I’m a fan of racing games. I love em. Although I’m not what you would call a racing enthusiast but I love when a good racing sim comes out, I always make sure that I hit the store and cop it. It started for me with Gran Turismo and over the years it continued on with Forza Motorsport once it came out and GT kind of faded away. Forza Motorsport was basically what Gran Turismo was with some minor changes and nuances but just like GT it was for the serious sim racer and that meant, it wasn’t for everyone. When Turn 10 studios and Microsoft created the Horizon series I wasn’t sure what the angle was. I did know that they were trying to appeal to the more serious racer that wants to tune, take on track challenges and the best drivers but they also wanted to make sure they didn’t abandon the more casual racer that didn’t really care about tuning but wanted to drive fast. They nailed it, to the point where I can say in no uncertain terms that the Forza series is the best in the business and Forza Horizon 4 is the best racing game around. I’ve been playing it for about 3-4 weeks now and while this game packs so much into it. I won’t talk about it all. I don’t think I need to. This review is about what I did, what I liked and didn’t like and why you should totally buy this game.
Let’s get straight to it. Forza Horizon 4 is beautiful and it’s packed with a shitload of cars and a ton of things to do. Horizon 4 isn’t a drastic change from its predecessor but it’s in fact a refinement as are all sequels of this type of game. When you crank this game up and pick your first car from the fastest drag car in Forza Horizon 4, you’re thrown in to the world map and you’ll see that there’s a plethora of things you can do based on your driving style and car interest.
Understanding the World Map
There are methods aplenty to how you should start Forza Horizon 4 because when you look at the World Map it can be overwhelming. There really isn’t a formula to play this game but everything starts with the World Map and from the onset you want to focus on understanding it so you can get your cashflow up so you can buy some nice machines to compete in higher money races. Whereas Forza Horizon 3 focused on building up the festival and how that would play out, Forza Horizon 4 focuses on map use during the four seasons in a calendar year. That coupled with your character will make the festival better. You start off by picking your avatar and your first car and looking over the World Map. You’ll see a variety of different icons each indicating a race type of which there are quite a few (Drag, Cross Country, Street Race, Rally). You’ll be driving from end to end finding races and engaging player drivatars and online racers in a multitude of events. You’ll use the map often to find speed traps, influence and fast travel boards and specific events that occur during the seasons (We’ll get into that in a sec). The World map is where everything begins and ends. The way you play the game and what you want to accomplish first is based solely on how you use the map.
In Forza Horizon 4 events are coordinated around the seasons. We all know that there are 4 (Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn) and in this game the weather, races and barn finds will all be changed accordingly. Once you get past the initial 30 minutes of the game then the ability to race in each season opens up. Every 7 days the season changes so you have to maximize your race and influence output each season. All of the seasons are pretty good and fun except for Winter, yeah, Winter sucks. In all seriousness, Winter poses some unique challenges in how you drive and you’ll most likely be using a rally car or spending some money on different tires. If you really want to be successful in the winter season and you’re pretty good at it. Change your tuning for the vehicles you drive most. Winter driving isn’t necessarily about speed and power as much as it’s about staying on the road. The terrain gets harsh when the snow is on the ground.
Scattered throughout the World Map are some rare finds of classic racers and just rare cars that are considered by many to be iconic. You get an offer to find them periodically and for every change in season. You don’t have to find them all but why not? Some of these cars end up being really good racers especially the Subaru Impreza 22B and the Lotus Elise GT1. You’ll find yourself indirectly becoming a car collector in this game and trying to find these rare cars is kind of fun. Do yourself a favor and find these cars.
Multiplayer, Forzathon, Co-Op and Rivals
Forza Horizon 4’s best asset is no doubt the multiplayer. It’s fun to play the game by yourself and get your drive on but it’s so much more fun if you can do it with friends and other racers that are online with you who wouldn’t mind engaging in a little drive action. There are so any ways that multiplayer makes this game so replayable (That’s not a word but you get it). Forming a drive club is one of the best ways to take advantage of multiplayer right away. You can either form a drive club (I hope you got friends) or join a random drive club. Any race you partake in has a multiplayer option. From the start of any race you can have the game find you co-op drivers and change the type of race, You can challenge someone 1 one 1, or you can compete in challenging a rival which is basically a time trial run that has you competing against rival players ghost vehicles.
Just like every other Forza game, FH4 is all about customization. Starting with the cars. Once you buy or earn a car you can bring it back to the festival and trick it out with some default or custom paint jobs or create your own vinyl package. If that isn’t for you then you can just download one to install on your vehicle from the Forza community (Some of them are really good). Player customization is dope with a ton of options to make your character look exactly how you can put it together in your mind. Lots of clothing and accessories available, even emotes. If you can score some of the accessories in your wheelspins and as a you compete in and win races then your character will look that much better. Customization is key to standing out in this game. You don’t want your cars to look like anyone else’s and it matters towards your influence and style points in the game so keep your car looking good.
