The next Forza iteration takes its stand, I’m assuming to try to get into the competitive street racing genre. If you haven’t heard of this one yet, here’s the deal on it:

Push the limits of speed and automotive performance in the first open-world Forza experience! Forza: Horizon blends cutting-edge cars with cutting-edge music, sending you hurtling toward showtime at a giant Colorado music festival. Hit the wide-open roads on the highest peaks in the American west with the freedom to roam and the horsepower to do it. Race against a stunning backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, winding through breathtaking landscapes and high mountain passes, or hit the dusty wilderness trails for off-road action. Choose from an incredible collection of cars, all re-created with lifelike detail and tuned for the ultimate driving experience.

Overview

Overall, this is a good game, but only if you don’t compare it to Forza. Compare it to the other street racers out there and you’ll more than likely be satisfied, but if you only compare it to the past Forza games, you will be disappointed.

The Menu

This one is kind of strange, there really isn’t a menu. The menu is it within the game itself as part of the world. There’s quite a few areas where the menus are so I tried my best to kind of sort these in order. Your main options include Race Central, Autoshow, Dak’s Garage, Paintshop, Marketplace and Car Club. Pressing the start button opens more options which include Map, Multiplayer, Photo Mode, Message Center, Sponsor Challenges, My Profile, Stats, Achievements and Team Credits. I’ll break each one down, so I’ll apologize in advance, this one’s going to be a long one.

Race Central

First, there is somewhat of a story to this game. Forza Horizon is an annual racing event, the current year (2012) takes place in Colorado. Your goal is to be the best and beat the winner for the past 3 years, Darius. You are first introduced by racing Darius, but then he overtakes you. You hear on the radio that the next 10 people who make it to a location will be entered in the Horizon event. This is when your game starts. You earn wristbands to let you compete to the next level. Race Central is where you primarily collect these wristbands. Once you have a wristband, you can race any or all of the events associated with that color.

There is a leveling up system in place but it’s primarily for unlocking the next level of races. After each race, you obtain points and credits, which are the in-game currency. After you obtain the required amount of points, you unlock the next wristband. After you complete some races, Race Central has more options for you. Monthly Rivals contains 8 events that change on a monthly basis. Rivals is a mode in the game where a real person has completed a track with a good time. Your goal is to beat that time. You don’t have to race that person as a ghost race has been recorded that you get to race against, so it does make you feel like you are racing someone for the most part.

Completing the rival race, according to the game, earns you bragging rights and credits. Yet most of the rivals I raced, I’ve never had contact with over Xbox Live, so I’m not sure about the bragging rights. It’s not a bad mode, but the problem with it is that it gets very repetitive very quickly. Some rival races only earn you 500 credits, so it becomes a tedious task fast. You are offered a rival race after every normal race you complete.

The next section under Race Central covers the Festival Events. These are all 70 events in the single player mode that you can race rivals over and over if you wish. Unfortunately there are only 2 different modes of racing for Festival Events, Circuit Races which are a number of laps and point-to-point or sprint races. I thought they would have really mixed this up, maybe adding drifting races or something else, but unfortunately these are your only two. The only variation between the two are restrictions on each race, you will have to meet certain requirements in order to participate. I did make a couple quick videos of each race so you can get an idea:

 

 

Festival Events are categorized by the wristband colors. There are 7 of them that you can obtain throughout the game. To give you an idea of a rival race, I did make a video of it, although I decided to choose a F150 Raptor and it didn’t keep up with the old school Lambo:

Next are the showcase races. You can play the rivals in here as well. There are 10 showcase events throughout the game. To unlock showcase events, you have to gain popularity. You start out ranked 250th. You gain rank by performing skills which I’ll go into detail in a little bit. After you reach certain popularity levels, you unlock showcase events. Showcase events have you doing crazy things like racing an airplane, hot-air balloons and helicopters. A couple of them are more simplified having everyone with the same exact vehicle with no modifications, so only racing skills will earn you 1st place. If you do win 1st place, you win the vehicle that is provided for you in the showdown, otherwise you only win credits. It’s strange to be honest, some will have you redo them a few times but they are all obtainable. Here’s a video of it as well:

