Forza Horizon has always held a position in my mind as the “fun Forza” series. Not that the Motorsport games aren’t good, but the breezy, easy-going festival vibes of this series have always focused on having a good time. This is exactly what Forza Horizon 4 nails. It’s just a really good time. It’s a blast to play and visually outstanding. The series has been on something of a world tour between games, hopping from Colorado to Central Europe to Australia and now settling in the UK. Simply put, this is a fantastic driving game that marks a new peak for the genre.
Horizon 4 is an incredibly dense game. It would be overwhelming if it wasn’t so carefully crafted around easing the player into the world. It gradually introduces you to the huge variety of events, race types, and crazy set pieces in a way that helps prevent you from getting overwhelmed or burnt out. Once you complete a type of event a few times, you’ll level up in that event and more will show up on the map. You can easily choose which events you want to see more of simply by which you take part in. Tried an event and didn’t like it? Don’t do anymore and they won’t litter your map with more.
Even the open world side challenges are carefully implemented. There’s a number of quick challenges dotted around the map you can compete in for a high score. They range from passing a speed camera as fast as you can to going for distance off a ramp. They’re fun and exciting challenges that offer some compelling scores to chase. These side activities aren’t forced on you and they don’t fill the map unless you choose to engage with them.
Seasonal changes are the big new thing. The season will cycle for all players once a week, shifting between Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring. You’re given a taste of each season in a lengthy prologue, taking part in events in each season before the world settles into its current season. They provide large, sweeping changes that dramatically shift the look and feel of the map. Driving in each season is its own unique challenge and the difference in aesthetics look fantastic. It’s more than just a cool gimmick. It changes up the game quite significantly and adds an interesting longevity to the proceedings.
Winter provides the most dramatic change out of the four. The landscape is transformed into a gorgeous white world as lakes, rivers, and streams are frozen over and roads become treacherous nightmares. Summer and Spring offer clearer skies and cleaner roads, but Spring still comes with its fair share of showers. Meanwhile, Autumn turns the scenic English countryside into a blanket of brown and orange leaves. It leaves the roads a little slippy, but it looks fantastic.
If there’s one thing to take away from this review, it’s that Forza Horizon 4 is a beautiful game. The series has always been at the cutting edge of graphical fidelity, but this is truly something else. The amazingly detailed cars have reflections so clear you could drive off them, whilst the excellent weather effects add a really nice touch that only further highlights the game's graphical horsepower. Everything sounds fantastic, too. The roar of the engines is powerful and the screeching of tires is satisfying and infinitely cool. From top to bottom, Forza Horizon 4 is an extremely well-made and polished experience.
It’s the incredible breadth of things to do that makes it so compelling. The sheer volume of content is simply staggering. There’s a wide range of events, including off-road, cross country, street, and drag races. Barn hunts that reward you with classic cars, collectible billboards to smash, fast travel billboards that lower the cost of fast travel, large jumps to scale, weird but brilliant themed events, and more.
Showcase events also return from previous games. Essentially big bombastic set pieces, these ridiculous activities put you in one-on-one races against a boat, train, plane, or some other unconventional vehicle. They make for fun one-off events, but they feel very scripted and almost artificial. They’re good-looking showpieces, with tight camera angles and perfect framings that neatly show off the visuals, but there doesn’t feel like there’s much of a challenge to these events. These events are like driving through a cutscene. They’re fun the first couple of times but things quickly get old.
Along with everything else, there are also a number of ten part campaigns. These range from pretty standard affairs, like the stunt driver campaign that has you performing a set of stunts for a film, to the more bizarre events like helping a streamer put together a Top 10 driving games piece based on the likes of Project Gotham Racing and Outrun. Although much of Forza Horizon 4 is comprised of pretty standard racing, there are a number of weird and unpredictable events that keep things from getting stale. I don’t want to spoil these because discovering how weird this game can get is part of the fun, but the Halo-themed showcase that has you driving a Warthog was a particular highlight.
As you’d expect from a game with this much stuff, the map is pretty big. It’s a pretty faithful recreation of scenic UK, albeit a highly condensed one. The Lake District takes up most of the southern region of the map, whilst the very top consists of Edinburgh and the Scottish Highlands. It’s far from geographically accurate, but the small pockets it focuses on are captured wonderfully. Playground Game’s vision of the UK looks incredible in every season, with the green scenery popping wonderfully in the Summer and the Spring rain reflecting gorgeously with crystal clarity.
