Is the move to an open-world racer shaping up to be a wise one? We go hands-on.
By Jason Imms on October 12, 2012 at 3:42 pm
Forza Horizon is an interesting change in direction for the series. Instead of burning rubber on a track, players will be blasting through open-world Colorado as they take part in the fictional Horizon Festival. This is still a Forza game: the green racing line and the focus on careful and considered cornering are still in place, but with them comes traffic, ad-hoc race challenges, and PR stunts and — I’m assuming — much more.
During my limited time with the game, the first thing that really struck me was just how amazing the setting looked this time around. More than once I came close to losing control of my vehicle due to being absorbed by the beauty of the landscape surrounding the track. Track racers are somewhat limited in this, whereas open world racers have the ability to really let their environment designers off the leash. Despite the fact that the game looked as though it had all of the sexy turned on, the framerate was as smooth as a new Duco — at least it was on the debug Xbox 360s that were running the demo.
The handling feels very reminiscent of Forza 4, though the two vehicles that I had available to me in the demo were both rear-wheel-drive muscle cars, which aren’t exactly known for their graceful cornering. Still, even in such a time-limited environment, I soon got a feel for the vehicle and was able negotiate some fairly complex corners without wrecking my totally pimpin’ ride.
While I was ripping Colorado to shreds in my Corvette Something-Or-Other, I happened across a little red hatchback that had the name “Frankie” floating above it. Well, Frankie was in my way and I wasn’t going to stand for it. After unsuccessfully attempting to ram his car off the sheer cliff face, I was prompted to challenge him to a race. “This will have to do,” I thought as I pressed X with a sneer. Given the difference in power between his car and mine I beat him handily, and as a result received some money and enough XP to level up and unlock a new car.
A short distance down the road, I pulled into what appeared to be a marquee full of scantily clad dancers. This gave me access to my garage, car modification, and PR stunts. I had hoped to attempt one of these stunts, but unfortunately the game bugged out and dropped me back into the world. While I didn’t get to try a stunt first-hand, I did speak to another member of the media who had raced against a stunt plane. This is definitely not your daddy’s Forza.
I’m sure that there is some contention between long-term Forza fans over the decision to move to an open-world model, but I for one had a great time with Horizons. I’ve never been a big fan of track racers, especially the more technical examples of the genre, so this was a refreshing discovery. I guess time — and sales numbers — will decide whether or not it will have any bearing on the future of the series.