Street Races is the last category. There are 3 locations that you end up unlocking as you progress through the regular festival events. Each location offers 10 street races. Street Races are the same as point-to-point races, except there’s traffic and it’s more open causing you to not always follow the correct path. After completing all 10 races in one location, a random car is given to you to add to your garage. Here’s a video of a street race so you can compare:

 

Autoshow

The autoshow area is where you go to buy and sell cars. Now when I mentioned that you don’t want to compare this one to the other Forza games, this area is one of the reasons why. There are not nearly as many vehicles as there in Forza 4. The way the game is set up, you only use extra cars for the races you need them in, otherwise your top 5 cars will typically help you beat the entire game.  There really isn’t much to this area although it is much faster than Forza 4 auto showcase, meaning switching and viewing different vehicles. I did notice there are no test drives available, you either buy it and drive or pass it up. Also one more note, if you do happen to have Forza 4, because you are a loyal fan, it adds 8 or 10 unlocked vehicles to your garage which was a nice little bell.

Dak’s Garage

This is the area you will to visit to upgrade your vehicles. There’s a few more menu options in this as well. Auto Upgrade allows the game to decide the best upgrades for you depending on what class you want to have. Custom Upgrade allows you to pick and choose what upgrades you want. Upgrades are sorted in the normal Forza categories which include:

  • Aero and Appearance
  • Tires and Rims
  • Engine
  • Platform and Handling
  • Drivetrain

I’m not going to break each one down as there are tons of things you can upgrade, as you know if you played prior Forza titles, but for what it is, most of the upgrades are available in here. The real gearheads will be disappointed that there isn’t any tuning included at all. Once you upgrade something, you have to call it good. I understand that this iteration is taking a different approach to get Forza into the street scene, so I didn’t expect all the technicalities of the Forza series to be here.

My Upgrade Setups allows you save custom upgrade setups per vehicle to do a quick change as a lot of the races have you changing classes, yet being able to use the same car, very frequently and if you don’t trust the auto upgrade, then this is the option for you. Barn Finds is kind of neat, you will hear of a rumor of a barn that has an old junker in it. Your task is to locate the junker so Dak can bring it back and restore it for you. You find some really classic and rare vehicles. There are 9 of these in total. Once Dak completes the restoration, he gives a little brief overview of it and you can then use it in your normal races. The last option you have at Dak’s is to change your vehicle.

Paintshop

The paintshop allows you to add designs to your vehicle as well as changing the colors. There’s more options in here that are available. The first is Design Creator which has the following options. Paint Car simply allows you to change your color, as well as change the type of paint such as metallic, matte, etc. Add Decals allows you to add pre-made logos and vinyl shapes and letters. It uses the same system found in Forza 4.

Create Vinyl Group allows you to create and save your own vinyl group to use on other vehicles.  My Vinyl Groups is a list of all of your saved vinyls. FM4 Vinyl Groups allows you to import your designs from Forza 4. Last, Clear Design lets you start from scratch. The other options include Load Design, Design Storefront which is an online store for the community where you can buy and sell custom designs, and last you can change your vehicle from within to spread your designs among various vehicles.

Marketplace

The Marketplace area just has all of your online content available. Popular Cars allows you look at the most popular cars in the community. Car Manufacturers are just sorted by the manufacturer. Car Packs are discounted deals on quite a few cars. Season Pass,  if I recall, allows you all of the released DLC for a year. Tokens are purchased with Microsoft Points to be used in the game if you don’t have or want to earn in-game credits, although the game does allow you to earn a lot of credits so it’s probably not necessary. Popularity Spike can be purchased with tokens and allows you to increase your popularity level at a much faster rate. Treasure Map is a map of all of the Barn Find vehicles as well as the Discount Signs. There are 100 discount signs scattered throughout the map and each one offers 1% off the price of upgrades. Finding all 100 gives you free upgrades. Extras I’m assuming is new tracks or something although nothing is being offered right now.

