Let me preface this by saying I'm not a writer or a professional game reviewer. I'm just a random dude on the Internet who loves cars and video games and loves it even more when the two come together. So here we go!
I was lucky enough to receive a retail review copy last Monday and have been playing it excessively ever since. Infact I already beat the whole damn game. Yeah, it's fun.
For those not aware, Forza Horizon is the latest game in the Xbox 360 Forza racing series. However unlike previous titles which center on racing around real world as well as imaginary race tracks, Horizon is an open-world game, meaning there's a big huge map/world of roads, complete with traffic. Races are done on these streets, sometimes with traffic but mostly without. The location is a fictionalized version of an area in Colorado with some canyons but mostly a lot of forests and open-ish areas.
What I Like:
- The graphics. I keep having to remind myself that the Xbox 360 is 7 years old! Crazy what they can do with such dated hardware. That said it's obvious it's still a console game. For example the car models in the rear view mirrors are hilariously bad. The PC gamer in me wishes something like this would come out for the PC so I could see it in glorious 1080p (or better) with the graphics cranked up.
- The location. Racing games that revolved around tracks never appealed to me all that much. How many times can you go around the same loop before it gets boring? What if you just want to cruise around? That's the advantage of a world-based racing game like this one. It's not Test Drive Unlimited style where you can literally go anywhere you want (you have to stick on the roads) but that's okay. That just means they can invest their time in the roads themselves and make them look good instead of having to worry about some hill 5 miles from the nearest road. There's also fun things like speed cameras and a leaderboard for each one.
- The physics (for the most part, see below). Yes, really, I like them. I own Forza 4 and Gran Turismo 5 and have barely played either of them. In order to properly appreciate a sim game like those two, you pretty much have to have a wheel and be really dedicated to refining your driving skills to shave seconds off your laps. You can't just jump in and have fun. On the flip side, the silliness of Need for Speed physics and stuff is too far in the other direction. You shouldn't just be able to go into a corner at full speed and just powerslide through it. Horizon is a happy medium.
- The soundtrack. Only three radio stations but each has a decent sized track list so you won't find yourself constantly listening to the same song over and over again. The music choices are also really good -- there's an electronic/house channel, a smooth channel (indie sorta), and a more traditional rock channel. I actually ended up turning down the sound effects in the game so that I could better hear and listen to the music.
- The cockpit views. Every single car has a cockpit view and each one is gorgeous. Normally I don't like driving cockpit views in games because the like to shake the car about as if the camera was attached to your head but it's more locked down in Horizon so that the car isn't jumping all around the camera frame.
- The car customization. Classic Forza style. I wouldn't expect anything else and need I say more?
What I Don't Like:
My complaints are few but I do have a couple:
- Unpaved roads. They missed the mark on this one. The physics when on dirt just don't feel right, perhaps too much grip, I'm not quite sure -- I can't put my finger on it. All I know is DiRT did it so much better, especially being able to do awesome things like powerslide through a corner with complete control. In Horizon, it's just as if they took the pavement physics and reduced the grip level (in turn increasing understeer). The constant vibrating all over the place effect with the camera is also super annoying.
- Unpaved racing. I could totally get behind having some rally cars, SUV, trucks, etc. and using those to race in any of the races that use unpaved roads but they don't have those. They have a WRX STi, an Evo, a Ford F-150 Raptor, an SUV or two, and that's about it. In higher tiers, they actually expect you to use a Lamborghini or the equivalent for the "AWD required" races. Somehow I don't think a Murcielago would appreciate being taken off-road.
Additionally the gear ratios on the Viper are too short. It's in third at 100 MPH when it should be down in second probably. The exhaust note also isn't quite right, not enough growl and then scream to it. That said, it's super awesome driving a car I own in a video game in cockpit mode. Very weird feeling too.
Lastly here's a few in-game photos I took:
(warning, huge ass images if you click)
Want more? Here's some press photos they included and yes the game actually looks this good.