"An Infinite Racing Horizon"
Forza Horizon is the latest title in the long-running racing simulation series, but it's also something of a rebirth of multiple kinds. While it's the fifth title in the series, Horizon is the first to not be developed primarily by Turn 10 and instead being a collaboration between Turn 10 and Playground studios, a new outfit comprised of talent from shuttered Project Gotham Racing studio Bizarre Creations, amongst other places. With everything that's been added, the title successfully blends the gameplay of Microsoft's former arcade racing series with the features and feel that the Forza series is known for.
With Forza Horizon's new arcadey gameplay style, the title further distances itself from the rest of the series by adding a bit of story to make give the game's new focus some purpose. Putting players in the shoes of a nameless racer, the goal here is to simply progress to the top popularity rank amongst racers in the outskirts of Colorado during a music festival. The cinematics are pretty lighthearted, but they definitely help to establish that this game is more of a spin-off as opposed to the proper fifth title in the series, giving it a pseudo Fast and Furious feel as players encounter rivals throughout the countryside.
Driving through the world of Forza Horizon takes a bit of adjusting to initially, due to the combination of the series trademark physics with the new emphasis on doing things such as drifting or even destroying property. The familiar driving assistance that shows the perfect line through each track is here, and with the focus on tricks, leaving it on isn't as much of a trump card as it was before. Progress towards the top rank during the festival is made within every race as players constantly earn points to level up their popularity through executing stunts such as drifting or hitting speeds of over 100 MPH, which simultaneously complete sponsor challenges that give bonus points for hitting milestones such as executing 100 drifts.
Aside from the arcade-style gameplay, Forza Horizon takes place in an open-world environment modeled after a huge section of Colorado. Gradually filling up tons of events as players progress, the map feels similar to Burnout Paradise with secrets littered all over that reward players for discovering them, such as crashing through billboards to earn discounts on car upgrades or setting speed records when driving past speed traps.
All of these various systems come together in Forza Horizon to make a very addicting experience, as there's always something to do in the game world and players are made aware of this constantly. The customization the series is known for is also still available, with the ability to upload custom car decals and even opt to charge players in-game credit for them.
Aside from being able to sell decals to other players, Forza Horizon offers an extensive online mode with its own separate progression system. Multiplayer offers both the option to simply hop in pre-determined races and the ability to roam the roads with up to 8 others, with the option to take on a number of co-op challenges along the way. Another mode offers race types that emphasize car contact and team-based competitive gameplay, including a take on King of the Hill. In addition, the single-player mode also offers leaderboards for every event, with the option to immediately go after a friend's score upon completing an event the first time.
Forza Horizon looks and sounds great with clean menus that take advantage of the game's open ended world, and a soundtrack that sounds familiar without drilling top 40 hits in the player's mind. The game world uses a persistent day and night system, and everything loads seamlessly, with a number of environments seen throughout the game such as desert, forest, and city road.
Forza Horizon is a great spin-off of the popular series that combines the series trademark features and puts new gameplay on top of it. The resulting game is something that will be familiar yet new to series fans, while it's the most accessible title in the series for newcomers.
GameDynamo's Score for Forza Horizon (X360)
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