Forza Horizon – loads of wasted potential

Forza Horizon for xbox 360 is out for about two weeks now, enough even for a part time player to get some time behind the wheel. Offering an explorable open world right from the beginning of the game, it’s a different story than any previous Forza game, which were always about racing on closed, both real-world and fantasy circuits.

Driving on the same courses over and over again quickly got very repetitive, especially if you played the previous instance of the game. Since I played Forza 2, 3 and 4 to some excess (like maximum player level, close to all achievements and stuff), by the end of my Forza 4 phase, the only thing that kept me driving was the enormously motivating rivals mode. Rivals mode is about posting laptimes on certain tracks and beating your friend’s (and if you’re good enough the world’s) best time on the leaderboard. At best, this turned into a back and forth of cutting milliseconds off of each other every night which was super fun for a couple of weeks. Turn 10 kept new monthly content coming to keep people interested and did quite a nice job with this.

Due to the countless repitition though, the later part of the single player game felt more like a job than an actual game, especially since the races in the last season of the career had a loooot a laps and just took what seemed like forever to complete. With Horizon, they have taken on this point by spreading races across the wide area of a fictional Colorado that not only makes for different scenery with its interpretation of the Rocky Mountains, small and larger towns, beautiful autumn-colored forests and wide open backcountry-like areas but also practically eliminates repitition. Almost every course is different from the one before, even if located in roughly the same area. The game also includes a seamless day/night cycle, which introduces even more diversity. On the other hand, diversity in racing modes suffered quite a bit from the previous game. There are no drift-events, no drag races, even the fun-mode car bowling was removed from the game. So while the game offers loads and loads of non-repetitive tracks, pretty much the only game mode left is a standard race for the first place to the finish line, which is a bit disappointing, considering the game takes place around a music festival (what the heck does this have to do with a racing game?), which would have been like the perfect setting for these kinds of more fun oriented driving. They did include one side-mission-kind-of-thing which is finding old wrecked cars in barns. But since there’s only nine of those, I almost missed mentioning it. Also, these cars are not limited to being owned through finding them, they can also be bought from the car shop.

One thing that also annoyed me quite a bit was the fact that they did not include Forza 4’s revolutionary idea of presenting races to the player that matched the car the player liked (drove at the time). Instead they are back to the annoying Need for Speed like approach of starting with a slow car and improving cars throughout the game meaning races will continue to demand faster and more expensive cars all the way, ending up in having to drive very fast cars for like the last quarter of the game in order to complete it. I enjoyed the idea of being able to stick to my favorite car (the ’69 Dodge Charger R/T) throughout the game and only shifting to another one if I wanted to. In Horizon, most events require certain classes and cars, sometimes manufacturers and it does not matter a tiny bit in what car you arrive at an event. I’m either not a good enough driver to compete in those fast cars like a Pagani Zonda, but at the end of the day, I feel racing cars that I might actually own and have a “realistic” speed range is much more fun than driving exclusive and expensive supercars. I cannot comment on whether they handle realistically anyway, so I don’t see the point really. Anything above S700 is just not for me.

The list of cars also got cut down significantly. From a whopping 400+ cars (on release day, the number even grew through numerous DLCs) to only 125 cars in Horizon is quite a disappointment. Sticking to one manufacturer is not as fun as it used to be since apart from a couple of brands, there are mostly only two or three cars from one brand. Brand identification suffers from this imho.

In Horizon, the goal is to become the festival’s champion by, at the end of each round, winning races against a rival. These rivals are presented in short ingame cutscenes before each race in that round. They slap out clunky patter in a horrible german dubbing which is just so sad and so much of a missed opportunity. It totally lacks to make you want to beat that opponent, fails to build up any feel or aggression towards the rival and in the end, it just doesn’t make you care. It’s more or less a must to beat the rival instead of a want, which it imho should become over the couple of races the rival takes part in within each round.

Then they got off-road events. Finally! But they don’t have any true rallye cars. Just some standard all wheel drives like a Subaru Impreza or the Mitsubishi Lancer. But hey – they announced a DLC package on off-road-racing before the games was even released. That makes it better … NOT! It’s just a slap in the face. We got used to games receiving patches before they even are in stores. But getting DLC before being released is just pure frickin’ greed in my opinion. This is just sad and hurts the Forza franchise in my opinion. Well, allright, in the end it’s all everybodies darling, Microsoft, but still … I felt like Forza used to be different. A game finished on release day, no bad bugs and a gorgeous experience. This DLC politics just don’t fit.

So, to get this over with … After beating the game within 6 hours of driving time, I guess you’ll second that the game is rather short also. At least the single player part of the game. To have some sort of proof I actually did complete the single player, here are some screenshots (sorry for them being german):

Invitation to the last event

Stats at that point:

Won the Horizon finals. This was particularly amusing. The other events up to that point were for around ten to maybe fourty thousand credits. This one gives 8 million. wth?!

Won the race against the last rival

Credits screen

As soon as my ISP connects me to the worlds again on friday, I’ll get my hands on the multiplayer part as well, but I doubt I’ll find anything exceptional there. At least I look forward to playing rivals mode with my friends again.

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