I don’t think I was prepared for just how good Forza Horizon 4 is. I’m not a big fan of racing games, but games like Gran Turismo 4 and Burnout Paradise spent tons of time in my PS2 back in the day. Since then no racing game has managed to capture my imagination like those, and I’ve bounced off all of them pretty quickly. I mean, I’ve dropped more than 100 hours into Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but I think cart racers are a whole different category.
That 15 year drought ended this week when I started playing Forza Horizon 4 for PC. I got the game through Game Pass and honestly just wanted to play it for a bit to test out my new PC and see how beautiful it looked. Well, the game certainly looks good, and it’s optimized to run really well on my system, but I didn’t expect to have sunk 15 hours into the game already and have no intention of stopping anytime soon.
I think the thing that Horizon gets right for me is that it’s kinda of a simulation racer with insane objectives. I like simulation style racing games, because I enjoy driving real cars that feel realistic. I like the danger in taking turns a little too fast and having to hold on for my life, but I get bored pretty quickly by the relatively unexciting tracks I have to do this on. It’s certainly satisfying when you figure out the best angles to attack each turn on a race track, but I don’t personally derive that much joy from doing time trials and trying to get new personal bests.
Forza Horizon 4 has a bunch of real cars and they handle in a way I’d describe as hyper-realistically. They feel realistic, but they’re far more forgiving than these cars would be in real life, and the consequences for running into a tree at 100mph are basically nothing. But for me that’s great! I get the realistic feel of a sim racer in a world where everything is fun and over the top. The game is mostly made up of normal races, but these races are quite varied, and then there are a bunch of speed traps, massive jumps, and hidden goodies all around the world you can find. And then there are the highlight events which have you racing crazy things like hover-boats, trains, and planes. These are more scripted sequences than the standard races, but they lead to some really amazing moments and I looked forward to each new one as they appeared on my map.
And can we talk about how this game starts?! The hook for this version of Horizon is it’s seasonal system, which has the map go from Summer to Fall to Winter to Spring, and the map changes in interesting ways all along the way. To get you into the game and to make sure you experience all the seasons quickly, there is a 5-10 minute opening scene where you’re dropped into 4 separate races with the seasons changing between each one. It’s an absolute thrill, and you get to do some street racing, cross country trails, and dirt rallies all within this super small window of gameplay, and it does a better job than almost any game I can think of at getting you hyped for what’s coming in this game. It’s effectively a tutorial, but it’s also something I desperately wanted to play again after it was done. Game developers of the world take note, this is how you do a tutorial.
Forza Horizon 4 has much more going on, and I’m only scratching the surface here. This is a beast of a game, and there is so much to do that I haven’t even touched yet. We’ll see how long this game can keep its hooks in me, but as of right now it’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had with a racing game and I’ve instantly become very invested in the franchise. Turn 10 Studios did a bang up job on this title and I hope they have something even more amazing cooking for the inevitable Forza Horizon 5.