Forza Horizon Demo Impressions (Xbox 360)
Gentlemen, and lady folk, start your engines, as a new Forza title is on the horizon! *best pun ever*
It’s clear from the outset this is not your typical Forza game. This becomes more obvious when you notice it’s developed by a company known as Playground Games rather than Turn 10 themselves, but what exactly is in a name? Quite a bit as it so happens, though sadly at first glance there appears to be little that resembles the Forza franchise.
First impressions suggest a completely new direction, akin to being blindfolded, spun around a few times and needing to pin a proverbial tail onto an even more proverbial donkey, all without falling over.
The opening title screen shows a few odd scenes, mainly involving a shiny and uber expensive car in the foreground complete with loving couples in the background taking romantic pictures, to a group seemingly having a picnic and then even a few dodgy looking youths joking around, possibly talking about cars, possibly thinking about stealing stereos. Odd.
Following the start screen comes the real intro to the game as you’re presented with an open road, that is then rather quickly and disappointingly replaced by fireworks, DJ’s scratching your favourite (your favourite maybe – ed.) records and a cavalcade of revellers who probably didn’t notice any kind of automotive presence at all, they’re just there to partaaaaay, in between a few shots of ‘lovingly’ pimped rides.
A strange approach indeed
Don’t stop to wonder what on Earth is going on for too long though as you’re immediately thrown behind the wheel of a 2013 SRT Viper GTS and tasked with ‘hunting’ down a driver in order to reach your first event.
The aforementioned driver being behind the wheel of a Ferrari 599, which in reality would just tear off into the distance but that wouldn’t make a great opening so it’s ultimately a lot closer, just don’t get carried away thinking you’ll have as full control as you might like as all assists are enabled and can’t be changed until after this little chase is over.
Feel free to bump, grind and slide your way to the finish as all damage is purely cosmetic and not mechanical which means your speed remains largely unaffected, unless you were to hit some small obstacle, or even just a tiny rock and whether you were speeding along at 120 MPH or at a steady pedestrian pace you’ll come to the same standstill. Collision detection seems a little off, something that immediately reminds you of the original Ridge Racer, which isn’t a bad thing perhaps, though do bear in mind this is no longer 1995.
Welcome to Colorado.
Your first event is a full-on eight car race, with yourself at the back, naturally. It’s an AWD affair that will of course require a suitable vehicle. Your choice is limited to the rather nice Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X GSR, not a bad start, but a step down from the initial Viper chase.
The racing itself introduces you to rubber band racing at its finest whilst also giving you a sample of the various surface transitions from dusty gravel paths to winding asphalt roads. It’s a nice starting race that quickly brings you up to speed and gives you an idea of the slightly arcadey handling you’ll need to adapt to. The physics are not quite to Forza 4 level, but do waiver just above the usual arcade handling spec also. The happy middle ground?
A second event is also on offer, once you’ve driven to it that is. Yes you heard right, it wouldn’t be free roam without making you get to your own events. Hopefully some kind of quick travel will be implemented in the full version, hopefully, as the roads on offer are quite dull when not racing, littered with generic traffic and the odd ‘competitor’ in another fast car. Presumably online friends will make an appearance in the full release, much like Test Drive 2, presumably (purely conjecture).
Don’t venture too far though, only a small portion is available in the demo, try to venture beyond the boundary and you’ll be spun around, almost emerging from some kind of fog, back to where you began. A lot more freedom beckons in the retail release and with the Rockies in the distance be sure to set the heaters to full, unless you want to be walking like a man-penguin after an intense mating season.
The second event in question is an interesting proposition indeed; perhaps a remnant of the Top Gear partnership in Forza 4 as it’s very much in the vein of one of their famous challenges. You’re tasked with the challenge of pitting Mustang against Mustang. Yourself, behind the wheel of a 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302 and your rival a Mustang of another variety, a P-51 to be exact. Yes, a World War II fighter plane.
It’s a checkpoint race in which the pilot seems able to fly only in straight lines and intent on almost mocking you by appearing at the checkpoints around the same half a second as you do, buzzing past you like a flat top from the barber mainly from the rear, sometimes head-on, despite zooming off into the distance from the word go. An interesting race nonetheless although ultimately not as interesting as the similarly Top Gear inspired Bobsled challenge present in DiRT 3, but it does open the way forward for some challenging ideas. Hopefully.
Once an event is completed it becomes available as a Rivals Events, meaning your friends, if you have any, are free to take on your times and vice versa and beating those means more cash in your pocket, along with the usual bragging rights.
It’s an interesting demo that does open a new avenue, but it feels perhaps a step too far for the Forza name as there is clearly less emphasis on close tight racing and seemingly angled more towards rivalling the recent DiRT inspired approach to a festival of speed, rewarding recklessness over precision. It’s currently dancing a fine line that may or may not be just a little too close to the vein of racing seen from both EA and Codemasters’ ‘arcade’ efforts of Hot Pursuit and Showdown respectively.
With only a fortnight to go before release what you see here in this demo is looking likely to be pretty much what you can expect from the full product. Ready to download right now, now is the time to take the plunge and make up your own minds.
Will it be a day one purchase? Will any pre-order be safe? No time like the present to get out there and hit the open road.