The Outerhaven Badge Of Recommendation

Perhaps one of the finest racing games of our generation

Back for another go at it, Playground Games Forza Horizon 4 is the latest open-world racer to grace the Xbox One and Windows 10. Last year’s entry was one of my favorite racing games and didn’t think it could be topped. Yet, here comes the fourth game in the series that looks to show us that we haven’t seen anything just yet.

Game Name: Forza Horizon 4
Platform(s):  PC (reviewed), Xbox One
Publisher(s): Microsoft Studios
Developer(s): Playground Games
Release Date: September 27, 2018 (Ultimate Edition), October 2, 2018 (Standard & Deluxe)
Price: $59.99/$79.99/$99.99 (Standard/Deluxe/Ultimate)

One of the biggest additions to Forza Horizon 4 is the dynamic seasons; Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. When those seasons do come over, each one has races that are unique to it. With Spring you’ll find out the dirt roads have been replaced with mud, while the Winter drops snow everywhere, making your drive a bit more challenging. All of which force you to drive differently unless you want to run off the course or end up last in the races. They’re also something that needs to be experienced in the game, as it’s hard to put them into words. They’re such a good way to not only prolong your gaming experience. but the dynamic of seasons is akin to seasons changing in real life. Like right now, as much as I love driving in the Summer, there’s something about driving down a road during Fall, with the leaves falling and blowing behind your car as you run over them. Then again Spring brings those lovely mudded tracks, which are fun as heck to drive through. 

As the seasons cycle through you’ll also be presented with seasonal challenges. These are only available for that season, so you’ll have to run through them all before the season timer is up. So if want to knock out all the winter challenges and run out of time. You’ll need to wait until winter comes through again. Keep in mind, seasons cycle out once per week once you make it to Horizon. Until then, the season changes depend on the amount of Influence you have, which can be gained  through events, as well as by watching Forza Horizon 4 streams on Mixer while your game is open.

<em>Forza Horizon</em> 4 - racing in the snow

Outside of the seasons, there’s still a vast amount of events that you’ll need to tackle before you can progress through the game. These events are also really interesting, as they have you competing against not only cars but other vehicles. Fancy a race against a hovercraft, a jet or even a train? Well, those are just a few of the events you’ll find in Forza Horizon 4. There’s even an event that has you hopping into the Warthog from Halo, with Cortona navigating you through the course. I hope we get more of that. Sadly, the bucket challenges from Forza Horizon 3 are not in this iteration of the series, having been replaced with a multitude of different races, as well as the seasons. While there’s enough here to satisfy my craving, I really enjoyed finding a car on the side of the road, wondering what new challenge awaited me.

Of course, the main star of any racing title is the cars. Those sexy beasts of rage and metal that propel us at speeds faster than we should drive them. Here in Forza Horizon 4, there are over 400 of them at the start, with many more on the way in the form of DLC and updates – that’s a lot of cars.

So let’s talk about what’s different this time around. Previously there was a skill tree that affected all the cars, things have been changed. Instead, ear car has its own skill tree. So when you’re joyriding in a specific car and earning influence, you’ll use that earned influence on that car.  Which means you’ll want to use those points and acquire as many skills as you can, otherwise you’ll waste the points. If you don’t want to use them on skills, you can also use them on in-game rewards.

<em>Forza Horizon</em> 4 - skill tree

As far as handling is concerned, for the most part, the cars are easy to control. Of course, there are several variables that play into this, such as how much power they put out and if you’re able to handle that. As well as over and understeering, downforce and even tire pressure. Thankfully, you’re able to adjust these in your garage. So it’s really hard to say that a car handles good, because I may like a certain setup and you may like yours a different way So let’s just say that your mileage may vary and if you don’t like how your favorite car handles, then take it to the garage and tame that beast. While you there be sure to play with the spoilers, paint your rims or get a new set. Add a livery, change your window tint – go crazy. Just about every aspect of your car can be changed. Make it your own personal ride, then drive it like you stole.

Forza Horizon 4 is the single most beautiful racing game that I’ve ever laid my eyes on. 

The folks over at Playground Games must be wizards because this game is perhaps the most beautiful racing game I’ve ever played. From the car models, the landscapes, the lakes, and the houses.  When it comes to those sexy beasts, damn near all of them look like their real-life counterpart. Practically uncanny. As for the world, I encountered a strip of stores and inadvertently crashed into them during a race. When I reversed I noticed that the shops were not only super detailed from the outside but also from the inside. There are even moments where I found myself looking at a counter adorned with several bottles of wine and stools and the signs on the wall with writing on them. I found myself here trying my best to see if I can make out that writing. Another instance had me stopped at a house and looking inside, noticing this huge TV mounted to the wall. It’s just the little things that simply blew me away. Not because they were there, but because this is a racing game and here Playground Games is giving us as much detail as if it was some sort of open world adventure game. The only thing that’s missing is being able to get out of your car and enter the buildings.

