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Our social life died a death this week, all in the aid of playing as much Forza Horizon 4 as possible. Was it worth the time, though, and is this a potential ‘game of the year’ candidate?

Tea and scones. One of relatively few quaint British things that missed out on being in Forza Horizon 4, but everything else has been portrayed so accurately I’m surprised Microsoft and Playground Games didn’t put an Early Grey teabag and a copy of Shakespeare in the case.

Yet for a game based in a country where the person who gets walked into by someone says “sorry”, Forza Horizon 4 is enviably confident and brash. Nothing about this game worries about what other people will think.

Being a contributor to DriveTribe meant I was lucky enough to get a copy of Forza Horizon 4: Ultimate Edition over a week before the release date, which I have played to death and back. All for research purposes, of course.

And now that I have reached rank 58, driven 50 per cent of the roads, acquired 68 cars, completed all but three ‘Barn Finds’, racked up a lifetime in jail’s worth of speeding tickets and upgraded my purple Lotus (not a euphemism) so much it practically takes off, I feel qualified enough to tell you whether you should buy it. Just about.

So has Forza Horizon 4 smashed its predecessor out the water and is it the best racing game of 2018? Read on and you shall find out. If it’s no trouble, of course.

Forza Horizon 4 review ─ The Lowdown

Forza Horizon 4 review ─ A Tribe Called Cars

At its core, Forza Horizon 4 is still a racing game. The main difference being that it is known as the ‘fun Forza’ because you can drive around an open-world, as opposed to lapping circuits.

That means the car is still very much the star, which is good because there are 460 of them from 100 manufacturers but not Lexus, Mitsubishi or Toyota. Blame licensing. But so is the world itself, which is a Bubble and Squeak concoction of famous British places and landmarks from Edinburgh, the Lake District, Wales, Cotswolds and more.

No doubt you will have heard about season changes. These take place every Thursday at 14:30 UTC (one hour different to BST), adjusting the entire look of the scenery in the process. For a country where talking about the weather is so common, it is laughably accurate. Yet come rain or shine, Forza Horizon 4 never stops looking beautiful.

The other big change is the move to a dynamic, ever-changing online world. Join a Forza Horizon Session and the world is inhabited with players like you, all looking to build up their credits, purchase a property in the countryside and enjoy cars they are unlikely to own. You can choose to race them, complete challenges as a team or take on 6v6 objective-based events.

Forza Horizon 4 review ─ A Tribe Called Cars

A by-product of being connected is that you get daily and weekly challenges, which reward you with Forzathon points. You can spend this separate currency in the Forzathon shop, with rewards varying from a Bentley Continental GT race car to a new hat for your digital avatar.

As a result, Forza Horizon 4 should keep players going for much longer than in its predecessor, especially when you consider the sheer number of races on offer from every driving discipline, how much there is to explore and all the other stuff you can collect. If you are the completionist type, that is.

It is possible to play the game ‘Solo’. In doing so, AI-controlled Drivatars keep you company instead, but then you lose the random, community element human players add.

Forza Horizon 4 review ─ The Gameplay

Forza Horizon 4 review ─ A Tribe Called Cars

For a game that could easily be a total sell-out, it is easy to see Forza Horizon 4 has been built with heart. Not only does it look impressive, the cars have been lovingly rendered down to the smallest detail, one that a non-petrolhead would never notice.

The way the cars handle is a pleasure, too, unless you drive something really old and really slow. Although even then some may want to remember what it was like to cruise around in a Citroen 2CV6. Hypercars can tackle corners at high speeds, with their rear spoilers keeping them planted, while drift cars wheelspin constantly – even in fourth gear.

Then there is the racing itself, which comes in many flavours. Rally takes you into the game’s lush forests, road racing has you dodging traffic, cross country combines the two and drifting means scoring points for going sideways.

You are also rated on how fast you can drive through a speed camera (both the normal type and those pesky new average speed ones), how far you can jump, how fast you can drive a hire car and a whole lot more. Despite racking up a lot of hours (sorry, health), I still have much to do. But more importantly, I am keen to do it all.

You would think Forza Horizon 4 errs on the arcadey side, but realism hasn’t been forgotten. Just about every car such as the McLaren Senna (made on home soil) has its own unique character, which makes driving always that little bit different. Especially once you start adding upgrades, with the exception of neon lights. That element of British motoring has been ignored.

