Forza Horizon – The Ultimate Driving Game

ForzaHorizon2I admit it, I love driving games.  The ability to go really fast, do stupid stunts, abuse immorally expensive cars, experience horrific crashes and keep going without any tickets, injuries, or impact on my insurance rates appeals to something inside the part of my brain that still thinks I’m a teenager.  I can remember playing driving games in the arcades and on consoles back in my youth.  Many of them were compelling, but they felt very much like I was playing a game.  I loved them but had to suspend too much of my brain to get the feeling of speed that should come with a great driving experience.

Then came the Xbox and Project Gotham Racing.  This was the first time I played any driving game that felt so cool and realistic.  I understood I wasn’t actually in a car, but it was so much closer to that experience than any other game I had experienced.  As the years have gone by, the games have only gotten better: Graphics have improved, physics engines have advanced, and everything game related has become far more detailed.  It has been a wonderful time to be on a journey to find the best driving game ever.  I have really enjoyed that journey and just found the new king of the hill, Forza Horizon.

I recently purchased my own copy of Forza Horizon and quickly loaded it on my Xbox 360 for a spin.  I got a taste of Forza Horizon at the PAX Prime show a couple months back and had been looking forward to getting my own copy.  In fact I was so excited that I had to remind myself not to drive Forza-style on my way home from the store.

Once I inserted the disk, loaded the updates and adjusted the brightness and such, I got to start driving.  The game starts you off in a Viper to get familiar with the controls and how the game responds.  The look and feel is similar to Forza Four only significantly improved.  Rather than just going from track to track, the game is more of a story where you are a new driver in a racing festival.  As Forza employee Brian Ekberg states “it’s a Celebration of Car Culture” and as I progressed through the game I gained a clearer understanding of his comment.  In addition to focusing on the cars and racing, Forza Horizon explores all aspects of car culture.  The new release makes use of the “Open World” concept which means there is an incredible amount road to explore along with cool things to find along the way and cool surprises in unexpected places.   It is even possible to snap a picture of your favorite locations.

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Forza Horizon starts out at the Forza Café where you choose a modest vehicle and start the journey.  The game is centered on a racing festival taking place in Colorado, and there is a map to see where you are and what you are looking for.  The tracks are located all over the map and as you progress through the game, you earn colored wristbands that unlock more tracks tied to each wrist band level.  The map shows the terrain, roads, tracks and other items of interest.  You move the cursor to wherever you want to go, select the location, then hit the red B button until you exit the map and drive.  Once you select a destination, you receive GPS like instructions, along with a green line, guiding you to your destination.

While driving around, you will come across several vehicles that belong to different race competitors.  One of my favorite things is to drive up behind them and hit the blue button.  This challenges them to a street race where you can win extra points.  These points help with buying performance parts and new cars.  There are also 100 Discount Signs along the road.  Each sign you hit reduces the price of new parts by 1%.  The signs show up as a red dot on the map, but only a small number of them are shown.  An additional task is to track down “Barn Finds” on the map.  Barn Finds are classic older exotic cars that you get for free if you can find them.  As the game progresses you are notified of different Barn Find opportunities and tracking them down is challenging, but it is a great way to get to know the area and build up your stable of incredible cars.  If you aren’t patient enough to search for things, you can buy a map that shows the location of all the Discount Signs and Barn Find vehicles in the game.

As the game progresses, your opponents and tracks get more challenging.  It is cool to have the opportunity to drive around, enter street races, choose festival races, compete in PR stunts and choose any open race.  The goal of the single player game (there are also a multiplayer and Horizon Rally options) is to work your way through the races to an inevitable championship race with superstar Darius Flynt and six other drivers for the Horizon Crown and 5,000,000 credits.  After wining the championship you can accept a showdown with Darius Flyynt where you can win 50,000 credits and his Ferrari 599XX which is worth 1,500,000 credits.  The final showdown is actually the longest and most difficult race in the game.  You have to drive pretty much perfectly which is difficult to do even when you learn the track.

ForzaHorizon1Forza Horizon is a challenging game to complete but there are multiple skill levels so almost any gamer can achieve their goal.  The difficulty can also go high enough to challenge the best drivers in world.  The cars and scenery are also the most realistic I have ever seen in a game.  The only unrealistic aspect of the game (besides driving with no consequences) is that it none of the people driving these amazingly expensive cars, have any gray hair.

Now that I am familiar with the primary game, I am purchasing the Rally Expansion Pack and am looking forward to purchasing some of the car packs.

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SATURDAY, JUNE 24, 2017
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