Car Club

The Car Club is kind of neat. You can create your own car club or join another club. If you create your own, you can then Invite Members to join your club. There are settings within your own club that allow you to name your club with a 4 letter/number acronym. Club Description allows you add a brief description of your club. Invite Setting lets you change from public to private invites and lastly, you can Save your club options.

Club Leaderboard keeps track of your club and members race times. Club Rankings shows the progress of your club against all of the other clubs in the Forza world. Club Garage allows you to share out your cars within your club so everyone can use them. Club Info just shows a short summary of your club info that you created initially. You also have an option to quit your club as well.

Those are the options that are the in-game menu options. As I mentioned when you press start, you get more options so I’ll go through those now.

Map

The map shows a lot of detail about your objectives through the Horizon event. You can filter specific things such as certain races, discount signs, new events, etc. You do have GPS so you can set routes to go where you want. It is somewhat of an open world, but a lot of the roads you are stuck with rails, whereas other titles are truly open and you can go anywhere you want. The more open roads are in the country areas where you can do a little offroading. There are dirt races as well, so it’s a good mix between dirt and asphalt.

Multiplayer

You can access multiplayer anytime when you are in the single player mode. Surprisingly enough, there isn’t any local multiplayer with this one. You can only play multiplayer online. Multiplayer is categorized by a few options which I’ll break down as well. The first option is to Find Game. You can search for regular public games that are kind of like playlists. They are sorted by the following categories:

  • Beginners
  • Social Racing
  • Veteran Racing
  • Pure Skill
  • Playground

Each section has a brief description but they are pretty self-explanatory except for the playground. The playground is a crash course where you just run around and crash into each other. It’s fun at first, but then gets a little boring. It’s nothing like Burnout Crash so don’t expect some amazing crash course mode.

Find Custom Game allows you look for specific game modes. It’s sorted into the following categories:

  • Circuit Race
  • Point-To-Point Race
  • Street Race
  • Infected
  • Cat And Mouse
  • King
  • Free Roam

The first 3 are self-explanatory. Infected is a fun mode where someone is infected and they have to crash into other players to spread the infection. Whomever survives the longest wins the match. Cat And Mouse has you in 2 teams. The Cats have class S cars and they have to assist their mice to win the race. The Mice are in a class D car so move slowly. You basically want to crash into other cats and mice in order for your mouse to win. It makes for an interesting game. King mode is also quite fun. You want to crash into the King to obtain the crown. Your objective is to hold the crown as long as possible. You lose the crown when someone crashes into you. Last, free roam just lets you do whatever you want in the world.

There’s also an option to Create a Custom Game using any of the options, I didn’t go through all of it as there are a lot of custom options per race mode. Difficulty allows you to change your difficulty settings such as turning damage on, adjusting your race line, traction control and more. The more difficult you make it on yourself, the more bonus credits you earn. Lastly, you can invite friends and club members to your race that you are participating in. A note about the multiplayer, there is a level system in here as well separate from the Single Player mode. Each level you gain spins a wheel kind of, and you either win another vehicle or credits.

Photo Mode is similar to all of the Forza’s photo modes. You can set your car up in some type of scenery and take a picture. You can then share that picture with the Forza community or whomever you wish.  The Message Center gets messages from the Forza community as well as the developers. In Forza 4, sometimes you get gift cars, but the majority of messages in this one only have suggested rival races.

Sponsor Challenges keeps track of all of your sponsor challenges which are your skills categorized by certain things such as drifting, drafting, speed, etc. There are 10 ranks per challenge which all count towards your popularity level. Completing a rank gives you more bonus credits. My Profile allows you to adjust your in-game settings such as Controls, Difficulty, HUD, Audio and Video settings. Stats keep track of all of your in-game stats such as time played, miles driven and more. It also keeps progress of the Discount Signs found, Roads Discovered, Speed Traps and Speed Zones. Speed Zones are certain sections of road that calculate your average speed in a short distance. Last, you can view Achievements and Team Credits.

