Published on June 21st, 2012 | by CoreySA0
E3: Forza Horizon Preview
If there is one motto the Forza development team loves to use when explaining their games, it’s that their job is to turn car lovers into gamers and gamers into car lovers. Although the Forza has a huge following and fan-base, there is no doubt that they have sort of neglected the more casual fan even though they have always prided themselves on being a brand that delivers multiple settings and difficulty options. Forza has always been a game for auto aficionados, but after seeing what Forza Horizon is offering, there is no doubt that they’re making a full-hearted effort to finally get gamers to become car lovers.
When I first sat down for a private look at Forza Horizon at E3, I was very deliberately told that if I called the new spin-off from the Forza series an ‘arcade’ racer, the meeting would end and I’d be sent on my way. We also received a stern lecture during a hands-on play when we called the driving ‘a little more on the arcady side’. The message was and is clear – Forza Horizon has no intention of being an arcade racer. The team – from Playground Games and Turn 10 Studios – like to refer to their brand as an action racer. When I asked what that meant, I was told that they’re bringing the fun and intensity of racing but without sacrificing Forza’s well-known car physics and without making any compromise in its authenticity. They also wanted to shy away from the arcade term because according to them, arcade racers usually mean the cars have no different feel individually. Forza Horizon will bring over true car physics and specific motion to each individual car.
So what is Forza Horizon? It’s a completely open-world racer that is based off of a real world map of Colorado, USA. The team at Playground chose Colorado due to the immense amount of terrain and environment as well as its historic views and landmarks. Basically – it’s meant for racing. They showed a good chunk of the map and it’s not only huge, but filled with great draw distance and detail. Using technology dubbed ‘UberLD’, they can create up to 20 miles of draw distance, and they mentioned that anything you can see, you can drive. The world is filled with over 65 different surfaces and will bring dirt racing and off-road terrain to the world of Forza for the very first time. In fact, the team at Playground includes some former Codemasters devs who originally worked on the critically-acclaimed DiRT series.
The career is primarily focused and centered around an event called the Horizon Festival. The goal is to become the most world-renown driver in the festival, and you become so by winning races, finishing challenges and gaining XP. What I really enjoyed was how driving to the festival home area on your map would bring you to a camp where you can buy and sell cars, start online challenges, customize your current cars and check on your latest rankings. Consider it a 3D, fully functional menu system without the menus.
Events can also be started by challenging any of the fellow Horizon racers scattered around the world for instant races. XP is gained by pretty much doing anything in the game – drifting, clean driving, dirty driving, wrecking a farmer’s landscaping – you name it, and you’ll probably gain XP by accomplishing it.
Another first for the Forza series that is introduced in Horizon is night racing. In fact, like a living, breathing world, Forza Horizon brings a full, 24 hour clock and day/night schedule. Racing can happen at any point and will be completely dynamic, bringing dusk and dawn with it. I got a chance to check out the night driving and it’s beautiful. Proper shading, shadowing, and car reflections not only surpass that of Forza 4, but possibly top anything that I’ve seen in a racing game to date.
Another ‘fun’ aspect that Playground wants to introduce with Horizon is a fully thought out social system, one that will compare you to your friends lists and constantly update you on challenges and progress that your friends have made. This won’t only cover races and times, but also on things such as how many roads you’ve found and distance travelled.
Kinect has also made an appearance and I must admit that it’s done in ways that may revolutionize open-world racers forever. Horizon has full voice capabilities and is specifically designed to be your very own personal GPS system. Want to know where to go for your next event? Just ask. The game will then give you waypoints to your destination. I saw it in action and I was very impressed on how it worked. It seems as if they’re trying to take menus right out of the equation. Of course, there is a map and other options available if Kinect isn’t a possibility for you.
In fact, options are something that have always been a staple of the Forza series and they’ve changed nothing here. I was told to expect every type of option and setting that Forza currently has – including the ability to turn every car assist to appeal every type of driver. Another great customization tool that is worth mentioning is the fact that returning Forza players are awarded a few different loyalty bonuses for playing Horizon. If you’ve played either Forza 3 or 4 or both – you will be given bonus cars and XP. The greatest loyalty bonus however rests with the fact that if you have any customized liveries or designs from Forza 4, then you can transfer them right into Horizon, so your work can be used once again.
Forza Horizon is also promising a fully-fledged multiplayer which will focus on three areas – Rival Mode, Playground Games – which take place in the open-world, and what`s most exciting is that any event that you can play in the single-player mode can be played in multiplayer as well. While no other details had been given during the E3 meeting, they promised more information soon. The car list will also be named over the next few months before its October 23rd release date. The team told me to expect a list that will fit the environment and the type of terrain it will cover. They hinted at Impreza`s and Lancer`s for more dirt-oriented races.
Overall, my impressions of Forza Horizon are glowing and I can’t wait to get my hands on it later this year. The cars feel fantastic and the racing is fun, intense and fast. It is by far one of the best looking racing titles I have seen, and that’s impressive considering they’re still months away from release. This is definitely a title fans will definitely want to keep their eyes on, and I have a feeling they’ll convert a few gamers into race fans as well.
–Forza Horizon will release on October 23rd for Xbox 360.