The Forza Horizon series has been a personal favorite racing game series for a number of years. The original showed that Forza, which was traditionally simulation style racing, could do arcade style racing just as well. Forza Horizon 2, was far more ambitious, using a larger open world. Horizon 3 had largely perfected the racing feel in a way the others hadn’t. Forza Horizon 4 uses those bases to build something far more ambitious than in other games within the series: building a true connected online world.
The Forza Horizon series has always had an online mode, but it always felt like more of an afterthought. Sure, you could go online and do typical races, but there was already so many races to do offline, that there was little reason to be connected. However, Horizon 4 builds its online world in such a way that it is somewhat disadvantageous to not play online in some capacity.
They do this by introducing the revised #Forzathon challenges. Forzathon has always been a series of challenges that give you interesting rewards, but in Horizon 4, Forzathon is a nearly always ongoing event. Every hour, on the hour, a notice will pop up telling players to get to an area within five minutes. As you play, you see other players travelling towards the destination (while you always see other players in your online session, seeing a group of players all barreling towards a specific spot in ghost form is a really cool thing.) From there, a set of three group goals will be presented.
These can be things like top speeds through specific locations or do a certain amount of drifting through a spot. All players are contributing to completing the goals and you can do these events multiple times. It’s really fun to see how other players are handling drift or speed challenges while honing the perfect technique to add to the goal. At the end of these challenges, you are rewarded with Forzathon points that can buy you specific things, like cars, horns, or other items. They’ve made what amounts to public events from Destiny in Forza and it actually works pretty ok.
However, the revised Forzathon is hardly the biggest change with Forza Horizon 4. Seasons make their way into the game in a pretty interesting way. When you first load up the game, you will have to progress through each season before really unlocking the real online connectivity. You do this by going through your typical races, gathering “influence” and completing a set of “showcase” races. Once you earn enough influence, you will unlock the next season.
After a “year”, you get put into the connected online world. Each week on Thursday, a new season will be introduced, along with new rewards in Forzathon. There are also season specific barn find challenges, so you want to keep coming back week after week to find the new stuff.
The seasons make a pretty big change to the series. This was somewhat explored with Blizzard Mountain, the DLC for Forza Horizon 3, but it’s front and center here. Cars simply don’t handle the same from season to season. Summer to Fall is the most traditional you’ll find the handling. However, in Winter, you have to change up your car.
This can mean something as simple as adding a roll cage to increase your weight so you don’t flip your car, or it can be as complex as changing the tire pressure so prevent slipping. I found myself doing far more customization to my cars in Forza Horizon 4 than I did with any previous title.
You can always simply change to a more traditional vehicle for each season as well. Trucks are good for winter and spring, as they have better handling on slick roads present from rain and snow. If you just want that simple option of choosing your car and going, you absolutely still can do that, as the Horizon series has never presented tuning in as much of a front and center way as the traditional Forza games.
There are also weekly sets of seasonal specific challenges. These limit you to using specific vehicles and reward you based on the difficulty settings you choose. Beating a race against an average difficulty racer will reward you with a few credits but racing against a pro level racer will give you wheelspins, which reward you with random items.
After Forza Motorsport 7, there was serious concern about how the next games in the series would handle microtransactions. Forza games wait until after the game has launched to add in microtransactions, so as of this writing (the game releases to everyone on the day I’m writing this) it is accurate, but keep in mind that down the line this could change. There are currently no real microtransactions to speak of in the game. Leveling up unlocks Wheelspins and Super Wheelspins which reward you with credits, horns, cars, and other cosmetics. You also have a customizable character, and these wheelspins can unlock customizations for them, as well.
Players who’ve previously bought the VIP pass will notice it provides you with similar benefits to what it did in Motorsport 7, which isn’t ideal. The VIP pass used to unlock bonus wheelspins. However, in Horizon 4 it unlocks a credit doubler at the end of each race, a set of clothes, and a home base normally valued at five million credits. Those bases provide you with an easy fast travel point, as well as a way to customize cars while not having to drive to the Forza Horizon Festival location. You also get some amount of wheelspins and other minor perks, but for what you are paying for for the VIP pass, the fact that you only really get one of these locations and a credit doubler does feel a bit disappointing compared to past games.
Forza Horizon 4 also currently had a few issues with how it handles some of its races. While doing a seasonal specific race for summer, I was supposed to be limited to using a dune buggy, but every single time I went into a race, regardless of what I chose, I always ended up driving in my Lamborghini. If you don’t know, that’s significantly faster than most dune buggies and even with the disadvantage of having to drive through rocky terrain, I was still easily able to beat “Unbeatable” difficulty racers.
Forza Horizon 4 is probably the most ambitious of the Horizon series. The persistently changing world is an interesting addition and the revised online world makes for some cool moments. However, it still is largely a similar game to previous games in the series. While the changes are cool, you can still play the game in the same way you previously have. That’s not a bad thing by any means, and Horizon 4 takes the best of the series and combines them in a cool way. If you enjoy arcade style racing, Forza Horizon 4 is definitely the best on the market.
SCORE: 9.0 out of 10
A code for the Deluxe Edition of Forza Horizon 4 was provided to Pixel Related for review.