Tuning in FH4 is part of the game that’s going to require some actual playing and a little bit of science knowledge IF, you want to get the best out of your cars and you want to race against the best players and be competitive. Tuning is a must. I do want to be clear that if you just wish to race casually and you don’t care about tuning then FH4 doesn’t penalize you for it. You can still have just as much fun as those who tune and you may be able to beat them in a race. Tuning is for the go hard racers. Personally, I tune but I don’t have a total and complete understanding of how it works because every car is different and you may want to drive a certain way for a specific car or specific race. A rally tuned car won’t work well in a drift race. So, getting tuning right is a learned skill over time. Take the time to do it. Buy the right parts. Spending a ton of money to make your car overly powerful won’t net you a winning result in every race. YouTube is your friend when it comes to tuning. It’s been invaluable to me when trying to learn to tune a vehicle. Use it. Tuning ain’t easy.
Drifting in FH4 is a skill that you’ll find out that you may need to learn. While isn’t an essential skill for FH4 it’s more than helpful when in a race with skilled players and pesky drivatars. It’s a time saver when you want to whip around a corner. You can learn by picking up a drift car by winning one or you can simply create one for yourself with the right upgrades and tunes. Rear wheel drive cars drift best in my opinion and driving in manual will give you the best drift results. It’s a learning curve for sure but with enough practice you’ll get it. Besides it being an effective way to race and maintain speed, drifting sure looks cool and feels cool when you hold that nice drift for a long stretch.
Forza Horizon 4 will frustrate you
As great a game that FH4 is, it’s not without things within the game itself that I find to be frustrating AF. My issues with the game may not be issues to you if you happen to be in the class of Lewis Hamilton video game driver but for me the intermediate player or even the casual skilled player, there a few things that you may find frustrating. This is going to be a bit lengthy so bear with me as I go down the list. Problem One, Game/Race difficulty. It’s a dubious term as it relates to this game. When you jump into a race no matter what the race you have the option to change the difficulty to said race or just change the difficulty to your racing experience as a whole. For the most part, these changes can be instrumental in allowing you to earn more money and influence the more of the assisted driving settings you remove. You should totally remove as many of them as you can if you really want to feel like you’re earning your money BUT, the one feature that causes more headache and makes you feel like you want to throw your controller against the wall is the Drivatar difficulty setting. This setting is very misleading. One would think that increasing Drivatar difficulty would give the AI a distinct advantage in it’s ability to navigate the roads thus making you drive your best to compete and place but what it mostly does is tell the Drivatars to drive as badly as possible and engage in extreme bumping and grinding. More often than not I’ve gotten taken out of races not because I was being outdriven but simply because I got slammed into a tree or into oncoming cars which always seem to “suddenly” show up by a drivatar. It pissed me off. Slamming and grinding isn’t the only drivatar issue. Be careful if you let up on the gas a little bit or get caught up in a little under or oversteer going into or out of a corner and let a Drivatar pass you. Good luck trying to catch them afterwards, they’ll be in another galaxy. WTF bro? This is by far the number one issue for me with this game. Be prepared to restart races often if you crank up the Drivatar setting.
Forza Horizon 4 suffers from being occasionally being mundane. A lot of the races on the world map are basically the same race with a different car class. Often times, the races are too short or if you choose one of the custom races it’s the same thing. Be prepared to find ways to be interested when playing FH4.
Forzathon Live and co-op play are finicky. Forzathon is an online event that pops up within the Festival and it’s basically a series of events that you take part in with other racers. The thing about it is. The events kinda suck. I can see how they might be fun but I never found them to be much fun. I don’t want to play zombie infection which is basically demolition derby tag. No, I don’t really want to get to a location on the map by any means possible because more often than not you’ll need an offroad vehicle because you’re going to have to cut through fields, forest and dirt roads but you want to drive fast. Why wouldn’t I want to take my Koenigsegg if I’m trying to win races?
Co-op play never really seemed to work for me. To be fair, I don’t have a large number of friends that play FH4 and I’m not in a drive club so that could play a factor but 90% of the time I’ve run races solo which is a little depressing for a game with multiplayer.
Forza Horizon 4 has its frustrating elements but it doesn’t take away from the game, they’re problems that are just baffling and downright annoying.
Forza Horizon 4 will amaze you
If you have never played a Forza Horizon game then believe it or not, this is the perfect entry into the series. Forza Horizon 4 will amaze you. There’s no doubt that the Forza Horizon series are the best series of driving games, period. Unlike Gran Turismo, Project Cars and even Forza 7 which heavily emphasize strategic driving, tuning, course selection and even whether or not you have a driving wheel. Forza Horizon is just flat out fun. The aforementioned games are not for the faint of heart. Casual drivers may not be as excited to play those games although they’re great. They just require patience. Patience you may not want to devote when you just want to drive. Make no mistake, Forza Horizon 4 just being fun doesn’t mean Turn 10 cut corners in making this game what it is. Incredible. There is beautiful scenery just as there was in the last game. Britain is drawn out in breathtaking detail, a ton of color and lush backgrounds to which you can drive through whenever you want. Everything is available. Multiplayer continues to add a ton of replay value. DLC cars and events that exist now and in the future also add a ton of replay value. There’s drifting, tuning, buying cars, barn finds, special events and the Goliath and that’s just to name a few of things you can do in this game. Forza Horizon 4 doesn’t break the mold but it makes the mold better. If Turn 10 can keep the same formula and not deviate too far from what works for the sake of “improvement” then Forza Horizon will continue to be the best racing game there is.