If there is one huge compliment I can give Forza Horizon, it’s that the very first thing that came in my mind while playing it was Project Gotham Racing. There’s something about the game that just evokes memories of PGR. Considering that Playground Games are made up of some former Bizzare Creations staff (as well as Codemasters and Black Rock). It’s easy to see how such comparisons can be made.
So, FH. It’s an “open world” racer. I say open world, you have a large map to explore but you won’t be traipsing through fields as they’re all fenced off. It’d be more accurate to describe it as “Open Road” (and there’s a lot of it). The game is set in a small section of Colorado (I’m assuming that it’s not accurate to the actual area, but I could be wrong!) and is based around the idea of the Horizon Festival.
It’s the festival that acts as the backdrop for the Single Player with you being a rookie driver looking to make a name for himself. It’s a fairly basic story which isn’t really needed but it adds something to the game. Progression is simple, Win races get better wristbands to get access to the higher class races.
Races themselves usually fall into two categories, Standard Lap races or Point to Point races. The requirements for the races usually force you to change or upgrade your car to meet the requirements and encourages you to explore the many different cars in the catalogue (and the large amount certain to come via DLC).
The car handling is very much a toned down Forza 4, however if you remove the assists you get closer to the Forza 4 experience. The different pace of the game is a change from the more “real” Forza series.
Multiplayer is a bit of a mixed bag, the standard modes are fine, but the missed opportunity is having your Xbox Live friends in your map (kind of like how Burnout Paradise did it).
One good feature is the Rivals feature (returning from Forza 4) which allows you to challenge a friends time after every race in Single Player, as well as you competing against your friends to set the fastest times through the speed traps (the game even helpfully notifies you when your friend has thrashed your time).
There is also a skill point system (tied into a Single Player Ranking system) which is very similar to the Kudos system used in PGR. There are numerous challenges set by sponsors in the Single Player which are tied to these skill points (Pass 150 cars for example) which gives you some incentive to try and be skilful (although if you’re anything like me, being skilful means skidding into a wall at every opportunity).
Forza Horizon is also one of the first games too support XBOX Smartglass. It’s used to show the in game map and you can set your markers on your tablet/Win 8 PC and look at your map without pausing the game. It works quite well and is a good indicator of the kind of things to come with Smartglass.
It’s a good debut for Playground Games and shows that their past experience at their previous companies has paid off when combined. This is the spiritual successor to Project Gotham, and is more than worth the asking price.