As in previous Forza Horizon and Forza Motorsport games, you can increase your after race rewards by relying less on driving aids. This makes life more difficult, but losing the racing line, automatic gears, anti-brake lock (ABS) and traction control (TCS) also ups that level of satisfaction when you finally master a car. It also usually means you can go faster, which lets you up the Drivatar difficulty higher and earn even more credits. Assuming, of course, you are skilled enough to win.

Forza Horizon 4 review ─ A Tribe Called Cars

What really makes Forza Horizon 4 enjoyable is the sheer variety. Rarely does ‘the grind’ creep in as each mission type puts you in a new, exciting machine or has you taking a completely new route.

It helps, too, that Britain looks glorious. Green fields littered with sheep who can never be run over, dense autumnally-tinged forests with trees much older than you and stunning valleys with icy cold lakes – those who were planning to visit will be persuaded. There was a time when the demos made it look as if the game would have American sized roads, a move that would kill the personality. But that is not the case.

Graphically, Forza Horizon 4 is sublime, too. So much so that going back to V-Rally 4 almost hurt. On an Xbox One X, it will run in 4K at 30 frames per second. If you prefer, there is also 1080p at 60fps option, which is much smoother but at the expense of detail. Either way, the game is a stunner.

Variety within the missions keeps Forza Horizon 4 exciting, too. The Halo Showcase event, for instance, is so jam-packed with nods to the famous Xbox shooter that you can only smile. In fact, some of Forza Horizon 4‘s greatest moments stem from these Showcases. Just as the grind appears to be sinking its claws in, you end up getting a new car or the latest race features a refreshingly different layout.

Earning prizes is done mostly with the Horizon Wheelspin and its Super Wheelspin variant, which gives you three prizes instead of one. These are loot crates that give you anything from a rare Forza Edition car to a new horn sound. Sometimes even a big pile of cash. Obtaining every item and every car will, therefore, be difficult as luck is a factor. A new toy is never far away.

Forza Horizon 4 review ─ The Negatives

Forza Horizon 4 review ─ A Tribe Called Cars

Being British means being all-too aware of your flaws and Forza Horizon 4 has a few. Although not as many as you might expect. The worst offender is the loading screen, which is seen far too often when trying to earn a three-medal rating and for far too long. Sometimes up to a minute on the standard Xbox One.

Then there is that the odd repeat challenge and some feel like an afterthought, such as last Stunt Driver mission, which mentions a train but you end up jumping over a carriage. Compared with the rest of the game, it is noticeably average.

It is also difficult to know just how good the daily and weekly content will be. Right now, it seems largely similar to a typical race, which could mean it will be repetitive. There is a danger that, once everything else has been completed, you may only return to buy a rare goodie in the online shop. A similar issue for Destiny 2.

This is especially true when you remember Forza Horizon 4‘s British world is the same size as the one in Forza Horizon 3. It took me around 20 hours to drive half of the roads and that was without really trying at all.

Other bugbears include the sometimes impossibly difficult AI and the odd moment where the time to get a three-medal rating would take the driving skills of Colin McRae. In a game that rewards progress, it can be disheartening in these situations. And it means more loading screens.

The dialogue can also be cheesy, though thankfully this is limited to only a few missions. Besides, the mix of British accents adds a great deal of character. And sometimes the physics and graphics systems can have a funny five minutes.

In all honesty, I had to nitpick because Forza Horizon 4 is better polished and more complete than some games five updates and two years after their release. Testament, then, to what having a big cheque book and a talented workforce can achieve.

Forza Horizon 4 review ─ The Bottom Line

Forza Horizon 4 review ─ A Tribe Called Cars

Forza Horizon 4 could have been Forza Horizon 3.5 and the general public would have bought it, but Playground Games and Microsoft never once sat on their laurels. Instead, they have created the most enthralling racing game I have played in years. A shining example that gaming can still delight and that there is a reason to own an Xbox.

And so we can forgive the team for busting out the champagne, jumping into a lake and doing other un-British things. But if the reaction stays true to the game, the reward will be a firm handshake and a civilised “well done” chat over tea and cake. And there is nowt wrong with that.

Forza Horizon 4 is available now. Buy on PC and Xbox One.

Forza Horizon 4 review: Racing Game of the Year?
Beautiful, bold and brilliant, Forza Horizon 4 is the sequel the series deserved and more.
The Good
  • Compelling gameplay
  • Visually spectacular
  • Ever-renewed content
The Bad
  • Lengthy loading times
  • A few lacklustre challenges
  • Best served online
4.7The Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)

About The Author


Ben Griffin is a motoring journalist and founder of the website and YouTube channel, A Tribe Called Cars. He is also a contributor at DriveTribe.

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