Score: 9/10         |         OPEN-WORLD RACING         |         SCENIC         |         ONLINE INTERACTIVITY

“Forza Horizon 4 has raised the bar yet again in the open-world racing genre with shared multiplayer being the core of the more popular additions. Couple that with weekly season changes and hourly #Forzathon Live events for everyone across the synchronised online world; players will see this game has a very long life ahead.”

Forza Horizon 4 is an open-world racing game developed by Playground Games with assistance from Turn 10 Studios and published by Microsoft Studios for the Xbox One and PC via Xbox Play Anywhere. If players have pre-ordered the Ultimate Edition, they’ll be hitting the streets and country-side of the best locales in the United Kingdom on September 28, 2018. The Standard and Deluxe Edition players will be able to burn rubber from October 2. The graphics are super smooth on both my 110” home theatre screen with the Xbox, and the game looks crisp on my PC.

This is the fourth game in the Horizon series and the eleventh iteration of the Forza racing games, and the series is showing no signs of slowing down. Playground Games raised the bar for the open-world feel in Horizon 3 and have outdone themselves in Forza Horizon 4 with a long list of new features added to the game. From dynamic seasons and a synchronised online world, to 25 distinct campaigns to race through with a staggering 450 cars from 100 manufacturers, there is bound to be a race and car that suits every gamer’s style.

The stunt racing campaign features some awesome cars

The game’s progression is driven by earning influence and this is earned by doing pretty much anything in the game. You could be road racing, cross country, drifting, drag racing, being a stunt driver, speeding through cameras, and jumping off cliffs at danger signs. Even just driving from one race type to the next will earn you influence as you find fast travel and influence signs, and this collection of influence steadily builds in the prologue of the game. Through your racing, you are guided through changes in the seasons, teaching you how to drive different vehicles in differing conditions, unlocking more campaign races and the pinnacle of each season, showcases. Pro tip: when in winter, choose a car that has snow tyres! Took me a few lost races to figure that one out.

Night-time driving has some great atmosphere

So far, I’ve completed three major showcase events – Summer had the Behemoth Showcase where you race against a huge hovercraft, the Winter Showcase had you racing against the Flying Scotsman train and Spring had the Horizon Motocross Showcase which featured racing against motorbikes in the opening sequence of the game. In each of these races I barely won by the edge of the bumper on my car, it was quite challenging trying to keep up with each boss racer! The Autumn Showcase is called The Halo Experience, and this was one of the coolest races I’ve ever played. They’v gone to good levels of detail with the ring in the background, the familiar Halo battle music, right down to having Cortana take over comms and Banshees flying overhead. Being a Halo fan, I want more of these please!!

Every Friday at 12:30am AEST, the season will change for everyone at the same time across the world which means every weekend is prime game time in a new season (when is it not prime game time?!). Each season has season-based championships, including barn finds signified with an autumn leaf so it will keep the content fresh on a weekly basis. This is where Forza Horizon 3 got a little stale, so it’s great to see this dynamic content being rolled out.

Whilst playing the game and reviewing the map, I noticed there were real players driving around on my map, designated by moving white circles. This was a welcome change from Horizon 3 where you only raced against AI Drivatars. When I noticed a player driving towards me, I fully expected to be rammed in the face, which has been the case in previous online racing games. Thankfully there is ‘autoghosting’ which means no collisions with players unless you optionally join a Convoy. Also, the only way to interact with other players initially is via a Quick-chat menu using phrases such as ‘Hi!’ and ‘Nice car!’. Once in a Convoy or a group race, voice chat is available.

I couldn’t believe it when I saw one player is level 166 already!

You are connected to a server with up to 72 other players, 12 of which can appear in your play session. When you arrive at a given race, you have the option of playing solo, co-op or PvP. The difference between co-op and PvP is the interaction with other players. In co-op, you work together as a team to try and beat all other teams. In PvP, you are testing your driving skill against everyone else, and that means bumping is fair game! I did often struggle to find a multiplayer game and I’m hoping this will improve once the game goes live.

After enjoying myself competing across the world trying different listening to the various radio stations, competing in the various campaigns, eventually after around 6 hours of racing I had built up enough influence to gain level 20 and qualify for the Horizon Roster which unlocked a yellow wristband. This is where multiplayer starts to shine. When you’re free roaming, you will get a notification saying you are invited to join a #Forzathon Live event where you and 11 other players can join a convoy and attempt to complete three stages of activities before a timer runs out. These Forzathon events occur every hour at a random location in the world.

These events are what will bring the players together

In the event I participated in, the first stage involved all of us to race to a danger sign and rack and jump off as many times as we could to earn the required number of points. The second stage involved a speed trap where we had to earn points by speeding through it, though this was challenging because it was halfway up a steep hill with a zig-zagging road. The third and final challenge we couldn’t complete as it was a drifting challenge. I have always sucked at drifting in all racing games, but even as a team we couldn’t earn enough points within the time limit. We still all earned some Forzathon Points which we can use to buy things in the Forzathon Shop. There are weekly and daily challenges to aim for as well, so I can see this feature adding a lot of life to this game.

Other features of the game include the ability to purchase property across the United Kingdom and when you quit the game, you will log back in at the house you have set as your home, which can be changed depending on where you are currently racing. Also, at these houses you can modify the way your player avatar looks, right down to the watch he wears. I also noticed you can unlock whole suits. As I had the ‘Best of Bond Car Pack’, I had two of James Bond’s suits waiting for me.

There was also this chicken suit that is unlocked further into the game

With these new customisation options however, they did seem to dominate my Wheelspins and the new Super Wheelspins (three prizes). In Forza Horizon 3 I found there was a good balance between earning credits and earning new cars to unlock. With the spins I’ve had so far, I have unlocked multiple cars but there were so many more spins where I won clothing items. Still, some of the car horns you can unlock are cool (shout out to the Sea of Thieves horn!) and some of the player emotes are a crack up. I did notice the bloody Floss Dance has been snuck in there!

I’ve got a long road ahead of me!

Overall, I gave the game a 9/10. The Forza series is showing no signs of slowing down. Forza Horizon 4 has raised the bar yet again in the open-world racing genre with shared multiplayer being the core of the more popular additions. Couple that with weekly season changes and hourly #Forzathon Live events for everyone across the synchronised online world; players will see this game has a very long life ahead. I look forward to putting many more hours into the game and working to max out each of the 25 campaigns in the game which provides a good balance of variety in the races.

This review utilised a game key provided for review purposes on both Xbox One and Xbox Play Anywhere on PC with 9 hours of gameplay. Forza Horizon 4 is rated G for Online Interactivity and can be bought through the Microsoft Store. The Ultimate Edition is available for $139.95 which will give you access to the game on September 28. The Deluxe ($119.95) and Standard Edition ($99.95) will launch globally on October 2, 2018.

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