console. Those extra frames make a huge difference in gameplay, as the increased fluidity and sensitivity is key in a racing game! While Performance Mode does maintain a stable 60 FPS, there is a downside with lower quality objects and textures. I’ve also noticed foliage pop-in or slow- loading textures when you approach them. 

However, these are minor annoyances. What’s unforgivable is the weak soundtrack, as the included radio songs aren’t a great fit with the pace of the game.

Read more at gameaxis.com
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Players can now buy and own property, which imparts added bonuses and gameplay perks. 

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Showcase Events pit your driving skills against unconventional vehicles, such as a hovercraft. 

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Undeniably the best open-world racer right now, somehow improving upon the great experiences of the past two games.