[gameinfo title=”Game Info” game_name=”” developers=”Playground Games” publishers=”Turn 10 Studios / Microsoft Studios” platforms=”” genres=”” release_date=”October 23, 2012″]
When I sat down to play Forza Horizon, I didn’t quite know what I was going to be getting into. To me, racing games mean highly cartooned characters, different variations of karts, and infuriating flying blue turtle shells. Sure, I had heard of Forza Horizon, but I had never before sat down and played a serious racing game before. So, no matter how the game ended up being, it would surely be an experience. One that was sure to shape my future opinion of the racing genre. Thankfully, Horizon didn’t do me wrong. In fact, Horizon is one of the better games I have played in a long time.
Forza Horizon sets you right in the middle of the Horizon racing festival in Colorado. You’re the last qualifying person to make the annual tournament, so you have to work your way up from the bottom and prove that you belong in the race. Luckily for you, the game offers an impressive amount of cars and customization options to help you get there, just like past entries to the series. Unlike past entries in the Forza franchise though, Horizon is set in an open world environment where you can drive and do what you please. Want to drive around and check out the scenery? No problem. Want to drive around until you find a random group of people to street race against? That’s no problem either.
Just make sure you have practiced a bit before hand. Horizon doesn’t offer any sort of tutorial or explanatory text. You’re set down in the middle of a race at the beginning, and told to swim or drown. The game has a challenging amount of difficulty, and practice is nearly a necessity. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of races or challenges to partake of to put your driving skills to the test.
Winning races isn’t everything in Horizon though. Popularity matters as well, and a big part of the game is driving around, performing stunts and challenges to get your name known, gain sponsor bonuses, and move up the popularity rankings. Doing these things pretty much consists of showing off. You can drift around corners, donut your car around, perform burnouts, jump off hills, run over signs…virtually any sort of stunt you can think of will net you some kind of popularity points. This adds a sort of whimsical feel to the game that makes things incredibly fun. You’re basically being rewarded for goofing off. Who wouldn’t want that?
The graphics were something I absolutely loved as well. When you first boot up Horizon, you’re met with a gorgeous scene of a lone character leaning up against a car, looking at a cliff. “Wow, it looks so lifelike,” is the first thing that came out of my mouth, and wow is pretty much the only way to put the graphics of this game. In this age of gaming, gamers tend to overlook graphics as an afterthought. With the type of technology available, it’s pretty much a given that every game will at least look passable. When I got past the initial cut scenes of the game, I literally just drove around for an hour, staring at the different environments. Every single one impresses, and I was in awe at how unbelievably beautiful and life like everything was.
If you own a Kinect, then Horizon’s GPS system, which does exactly what a GPS system does in real life, becomes voice activated. It’s a cool little feature. You can basically talk to your GPS to set waypoints and routes to different places on the map. It works really well, and I found that it didn’t register my voice only a few times. I only found a few problems with it. For one, the game doesn’t tell you that it can’t be used for the first bit of the game. That would have been useful information to know, as I sat there saying GPS to my TV many times, wondering why my Kinect wasn’t working. The other problem was that it worked so well it made me want more features. Maybe a voice command to challenge other racers, or one that allowed you to shift. In the end though, these small annoyances were forgotten.
Another thing that was just a tad bit annoying was how completely and utterly unrealistic every single supporting character in the game was. They were over the top, and their dialogue felt forced. The good part about this though was that they didn’t take up very much screen time. The developers clearly recognized that driving was the strong point of the game, and that’s where the focus lies.
Forza Horizon also offers a multiplayer mode. It’s the standard fare for the most part. You have a few different options including regular races, a tag like game, and a free roam mode for driving about with your friends. It was a nice break to check out the multiplayer, but to be honest, I didn’t play it for long because every second I tried it I wanted to be back in the fun of single player mode.
Overall, you need to pick up and play Forza Horizon. You owe it to yourself to play one of the best racing games around. It has amazing graphics, a solid, fun storyline, and addicting gameplay. You will not be disappointed.