Horizon Outpost

I wasn’t sure where to fit this one as this is the last thing available throughout the Forizon World. The outposts allow you to fast travel between locations if you don’t want to drive the entire time, however they cost a little bit to travel there at first. You can make them all free by completing PR Stunts. There are 10 outposts located throughout the Forza world. There are 3 types of PR stunts per outpost. The first is Speed Stunt. This is basically a quick run to pass a speed trap past a certain speed. There are speed traps scattered throughout the world as well. The second PR Stunt is a Photo Shoot. You have to drive to a certain destination without damaging your vehicle and take a picture of the requested background, such as having 2 windmills behind your car. What’s odd is there isn’t a time limit at all, so you can take your time getting there.

Lastly is the Skill Stunt. This is probably the most challenging. You have to get a certain amount of skill points, such as 20,000 within a certain amount of time. You have to do whatever you can to get points such as near-miss collisions, drifting, etc. The key is to keep your skill multiplier going all the time. If you don’t do any skills within a certain amount of seconds, then the multiplier resets. The last 2 options available at the outposts are the Garage and the Paint Shop.

Better With Kinect

Since this is such a long review, I didn’t want to put the Kinect verbage within the review as some people may just want to know about the Kinect features. Well, sadly enough, the only Kinect feature available is to use your voice to talk to your GPS unit. You can say GPS Race Central and it will automatically mark the route for you. I was looking for another AutoVista or even being able to drive again with Kinect but it’s not available. Overall the voice GPS add-in does not make the game better nor is it necessary. It really doesn’t help when you are trying to discover all 216 roads and you have to pinpoint certain roads which makes the Kinect voice feature useless. It’s cool at first, but then becomes useless and you end up just using the map the normal method anyway.

Smartglass

This is another title using the new smartglass feature. The smartglass transfers your map to any smartglass enabled peripheral and uses real-time tracking to show your position on the map as you drive. I tested it out on my phone with its small screen and its barely visible. I then tested it with a 10″ tablet which was better, but not much. The PC worked the best maybe because of the larger screen, but to glance back and forth isn’t even feasible. I suppose if you had a racing rig setup and mounted your smartglass device next to it, it may help, but you end up paying more attention to the route in the game than the map itself. It’s neat at first, but then becomes less useful as time goes on. I did take some screen shots of it so you can get an idea:

Graphics and Sound

The graphics in this one seem to be better than all of the previous Forza titles in my opinion. Because there’s a day cycle in the game and you race during all times of the day and night, you can see headlights reflect off your rear of your vehicle which just looks good in my opinion. Damaging your vehicle show some details as well. The sound for the vehicles is all authentic as usual, and this is the first one with a real soundtrack. The soundtrack has quite a few songs and it’s the best soundtrack I’ve heard in a while. The music has quite a few remixes as well as normal rock/alternative songs such as Neon Trees – Animal.

Conclusion

For the first Forza title into the street racing scene, it’s quite fun although you really have to like racing games as it gets repetitive. It just seems there are more things to do in other street racing games. The lack of vehicles probably doesn’t help either, although SUV’s and a Truck are in this one more or less for the off-roading which makes it a little more interesting. It took me about 15 hours roughly to complete the entire game, so there’s a lot to do but I didn’t feel like it would take forever as previous Forza titles have. If you get bored with racing, there are a few other things to do as I mentioned previously so it’s borderline of boring.

I think since it is the first introduction to street racing for the Forza series, it’s a good entry. I hope they keep this Horizon event going and each year we get a new location. I’ve never been to this area of Colorado, but it seemed pretty authentic. It’d be great to race all over the country in specific locations. I do feel, although some people might not agree, since street racing is illegal, we need police to chase us. Police always make the street racing scene more exciting. As for the rest of the game, there’s not a lot we haven’t seen before (besides the beautiful graphics) but because it’s Forza it’s new for now.


This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Forza Horizon
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