Forza Horizon 4 Review

Richard Walker

Forza Horizon has become synonymous with gorgeous, exotic locations, so naturally, it stands to reason that Britain would follow the lush jungle climes and spotless beaches of Australia and breathtaking landscapes of Western Europe and Colorado. We jest of course, but when you're a UK resident like myself, it can be easy to forget just how beautiful the British countryside can be.

Set in and around the picturesque Lake District and historical city of Edinburgh, Forza Horizon 4 is every bit the high-speed virtual holiday that its predecessors were, depicting a romantic, idyllic Blighty from behind the wheel of some of the world's most exclusive cars. It's a jaw-dropping location, all picture postcard countryside with pristine sheep-filled fields and rolling green hills.

If you've played the previous Horizon games, you'll know the drill by now. You work your way through the ranks of the über-cool Horizon Festival with all of the oh-so hip people showing you the ropes during your rise to the top, which means mastering a number of racing disciplines in a variety of awesome vehicles and some not-so-awesome ones. There are some old things, some new things and a couple of activities that have been cut from the game, like the always enjoyable Bucket List, but there's a huge surfeit of stuff to see and do in FH4.

While Forza Horizon 4's corner of the UK isn't quite as diverse as Australia, the changing seasons more than make up for it, transforming the entire map for spring, summer, autumn and winter. Once you've raced through the lengthy prologue section of the game, which has you qualifying for the Horizon Roster by working your way through each season, earning 'influence' to level up and progress, the game opens up, unlocking a glut of online options and other content.

Upon coming out of the other side of the prologue, the seasons also settle into a cycle that changes with each passing week, bringing with it a series of limited-time special events for that season (it's currently autumn as we write this), and a differing terrain and look across the map. Winter is all cold, crisp, snowy whites and battleship grey clouds, while muddy autumns are painted in warm orange and red hues, spring transitions into April showers and dewy grass, giving way to summer as it brightens up the landscape with blazing sunshine and clear blue skies.

Forza Horizon 4's seasons are far more than just a quick palette swap; they alter your driving experience and change up the map, freezing over or thawing out bodies of water, for instance. As you delve deeper into the game's multitude of events, you'll discover numerous racing series across various disciplines including off-road Dirt Racing, Cross Country, Road Racing, the fast and furious Street Scene, and even the Forza Festival Drag Strip. Replacing the absent Bucket List, meanwhile, is a selection of story missions, arguably one of FH4's best new bits.

Starting off on a film set as a stunt driver with a wearisome no-nonsense director calling the shots, there are ten movie scenes to complete involving jumps, speeding away from fighter jets and indulging in general mayhem, and later on you'll unlock Drift Club with score targets to beat for – guess what? - drifting. Up in Edinburgh, there's the World's Fastest Rentals showroom wherein you can take some of the game's most expensive cars for a spin, and down near Derwent Water, you'll be able to take part in the antics of annoying live streaming sensation 'Laracer', who almost sounds like Jean-Ralphio's sister from Parks and Rec.

These latter story chapters are particularly neat, as they reference ten different racing games, paying tribute to each, like giving you a Ferrari Testarossa in a hat-tip to Outrun, an off-road buggy for some Smuggler's Run shenanigans, stock car racing Daytona USA style, a spot of Crazy Taxi madness, Ridge Racer powersliding or a PGR Kudos challenge (a game Laracer always thought could use a reboot, apparently). As well as all of this new stuff, Forza Showcase races are back with a bang, pitting you against a series of (mostly) outlandish vehicles, which we're not going to spoil here. With only five to tackle, we were left wanting more of these.

Plenty of other Horizon staples return too, like speed traps, danger sign jumps, and barn finds, while wheelspins are back with the new super wheelspin awarding three items in one go. And while that sounds cool, clothing items and emotes for your avatar (yes, you can dress your character up now), as well as novelty car horns are also included in the prizes, so you won't always get that lovely car you're after or a nice chunk of cash. Skill points have changed too, falling under the heading of 'car mastery', meaning they're now tethered to each individual vehicle. This gives you plenty of opportunity to spend your many hard-earned skill points, but does kind of encourage you to stick to a few favourite cars, which seems a little odd.

When you're not completing objectives solo, you can plump for co-op, PvP or pit your racing nous against rivals, and the Horizon Blueprints are back in the mix too. Team Adventure, the always exciting multiplayer playground games and convoys are joined by Forzathon Live, cropping up at random intervals to invite all-comers to congregate and take on a series of team-based cumulative targets together for big rewards. Forza Horizon 4 succeeds once again in providing a seamless blend of compelling single and multiplayer content across its open world, ensuring you're never lost looking for stuff to do.

There's always a marker of some sort on the map to head to, and getting there is half the fun, as you tear across roundabouts, charge through flagstone walls, chase around sheep, run over hedgerows, trade paint with tractors, and bounce o'er vales and hills. Racing Drivatars is still fun too, as you jostle with your friends, or rather AI versions thereof, making the stakes so much higher than if you were competing against a bunch of random names.

Forza Horizon 4 handles like a dream, perfectly riding the line between arcade accessibility and sim, and looks absolutely incredible, as it always does. Is this the best Horizon game yet, though? Quite possibly. It's certainly close, but with the addition of seasons that completely transform the entire map and ample knockabout fun in the story chapters, Horizon 4 edges the chequered flag, making Britain's roads and verdant countryside look improbably stunning. One of the finest racing games on Xbox One, Forza Horizon 4 is endlessly playable, a real treat for the eyes, and stupidly fun.

Forza Horizon 4

Building upon everything that has continued to mark out the Forza Horizon series as something special and unique its own right - beyond being Forza Motorsport's carefree sibling - Forza Horizon 4 demonstrates once again just how recklessly entertaining driving roughshod across an open environment can be. Revelling in what makes Britain great, Forza Horizon 4 also proves once more that Playground Games is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to delivering a polished, deep, and thrilling open-world racing experience.

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While I'll always gravitate to Timeless FM for some transcendent classical tune-age, almost every musical taste is catered for on the in-game radio (kudos for the inclusion of personal faves QOTSA and Jack White), and all of the requisite engine noises and such are excellent. The achingly trendy Horizon Festival folks do chatter a little too much, though.


The Forza Horizon games never disappoint in the looks department, and number 4 is no different in that regard. A showcase for the graphical horsepower that the Xbox One (particularly the X) is capable of, Horizon 4 makes the UK look like a pastoral wonderland.


Never anything less than an unbridled joy to play, all bases are covered for racing aficionados of all levels, with a variety of options, assists and settings to tailor the experience. Crucially, Forza Horizon 4 is just insanely good fun and infinitely playable.


Polished to a startling degree with 450 ludicrously detailed cars in its garage, eye-wateringly gorgeous expanses, more modes, options, events and race disciplines than you can shake a gearstick at, Horizon 4 is the complete package. No complaints here.


Dialling back the grind, FH4's achievement list goes for spread rather than longevity, although reaching level 200 won't exactly happen overnight. The achievements encourage putting the time in and exploring, but not to an insurmountable degree.

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