One summer a dozen friends and I did a cross-country drive from Denver to Telluride, avoiding pavement whenever possible and camping where ever we happened to be as sundown approached. It took a week to go what is about 6.5 hours on the interstate. Winches were in frequent use and at one point we had to dig our way through a snow covered pass in the middle of July.
Colorado has never felt as small as it is in Forza Horizon. Lots of guard rails and unbreakable fencing cut off the majority of the real estate. The roads in the game also seem a lot straighter and wider than I remember from my drives in the Colorado back country. I haven’t noticed any place that I have to really pay attention to speed to avoid driving off a cliff even if the game would let you. Overall it doesn’t take that long to travel from one corner of the map to another. I’m not really seeing the need for a fast travel system between outposts, but I guess I’m not the ADHD target market. I’ve played about 6 hours over 3 days and have driven around 70% the roads, found 68% discount signs and uncovered 5 out of 9 barn finds. I was kind of hoping the world would be large enough to take more effort to explore. As is, I’m going to be done exploring this weekend. I think I made it through 3 songs before the radio got turned off, so the music festival is a bust, but there is no option to turn of menu music as in FM4.
As Turn 10 repeatedly has stated this isn’t Forza Motorsport, but they can’t seem to cut the cord and insist that it’s still Forza at its core. To me that means all comparisons to Forza are valid. I see this as the 4th edition of the Forza franchise on the 360 where each release has had more focus on the casual gamer and less on the car enthusiast. At least this time they were up front about it. I’m finding Horizon lame. The lameness of a corporation trying a little too hard to be one of the “Xtreme” kids while turning it’s back on core fans of an existing franchise. The dude bro attitude of the cut scenes and game overall grates on my nerves. I wish I could just disable the cut scenes altogether. I would gladly trade the cut scenes for more cars on the game disc.
Racing so far hasn’t been all that interesting. I’m into the blue events at this point and it’s still just 3 lap sprints around tiny tracks. In FM4 I took 3 gametags through season play and to driver level 150 and one through all the events. I started all of them here to pick up the unicorn for playing during launch week, but can’t see playing the solo career more than once. Rubberbanding in racing seems much more apparent than I’ve ever noticed in a FM game. In FM4′s low classes I’m used to running away from the competition, but here the AI are usually right behind me to the end. If I blow a turn I can catch up which was usually a lost race in FM4. Also why no rear view mirror? It’s still nice to know where someone is behind you street racing. It all comes together to feel more like a juvenile arcade game than I was expecting.
Hell, none of the “driving” encourages you to keep your car on the road. You get popularity points for smashing everything in sight. The game seems to encourage poor driving habits which leads to poor online etiquette: corner cutting, rail riding and intentional ramming seem to be par for the course. I just don’t have the patience to deal with assholes online when I’m trying to relax, so I probably won’t venture much into multiplayer.
Car selection is weak, really weak and probably the biggest downfall to this game. I’m looking at porting car designs I did in FM4 and less than half made it to Horizon. FM4 has around 550 cars at this point excluding the dedicated race cars. Here we get around 130. Japan seems very underrepresented considering there are almost as many cars from Ferrari as all of Asia. A season pass nets us another 36 in 6 packs of 6 for FH vs FM4′s DLC of 12 packs of 10 and the 30+ Porsches and a few odds and ends like Hyundai and Viper. Porsche missing yet again from another Forza release is disappointing. I was hoping when they got it sorted for FM4 they would have gotten FH included.
Playground games hasn’t learned anything from Turn 10 on running the messaging system. The user should be able to delete any in game message once it’s read or the DLC it advertises is installed. It pisses me that there are 16 messages in my FM4 message queue (some over a year old now) I can’t get delete advertising crap I bought ages ago. I also don’t need rival messages for every freaking speed trap one of my friends beats me on. I think I got the game before most of my friends, but haven’t played it nearly as much. I logged in last night and there were 30+ messages of friends beating speed trap times.
The lack of tuning bugs me, but it’s not a deal breaker, none of the driving I’ve seen so far requires a perfect setup. But, they carried over the FM4 upgrade parts system as is. There are 2 problems with this. Many of the race level parts required adjustment for best effect and some like the race transmission can hurt your performance unless tuned. Telemetry’s gone too, which makes sense. If you can’t adjust your parts, why let the player see how poorly his car set up is working. I haven’t really noticed this being a problem with the cars I’ve driven so far, grip seems exaggerated and handling is overly forgiving compared to FM4. Playground games should have either dropped race parts altogether or hired some of Forza’s tuners to set up the race parts for best effect.
The other problem with just porting FM4′s upgrade list is the lack of appearance parts from a racing game to a game that should be all about ricing it up. Add on bumpers, wings, side skirts are part of the culture, and FM4 has traditionally been pretty hit and miss in this regard. In FM4 you might have one car that has a choice of 5 bumpers, another gets only 1. I rarely worried about it racing, I either added anything to reduce weight or for adjustable aero, rarely for looks. Even with the very limited car choices I’ve already run across several cars that are going to look stock, period. Another missed opportunity would be lighting kits. Throw it in the paint shop like window tint. Default is none, but let the user pick a color and you get an underbody neon add on. It seems like a no-brainer with a night cycle finally.
Another odd design element is all the menus are rotated about 10 degrees. I guess this is supposed to look “Xtreme”. In most places this design aesthetic isn’t really that big a deal, and I didn’t bother me until I went into the paint shop and screen space for painting is eaten up by this menu system running diagonally across the screen. This makes the screen seem unnecessarily cluttered. As a painter I don’t like it and can’t see doing much work in FH. If I do new designs, I will probably work in FM4 and just port them to the new game. The games menu structure is also kludgey. Why force me to waste time driving around the festival to enter the different areas that should just be under a well thought out menu structure? Just give me a straight forward menu system if I don’t want to dick around with driving in circles to buy a car, upgrade it and paint it. The online storefronts for vinyls and designs still exist, but seem to be oddly shoehorned into the paint shop and just doesn’t seem as user friendly as FM4, the Horizon’s design aesthetic seems to be the problem here. Also if you are going to make me drive to Dak’s garage to upgrade, why not make it look like I’m pulling into, you know, a fucking garage instead of yet another parking lot surrounded by ravers and hood rats with a tent in the distance.
I got the LCE version and really am not seeing much benefit yet to the extra $20. 5 DLC cars, 5 fugly paint schemes, some tokens and the VIP membership. We’ll see if being a VIP is worthwhile in the long run.