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REVIEW: Forza Horizon (Xbox 360)

The Forza Motorsport series is one of the best racing franchises in the industry, if not the best. Exclusive to Microsoft consoles, the games have been known for their spectacular circuit-based gameplay that takes place in real world tracks like Nürburgring or Catalunya and lets us drive hundreds of cars from dozens of brands and performances. They’re not exactly simulators like Gran Turismo, but calling them arcade racers feels like an insult. Forza Horizon is a spin-off to the Motorsport series, where developer Turn-10 Studios included a fantastic free-roaming open-world gameplay that takes us to a beautiful world to enjoy car racing in a new way.

The game takes place in a fictional version of Colorado, USA. With an environment full of rocky mountains, canyons, deserts and fantastic-looking streets and highways that make up one of the most beautiful gaming world I’ve seen lately. There’s a storyline to be told in the game, which is very weird in the genre. You’re some guy taking place in the Horizon competition which takes 250 drivers in dozens of different races and other related events. As you advance through the races in the huge world the game takes place in, you’ll earn cash rewards, new cars and of course the option for new and more important events.

The story “cinematics”, if they can be called that, are awkward and do feel a bit out of place but in all honesty, the storyline is just an excuse for having the player drive and race around Colorado. It doesn’t get in the way of gameplay at anytime and all you’ll most likely see is a rival here and there making a forced trash talking comment.

When I first played Forza 3 and 4, I seriously thought the peak of the Xbox 360 graphics was that. Fortunately, Horizon has surprised me once again. It looks fantastic in every way, even the random NPC cheering in the crowds look good. The cars look and feel realistic, they reflect the environment they’re in and sometimes the colors can change depending on the lightning on them, it’s incredible. If you add an excellent-looking world with thousands of different objects, you have one of the strongest-looking games of the generation. Turn-10 does this right all the time.

The graphics recreated perfectly what Colorado looks like with environments that’ll make you want to be there in real life. As I mentioned, there are deserts, canyons, insane highways, mountains and many other places to drive on. The map is HUGE and it can seriously take a few minutes to drive from one point to the next even with a powerful fast car. Unfortunately, there’s no part of the map with snowy areas which could have benefitted the game even more and weather changes are nowhere to be found but trust me, Forza Horizon is one of the strongest games out there graphically.

Since the game takes place in a competition for young American audiences, Forza Horizon changes the musical style of the previous games that felt more elegant, kind of like Gran Turismo. Here, you have several radio stations to listen to both in free-roaming and in races themselves that go from Rock and talking-shows (that get somewhat repetitive quickly) to… Dubstep. There’s a station that’s supposed to play Techno but it’s actually mostly Dubstep. I personally didn’t like the soundtrack at all but it’s there and I suppose a lot of people will like it. Thank God for the Xbox 360 custom soundtrack feature once again. The rest of the sound effects make the game feel even more realistic and complement the fantastic visuals in an excellent way.

The gameplay is an open-world sandbox-like racing game where you can buy, upgrade and decorate cars just like in the previous titles but instead of choosing events via a menu, you free-roam around  the beautiful world map. It has a lot of stuff to do like challenge other Horizon competitors to a one-on-one race, street and drifting events to earn cash in abandoned constructions, crash on hidden objects to earn discounts in the upgrade garage and of course, the main events of the Horizon Competition that are normally a race in a specific place of the map with some conditions like “Class S cars only”, “1970s cars only” and many others. Some of the events even put you to race against a plane or helicopter and they’re amazing.

There are HUNDREDS of cars to choose from a lot of commercial brands like Peugeot, Fiat or Honda and even the expensive stuff we never see in real life like Ferrari and Lamborghini; the DLC offers even more. There are options to upgrade and decorate them with vinyl designs, colors, wings, wheels and many other things. I’m not exaggerating when I say imagination is the limit on Forza’s car designs. In fact, there are players who dedicate to make awesome designs and sell them in the game’s internal auction house where you can of course buy and sell the cars themselves.

Forza Horizon feels realistic and every single car has its own stats like max speed, acceleration, handling, etc. Sometimes they can be really tricky to get used to but a lot of driving assists can help you out and make things easier. I personally haven’t had the opportunity to play the game with a racing wheel but I hear from the official forums that the experience is much better with that controller.

The online modes offer a lot of different styles for players like free-roaming events and specific ones in a single track. The netcode is pretty good for the most part and for some reason, players in Forza Horizon don’t seem to fall into the “crash and trash talk” category, which benefits the game’s multiplayer a lot. Free-roaming events can be a little boring if the players decide to scatter in different parts of the map and the room isn’t full but in general, the multiplayer experience in the game is excellent.

In short, Forza Horizon is a fantastic spin-off to one of the best racing franchises in gaming. It successfully manages to do a lot of thing in a different way and the open-world style fits perfectly with it. It’s not perfect but then again, no game is. I think this title is excellent for newcomers to the genre as it features some of the mechanics that make other titles so famous like Grand Theft Auto. Turn-10 Studios has delivered again with an incredible racing game.

-          Excellent open-world gameplay.
-          Beautiful graphics in the environments and cars.
-          Hundreds of cars to choose from.
-          Gameplay is solid and accessible at the same time.
-          Strong multiplayer and community.
-          Innovative and different in a positive way.

-          Soundtrack is a little repetitive.
-          Rally mode and many cars have to be paid as DLC.

-          Graphics and Visuals….....…..10
-          Music and Sound Effects...…...8
-          Gameplay……………………10
-          Replay Value…………….…..10

-          Overall Score……………….. 9.5 / 10

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