There’s some odd integration with Microsoft’s streaming platform, Mixer. Streaming the game on Mixer will earn you influence (the thing that levels you up) as will watching someone stream it. It’s a weird thing and I’ll be curious to see how/if people abuse it to farm influence. I ended up watching some streams on Mixer out of curiosity. You can rack up some serious influence by doing this, but it feels so arbitrary since there are more than enough ways to rack it up in-game.
Everything you do grants influence. Completing an event, smashing a billboard, or stopping at one of the various “Beauty spots” for a nice scenic camera pan all contributes to your constantly increasing level. When paired with the event XP you get for completing an event of a certain type, which all have their own unique level progression, you’re always leveling up and gaining new stuff. The developers are very good at frequently and consistently rewarding the player. No matter what you’re doing, it feels like it matters.
Everytime you level up you get a spin of the wheel, giving you a chance to win a variety of prizes. These prizes range from CR gains (the in-game currency) to clothing items and emotes for your character. You earn CR for pretty everything you do, too. This can be used to purchase new cars, upgrade your existing cars, buy new houses that serve as garages, and more. Forza Horizon 4 is essentially a never-ending drip-feed of stuff. Completing content unlocks more content and everything you do earns you currencies with which to buy more stuff. There’s probably far too much stuff in this game, but it’s still endlessly satisfying to earn and collect it all.
Furthermore, as you drive skillfully or recklessly you’ll generate skill chains and earn Skill points that you can spend on upgrading individual cars. Every car has its own tree, which allows you to earn more points from chains or simply have your combos to continue after a single disruption. All cars have this tree, which consists of twelve upgrades, and there are an absurd amount of cars so I was expecting to be severely lacking in points to spend. You earn more than enough skill points, however, and so long as you save them for your favorite cars you should have no problem filling out these trees.
Forza Horizon 4 puts a major emphasis on online play. Unless you’re playing offline, up to 72 players will fill your world. These players don’t seamlessly appear and disappear around you, as in previous games. They’re in the world at all times. They can be on the other side of the map and still show up. It’s an impressive degree of always-online connectivity that makes the world feel truly alive. Furthermore, every race event is playable either alongside other players or in Rivals mode, which tasks you with beating someone’s score.
There’s also Forzathon, a Burnout Paradise-style multiplayer event that occurs every hour. Players gather in one spot to take part in a series of challenges, working together to reach the set score limit. It can be hectic and a lot of fun to see dozens of players spinning donuts or trying to break their speedometer. Taking part in these events and completing daily and weekly challenges will earn you Forzathon points, which can be spent on exclusive and lucrative rewards.
There’s a wide array of customization options available throughout Forza Horizon 4. They allow you to fundamentally change the game in some major ways. There are gameplay options that can turn it into either a strict and realistic simulation or a breezy, easy-going arcade racer. The same goes for customizing your cars, too. You can either painstakingly upgrade each and every part or simply use presets created by other players. This huge range of options is what makes Forza Horizon 4 so brilliant. It’s accessible to people like me who just want to drive cars around, smash through billboards, and do dumb stuff whilst also being deep and rewarding for those who want to tinker under the hood of their favorite car or drive with the most realistic options.
The range of unlocks and customization parts is simply staggering. You’re always unlocking things for you and your evergrowing collection of cars. The amount of the cars is unbelievable in itself, but I guess that’s what you expect. There’s a bigger emphasis on your player avatar, which shows up frequently in brief cutscenes. That’s probably just so they can include an insane amount of clothing items, emotes, and more, but these options are fun to tinker with nonetheless. The sheer volume of stuff can sometimes be a bit hard to navigate through. The menus aren't the best and it can be difficult to find what you're looking for at times.
Ultimately, Forza Horizon 4 is an incredibly dense game packed with an enormous amount of content. The driving feels and sounds great, the visuals are truly outstanding, and there is some fun, well-implemented online hooks to keep things interesting. The way it introduces the player to the huge amount of things to do is both smart and life-saving. If the game wasn’t so good at drip-feeding new content, unlocks, and customization then the whole thing would be an overwhelming headache. As it stands, this is a brilliantly crafted and endlessly fun driving game that sets a new standard for the genre.
TechRaptor reviewed Forza Horizon 4 on Windows 10 with a code provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Xbox One and in Xbox Game Pass.
Forza Horizon 4 is a huge and beautiful game with a staggering amount of content. It sets a soaring new standard for driving games that competitors should be afraid of. A fantastic game, ideal for both casual and hardcore fans of racing.(Review Policy)
- Crazy Amount of Content
- Looks and Sounds Incredible
- Endlessly Satisfying Drip-feed of Content and Unlocks
- Excellent At Easing Players Into The World
- Finally, A Gorgeous Driving Game Set In England!
- Menus Can Be A Little Confusing