The Forza series from Playground Games has always been a delight for racing game fans. With each iteration of Forza and Forza Horizon, we’ve seen gameplay, audio and visuals improve to the extent that it’s almost difficult to distinguish between game and reality.
At E3 this year, I was delighted to have a demo session with Benjamin Penrose, the Art Director at Playground Games, who informed myself and some of the other media in attendance that to date, there have been 9 million players of Forza Horizon 3 and that the Horizon series in particular is all about having fun in cars with your friends.
Forza Horizon 4, the latest iteration in the series, had its grand reveal at the Xbox Briefing at E3 last week. Set in the gorgeous landscapes of Great Britain, the game comes complete with an environment filled with huge open roads, great lakes and even castles! There’s a great deal and variety of scenic routes as well as a true sense of history associated with Britain in the game, which could be seen right of the bat in the demo.
One of the first things I noticed about the game is just how realistic it looked. I couldn’t take my eyes of the game’s visuals as everything looked incredibly stunning with such precise detail that it felt very much as if I’d been transported to the crisp and luscious countryside of Britain. Everything looked just so real that it was tough to think of what I was seeing as just a video game.
Penrose gave a detailed explanation as to the methods the development team used to capture the detail of the scenery, landscapes and environment of the game. He mentioned that the locations in the game were all real, based on actual locations and that the crew had actually gone to these locations to film every single detail from the ‘woosh’ of the wind to the crackle of old leaves.
Where Forza Horizon 3 was brilliant in that it introduced dynamic weather, this latest iteration of the series brings in something that is just so brilliant, dynamic seasons! That’s right, in Forza Horizon 4, players can race through a variety of different weather and seasonal conditions making for a more realistic game. According to Penrose, each season is timed and lasts for one week. This was incredible to witness on screen as autumn turned to winter and so on, so forth.
Normally, I would have just expected the colours of the surrounding area to change to show an illustration of a change in weather or season but in the demo I saw, I actually bore witness to seasons changing just as they would in real life. If this was in VR, I can definitely foresee my brain being tricked into thinking that I was actually sitting through different seasons. To be fair, just watching the demo made me ‘feel’ the changes as they appeared on screen. The leaves changing colour and falling in game was almost as real as the autumn leaves falling from the ceiling tops at the Xbox Briefing event.
Forza Horizon 4 isn’t just an online only game and can be enjoyed in solo mode, offline as well. There’s also an ‘Auto Ghost’ feature built in to the game, which means that players will never have to worry about crashing into another player when playing solo in the shared open world. This is such a fantastic feature as you’re able to play in real time, technically with others and everyone playing gets to see the same visuals at the same time.
The cars that were on show during the demo were as gorgeous as I had expected with different brands and types available during different seasons, from modern luxury racing cars to old British manufactured vehicles, including the 1931 Bentley. Ever dreamed of driving at top speed on an open road in a Porsche or Ferrari? In the Forza Horizon series you can do just that and Forza Horizon 4 is no different. Not only that but in this particular game, you can race around in the brand new McLaren Senna that was revealed not too long ago (in fact it had its USA premiere at the E3 show floor itself). What I really enjoyed seeing were the non-driveable vehicles riding alongside cars in races such as BMX dirt bikes.
In many ways, gameplay looked extremely smooth, even for an incomplete game. The way in which the cars handled looked incredible and really does allow for a sense of realism.
Another key takeaway from this session was that Playground Games really took on board what fans had requested and built it into Forza Horizon 4, including:
- Expanded blueprint customisation tools;
- Overhauled online adventure mode; and
- The game will release with 60 FPS on console for the first time.
After enjoying Forza Horizon 3, I’m certain that Forza Horizon 4 is going to be an even better experience, especially on the Xbox One X.
While there are several amazing aspects of Forza Horizon 4, the game is still in development and therefore there isn’t too much that can be revealed at this stage. For now, all I can say is that I’m incredibly excited for the visual aesthetics of this title and to witness what’s to come in the near future. Racing game fans are definitely going to want to pick this title up!