As for the in-game music, the selection trumps the previous games. A nice collection of electronic, hip-hop, bass and several of types of music round out the music. Seriously, whoever curated this list needs to be praised because I haven’t found a track yet that I didn’t like.  Even some of my favorite jams from the past made it into the game. There’s nothing like speeding down the street with the top down, blasting Eric B. & Rakim’s  “Don’t Sweat The Technique” or  A Tribe Called Quest’s  “Award Tour”. I can’t even begin to count how many times I started bopping my heard when those tracks came on. There’s something for everyone here and it’s a truly amazing feeling when the right song comes on during a race or when you’re just cruising along.

My only gripe with the game is that we don’t have a way to add our own music. In Forza Horizon 3, we had Microsoft’s Groove service and while it was eventually closed down we should still use Ondrive to keep the functionality. I would have liked to have seen at least this come back, but it’s a minor gripe. Playground Games, if you’re reading this please patch this in a later update. Music aside, the most important thing when it comes to racing games; the engine sounds, are amazing. There’s nothing like the roar of an engine as you speed down a road, or listening to the WOT as you switch gears. Here, FH4 does not disappoint as the audio direction is easily one of my favorite things with the game.

Performance issues no more

Those who’ve played Forza Horizon 3 on Windows /PC, know that the game has had its fair share of issues. Framerate issues, massive stuttering, controls that felt like you were driving underwater are just some of the issues that still exist to this day – despite Playground Games and Turn 10 Studios’ herculean efforts to correct them all. It’s those issues that finally made me give up playing Forza Horizon 3 on my PC and instead on my Xbox One X. It’s these same issues that had me questioning what the outcome of Forza Horizon 4 would be on the PC platform. Was this going to be more of the same?

Thankfully, Forza Horizon 4 is nothing like its predecessor when it comes to performance. Testing the game on three different PC configurations, I was able to maintain a solid 60FPS on all of those. With the beefier machines, 1440p and 4K while running at 60FPS or above was easily obtained. No stuttering, no dropped frames, no compromises. It’s nice to see that the woes we saw previously haven’t carried over to this game. Thanks to Playground Games taking the PC gaming scene’s feedback seriously, we have an amazing experience on the PC platform that equals (or surpasses) that on the consoles. 

PC Specs of Review System:

  • AMD Ryzen 1800x
  • EVGA GTX 1080 Ti Ti SC2 GAMING
  • G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 32GB (2 x 16GB) DDR4-3200 Memory
  • Microsoft Windows 10 Pro
  • Samsung 960 EVO NVMe M.2 500GB 

If you have a PC that has been built within the past six years, then the game will run smoothly at the baseline 1080p 60FPS. As far as the options go, there’s more than enough here to tweak and customize for those wanting to push out either more performance or visuals. However, it’s worth mentioning that at the time of the review there was an issue if you forced 16x AF/Anisotropic Filtering. I spoke to Playground Games and they stated an update was coming that would address that. 

forza-horizon-4-pc-visual-options

How’s the online

I’ll be honest, I haven’t had much time with the online component, due to the network features only recently being made accessible. Outside of that, I have encountered multiple issues that constantly drops me out of an online session. One look over on the Forza forums will reveal that other people are also having this issue with the online infrastructure. What I did get to play, though, was several matched races that tossed me onto a team and pitted us against another team. This, of course, ended up being a colossal mess as all the racers were crashing into each other. I know this will get better as people become used to the game, so I’ll revisit this in the future. Though, I’d love if the online racers were actually ghosted cars…

Conclusion

When I reviewed Forza Horizon 3, two years ago, I didn’t think that Playground Games would be able to top it. Yet here we are, with perhaps the finest racing game to ever grace the Xbox One and PC. There is so much content that will assure that you won’t complete the game anytime soon, including the online system that extends your playtime.  Not to mention it looks great, plays amazing and can even get gamers who aren’t even into cars to give it a spin. Forza Horizon 4 is definitely the total package. 

Playground Games has done it again, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Review Disclosure Statement: The Ultimate Edition of Forza Horizon 4 was reviewed using a review code provided by Microsoft for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.

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Summary

While I didn’t think Playground Games could do it again, they absolutely have. Not only does Forza Horizon 4 surpasses their previous entries, but the addition of dynamic seasons helps to push longevity of the game and is well done. Tossing in a huge selection of cars and fun-filled challenges, this game does not disappoint. A game for both car lovers and gamers who love going fast, even if they’re sideways while doing it.

Pros

  • Dynamic seasons help change up the experience
  • Fantastic music selection
  • Just about everything in this game is amazing.

Cons

  • Ok, how are they going to top this game next time?
  • Online component could use some work
Overall
5

About The Author

Keith Mitchell
Editor-in-chief and all-around good guy!

Keith Mitchell is the Founder and Editor in Chief of The Outerhaven. A grizzled IT professional during the day, but a passionate lover of video games after his 9-5 grid. Loves playing the Dark Souls series and has been gaming since he was 6 years old. You can find him on Twitter as @Shadowhaxor or you can email her at keith.mitchell@theouterhaven.net.

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