“Wanna race?” We review Forza Horizon

Fans of racing video games will be familiar with the Forza game franchise. Forza Horizon, developed by UK-based Playground Games and published by Microsoft, is the fifth installment in the Forza series. Because of the jump from track races to a purely street environment, Forza Horizon is considered more of a spin-off from the Motorsport titles from the past.

We know this game came out last month, and it’s possible you’ve already read the gaming reviews or watched the trailers. But with Christmas coming up, we’re here doing this review to help you decide whether to buy it for yourself or for someone you know who just likes racing games. We’re certainly not experts, just regular consumers like you.

We gave the game to three levels of players to test:
The expert – a fan of all Forza titles so far and owner of the Xbox system we played on
The enthusiast – plays mostly PC strategy games, owns a PS2
The beginner – likes the Wii, racing and sports games, rarely plays except at parties

Whilst the our testers’ backgrounds were diverse, there was a common thread between them: all were fans of racing games and were riveted by the previews for Forza Horizon. It’s safe to say we had an eager group to work with.

Action for Forza Horizon is focussed on a street racing festival (the Horizon Festival, natch) based in and around Colorado. From curvy mountain roads to meandering dirt trails, you’ll find a diverse range of surfaces to race your car on. The main aim of the game is to participate in the officially sanctioned races that take place periodically as you gain points, credits (money), popularity and upgraded vehicles.

In between the sanctioned races, you can drive around and challenge other drivers to some one-on-one action. If you don’t have an Xbox Live account, you’re limited to single player mode with challengers powered by the game. When in possession of a Live account, you can challenge whomever is on the server at the time. As we played un-networked, we felt that challenging the other drivers was a bit boring after awhile, but a quick adjustment in the game settings raises or lowers the difficulty based on your mood.

Unfortunately, if you’re hoping to play multiplayer mode on the same console, you’re out of luck! Waiting your turn is no fun regardless of your age and no one, including our testers, liked it.

Unlike other racing games such as Need for Speed, Forza Horizon is not a seek-and-destroy-everything-in-sight type of game. Body damage is easily repaired between races by what has to be the fastest mechanic we have ever met. If you flip your car, the game will right your car for you and you can continue the race right where you left off – very nice if you’re a beginner.

The thing we liked about the game was the ability to upgrade and modify your stable of cars as you earned more cash. There were also side quests of finding abandoned cars in barns to add to your stable, there are eight in total (we picked up a 1981 BMW M1 and 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe). In addition to that, you also get invited to participate in races as your popularity increases (a rank displayed on screen) as you hot dog, do donuts or take out fence posts and speed signs.

Currently, there are also a few expansion packs available (6 packs with 6 cars each) distributed monthly until April 2013 for 400 Xbox store credits or you can stump up for the Monthly Pass that will give you ALL of the expansion packs for 4000 store credits.

The bottom line is this game is stunning to view and fun to play. The realistic graphics really do add to the whole experience of just enjoying a racing game for what it is. Again, like we said before, this game is for those keen on cars and mods, not crashes. If you like racing with quests thrown in for good measure, this is the game for you.

Whilst Forza Horizon is currently rated T, we’re not sure why as the only cursing and violence that might be witnessed is between who gets to take the next turn at the controller.

Things to like
Expert: The graphics! Wow! 9/10
Intermediate: The mods were a great thing to get into, especially as you found or bought more cars. There’s only eight barns to ransack, more would have been better! 8/10
Beginner: The Assisted Driving setting for novices like me. Solid 8 or 8.5 out of 10.

Things to dislike
Expert: Hands down, the lack of console-based multiplayer mode. Do. Not. Like.
Intermediate: Multiplayer mode. Things could get dangerous in a single Xbox house. This game is perfect for loners.
Beginner: More quests would be nice. But then, that would probably make it less of a racing game and more of an adventure game, right?

To buy or not to buy?
BUY! The game is currently going for about £35 on Ebay. It’s a bit too early for secondhand copies to be hitting the market. But if you’re on a tight budget, scope out the used game marketplace after the holidays.

Want to play Forza Horizon for Xbox? We’re giving away our review copy (Ed: it’s been opened, lightly used but well looked after) to a lucky fan of our Kelkoo Knows Tech Facebook page.

In order to enter, you have to like our page. Then go to this link and enter your details. Contest ends Monday, 3 December 2012 at midnight. Winner chosen at random. See Terms and Conditions for details.

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