There are two premium racing games on the Xbox One: The po-faced racing simulator Forza and its more lunatic, less serious younger brother Forza Horizon, which has just received its fourth instalment.
This time the Horizon festival has located in the UK and is now all year round which brings us seasons. Every two weeks or so your game will shift into the next season with major changes to the game’s impressive visuals (snow and ice in winter, falling leaves in autumn, wet roads in spring) and subtle changes to the excellent handling and physics model that underpins the game. Driving the same car in the different seasons requires you to adapt to the differences in grip and braking; visibility is affected and what was dry ground in Summer becomes a slippery bog in winter. Of all the Horizon games this one requires much more subtlety in the player; you can just mash the throttle and may win a race or two, but on the higher skill level, which offer greater rewards, being smooth with your inputs is much more beneficial.
Horizon is an open world game, you can go anywhere in anything at any time. Events races and challenges are marked on points of the map and are simple to enter or ignore as you pass. The map is littered with bonus boards and barn finds to collect. You race, you gain cash and influence, which allows you to enter in more races, buy more cars and, for the first time, buy houses (each of which offer a perk). The terrain you can travel around varies from the wide sandy beaches of the North Yorkshire coast, through to the Highlands, the city of Edinburgh, the Lakes, and the Cotswolds. You also don’t have to stick to the roads, you can simply just blast across the countryside, demolishing dry stone walls, hedges, garden fences, and scattering flocks of sheep and. The more destruction, skids, jumps and close overtakes you make the more skill points you gain, which convert into upgrades for your car(s). You also have an avatar which you can gains points to unlock clothes, dance moves and celebration animations.
You can also paint your cars, design and apply liveries, develop tuning setups, and take photographs, all of which can then be added to the game’s Marketplace for other users to download – for which you receive in-game cash.
Forza Horizon 4 is a massive game, one that offers knockabout thrills or a challenging simulation depending on what you are looking for. Yes, there are occasional glitches; yes, the extensive car setup menus are largely irrelevant; yes, there is paid-for DLC, but when a game looks this stunning, offers this much gameplay (online community events and PvP races are all catered for too), and is SO much fun, it is very hard to pick holes.
To be honest, if you like cars, and you like racing games, there is going to be something in Horizon 4 that will appeal to you. It is, quite simply, the best racing game available on any platform right now.