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After the fantastic and successful game that was Forza Motorsport 4, developer Turn 10 Studios had their work cut out for them in producing the next game in the series... and we're going to have to wait and see if they do just that, because what we have here is really not the next game in the Forza series. Instead we have an open-world, arcade-like game which runs similar to Forza 4. Unlike previous Forza games, Horizon is open world and allows you to drive from race to race. The roads aren't empty though, they have civilian traffic to avoid, as well as other Horizon festival racers that you can pull up next to and challenge to an illegal street race. There are a few other things to do as well, like hit the highest speed possible through set up speed traps, drive through signs to get discounts on car parts, or look for abandoned car barn finds, where you can search for classic cars like the BMW M1 and Aston Martin DB5, and add them to your collection for free. When you eventually do drive over to a race, you'll find the game mechanics a lot easier to control than in Forza 4, which has the same game engine as Horizon. By turning up the difficulty and turning off different options like having manual transmission instead of automatic or braking assist, you'll earn extra CR (the currency used for buying cars and parts) per race. I'm not the best racer, but by driving with manual transmission and a few other options off in Forza 4 I would win races and earn approximately 40% extra CR per race. In Horizon however, I found I was still able to win every race in the game without much trouble, but while earning approximately 70% extra CR per race. The game is simply easier to play, and the best way I can describe it is streamlined. Driving off the track onto grass or dirt simply isn't as punishing as it used to be. In fact, sometimes driving off the track and retaining your speed will sometimes help you stay ahead in races, as opposed to sticking to the track. If you ask me, Forza still hasn't found the perfect balance. It was frustrating in Forza 4 when my Lamborghini Murcielago was incapable of doing more than 20 MPH on grass. However, it's also frustrating in Horizon when I get passed by rear wheel drive cars like the Pagani Zonda flying through dirt at 140 MPH with no repercussions. There needs to be something in the middle, definitely a speed reduction, but not something so drastic that it makes the car go unrealistically slow just because the tire has encountered something other than tarmac. Forza Horizon also incorporates driving skill in a new way with driver popularity. You start off as something like the 200 most popular driver at the Horizon festival, and can work your way up as you earn points. Points are earned by showing off skills like drifting around corners, getting your car on to two wheels without rolling, burnouts, and passing opponents. What's cool though is that you can earn these points both in races and in free roam, making your drives from place to place more interesting and exciting than they otherwise would be. The downside of this is that after you've put in about 20 hours of gameplay you're probably already the #1 most popular driver there. It's still fun to hit the perfect drift as you drive around, but it's not as satisfying since you aren't really helping yourself in any way. It would have been nice to see something like earning CR instead of points after you've reached the top slot, especially considering how much shorter this game is than previous Forza games. And that really brings me to the main problem of the game- it's length. Forza 4 was a game that took a solid me 100+ hours until I had just finished career mode. I've put about 30 hours into Horizon and my game completion percentage is at 100%. Literally, I've done everything there is to do in the single player part of the game, and it's taken less than a third of the time it took to do in the previous game (or Forza 3 for that matter.) Now granted there is multiplayer, and it is much more user friendly and enjoyable this time around, but that still doesn't excuse how short the single player is now. I realize that with the open world there is going to be space issues and such, but it's just sad to see how much space is simply gone. What we have of the game is excellent, other than a couple of little things that need tweaking, but put them aside and this is the most perfect Forza game we have ever had. But I want MORE. I just want there to simply be more races, more opportunities, more cars. It's as if Horizon put so much time into getting the content great that they put less emphasis on creating a lasting experience. Of course... it's possible to get more of those races and cars... but it will cost you. The Horizon Rally expansion pack costs 1600 Microsoft Points and adds a ton of new rally stages, 5 new cars, and a TON of excitement. Seriously, all of my most exciting racing moments that I can remember in this game were in the DLC pack. Pulling off power slides on off camber dirt roads at 80 MPH in a Ford Escort Cosworth is just awesome. But I can't shake the feeling that it should have been in the game to begin with. Expensive DLC is something that Forza fans like myself are used to by now. However, in previous games you put so much time into the game in the first place that at least it had been a while since you put out the money for the game. In the case of Horizon though, I just bought the game 2 weeks ago and I'm already putting in 1600 Microsoft Points for a rally pack that should have been in the game to begin with. Just like with the game, it was great, but too short. Add on top of this the fact that I still can't buy cars like the Lamborghini Aventador J without spending more money on DLC and I just feel ripped off. Also keep in mind, you're just paying for the ability to buy these cars with your CR, you don't actually get them. It's absurd. With a game as brief as Horizon, this DLC car crap should not still be happening. The rally pack COULD be justified, but the cars can no longer be. Although this may seem like quite the rant on Forza, I still enjoyed my time with it a lot. In fact, after Forza 4 it's my favorite game in the series that I have played (I never played the first one, but I did play Forza 2 and 3 and like it better than both of them.) The open world exploration is something that was done very well, the graphics are still beautiful, and the Forza experience is still the best there is, regardless of how short it had to be this time around. Truly, Forza 5 should be quite the experience if it manages to top the times I've had in Forza 4, and now Forza Horizon as well.
Cars. That's what racing games are all about. And this is what Forza Horizon does. It makes the cars the stars of the show. Literally. Forza Horizon takes place at the fictional Horizon Festival, a place where car enthusiasts and on-lookers can enjoy the beauty of the automobile. You play as the newbie to this festival, rising through the ranks with your first starting car, a Volkswagon Corrado, all the way up to battle against the best racers of the festival. But again, the point of any racing game is the cars. And boy, there sure are plenty to choose from. This game brings you the nicest, fastest cars you can think of and allows you to put them to your disposal, if you have the cash. From the beauty and strength of the 1970 Ford Mustang to the speed and luxury of the Lamborghini Reventon. You get a vast majority of cars to play with, and driving around open world Colorado is amazingly fun. Also, since the game takes place at a festival, the music is amazing. Three stations allow you to tune into an amazing array of music. Dubstep, pop, and rock are all highlighted in the game's three radio stations, and the DJs talk about things happening in game, from the popularity of the player, to various easter eggs located around the world. The multiplayer in Forza Horizon is a great extension to the single player experience. Much like the multiplayer in past Forza games, however, it can be laggy and a bit hard if you don't have a good enough internet connection. If you can't keep up to speed with other players online, stick to the single player. There's plenty to do already.