For as long as I can remember, I have been playing racing games. It all started back in the early eighties, when my father stupidly brought home a Fountain Force 2 videogame system, unwittingly kicking off a habit of mine that would soon take over my life.
One of the games dear old Dad brought home was the creatively titled “Grand Prix”. Although it sported rudimentary graphics and sounds that would make you want to rip your eyes out and stuff them into your ears, it was still my favourite game at the time. It seemed, as a young boy, I was developing a bit of a penchant for all things speed and motor-related, much to the dismay of my mother.
Step forward thirty years and things still haven’t changed an iota. Racing games hold their place on the mantlepiece above the burning fire that is my heart (some would argue that it’s a block of ice) as the ultimate reality getaway, and the Forza Motorsport series have been my go-to games for virtual burning rubber for the last several years… but now things have changed… or have they?
The newest iteration of the Forza moniker breaks away from the tried and true method of menu-based of circuit racing and throws in the current trend of open-world, or “sandbox” gameplay. I for one am not a fan of this move. It butchered Burnout, the best arcade racing series in history and ruined the Need for Speed franchise. Okay, that’s going a bit far… at least in NFS you can select races from a menu. Not so in Forza Horizon. To get to the next event, you have to go through the painstaking motions of following your GPS and driving across the state. Often, the trip to the race event takes several times longer than the event itself. Sure, it can be fun to cruise around to check out the (very orange) scenery, but it’s being forced to drive all that way that really frosts my ween. You can “fast travel” back to the central hub of the game for free and also, when discovered, Horizon outposts can be used to cut down the travel time, but this costs precious moolah, which I prefer to spend on Italian exotics.
Driving wise, the physics are what you’d expect from a Forza title, though maybe more skewed to the arcade side of things. Crash physics are terrible, with 200kph+ head-ons resulting in a slight bump. It’s this lack of realism, not to mention the horrible addition of the underground “rave” scene, complete with cliched characters who always say “yo” that makes me feel that this game should never have carried the Forza name. It feels more like a Need For Speed title, or even something based on the Fast and Furious movies.
Luckily, the racing events themselves are brilliant. From racing a 4WD Subbie around dirt tracks to even pitting your Yank Tank against a WWII fighter plane, the courses and events are varied, challenging, and most of all, a whole lot of fun. There are also all kinds of neat easter eggs such as “barn finds”, which see you discovering rusty old gems from yesteryear, that your trusty mechanic soon has back in showroom condition.
Unfortunately, being the pauper that I am, I have not been able to try out the multi-player aspect of Forza Horizon, though I’m sure it’s as much fun as watching a granny trying to jog up a greased escalator.
All in all, Forza Horizon is a solid racing title that offers a huge selection of cars from hot hatches to European purebreds and is big enough to keep the avid racer entertained for quite some time. Unfortunately, though, the Forza name has been tarnished slightly by this all-too-arcadey affair.
So, Forza is still my choice of racers, when it comes to circuit based driving. In this case, I prefer to stick to the nigh-on perfect Forza 4, and for my point to point street racing, believe it or not, I still laud the original Need For Speed on 3DO as the greatest experience in that area. Forza Horizon is a bit hit and miss for me. The open world is set in Colorado and the scenery, for the most part is very samey, the characters and rave scene annoy me no end and the fact that knowing a huge head-on isn’t going to end in twisted metal and flying glass just makes it all a bit too “safe”. One for the younger generation, methinks. Like, totally.
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also available on: N/a