Monday, December 31, 2012

Forza Horizon Review

This may sound very unrelated, but as a car guy and gamer I have always been a huge fan of Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo series. Gran Turismo 5 was 80% of the reason I bought a Playstation 3 (and the game that I spent about 90% of my time on that system playing), and overall it’s an amazing game. Well Microsoft has a flagship racing game series of its own, called Forza Motorsport. Being that I loved Gran Turismo so much, but my PS3 being dead, one of the first games I bought when I received my free Xbox for buying a windows laptop back in august was Forza Motorsport 4. Overall, I found it comparable to GT5 in many ways, worse in some, and better in others. So it was an enjoyable experience, and I made sure Forza Horizon was my next game to get. I am so glad it was. I have played a few free roam driving games over my gaming career, and I’d have to say that Forza Horizon takes the cake for my personal favorite.

Since we do cover music in this blog as well, I’ll go ahead and comment first on the soundtrack that the game has. They have three “radio stations” to choose from, one for lots of electronic stuff like house, dubstep, etc., another for indie music, and a third one for Rock. This is a very nice feature that all racing games should have; many games get rather irritating because they mix so many genres into one soundtrack, and usually I end up turning the in-game music off within 30 minutes because of it. Anyway, because I’m not really much for the first two radio stations mentioned, the couple of hours I played with their radio on was solely listening to their rock station. Overall I wasn’t all that impressed, but of course it’s more because of my musical tastes than anything else.

Of course pretty much any licensed soundtrack seems like **** after playing this game.

Another small thing I enjoyed about the game was the little steps they made to increase the immersion factor. For the first time I can think of, the civilian traffic is driving real licensed vehicles. To many people this may not matter, but it really helps me get into the game when I’m whooshing past a Prius or a Taurus during a street race, instead of a generic hunk-o-crap designed by the developers.

As for the cars that you actually get to drive, I’d have to say it is a decent selection. Being that this is an xbox game, they are rather limited in terms of disc space (Forza 4 had a lot more, but you have to consider that the tracks didn’t take up as much disc space as a full-fledged free roam map, and plus many of the cars were on a second disc that you had to install). So, given that, they have a really nice variety of vehicles. However where I am rather disappointed is that some of the paid DLC cars were on-disc content for Forza 4. You already made your money on those cars; don’t make me pay for them again!

I'll smash your puny Prius to make myself feel better!

Another result of hardware limitations is that while there is a decent amount of world to explore in Forza Horizon, I drove all of the roads within about 10 hours of gameplay, most of which was just me completing races and thus not really setting out to complete said roads on my map.

One place where almost all free-roam racing games fall short, and Forza Horizon really shines, is the physics. You get the same decent physics model from previous Forza games, and it just makes all the other games in this sub-genre feel like complete and utter junk, because Forza Horizon actually feels a bit like you’re driving a real car. If I had a wheel that worked with the 360 I’d probably be in heaven.
Is this real life?

Of course, the ultimate question is… is it fun? Answer: hell yes! I’d definitely recommend this game if you enjoyed Test Drive Unlimited 2, love sim-racing and need something casual to play every once in a while, or want to try and get yourself into more realistic racing games without the pressure of a serious atmosphere like Forza 4 has. It’s really good and I don’t think it will leave my xbox’s disc tray for at least a few more days.

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