Over the course of a number of days Tim and I have done a fair amount of arguing about Forza Horizon. Maybe it's his love of poe-faced racing 'sims' versus my loathing of having to spend more than 0.5 seconds of any given race with my finger on the brake control.
Maybe it's because we're both contrary bastards. Either way, in the interests of being even-handed you're getting both sides of the argument in this here review. First up, Tim Smith:
Need for Speed: Most Wanted (no, not that one – this rehash, reimagining, reboot, recash) is... what? I'm not reviewing that right now? Whoops!
Excuse me there. However, having just played hours and hours of Forza: Horizon
I can, I think, be forgiven for my confusion between it and nearly every other half-decent and decent driving game you've seen in the last few years.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit's
lovely open worldness? Check.
, erm, lovely open worldness and radio? Check.
DiRT's graphics? Check.
Driver San Francisco's
lovely, erm, open worldness and car handling and, yes, plot?
Yes, plot. For some reason known only in marketing circles, “narrative drives user retention” or something like that has occurred. For some reason simply driving cool cars around stunning landscapes in order to win races is not enough. We need constant interruption from cutscenes.
This, I am told, the very modern thing and I should get over it.
I should. Basically, Forza Horizon
is entirely adequate in every way that the games I've already mentioned already are. There is absolutely nothing in this racing game to distinguish it from the crowd.
It does its job of being a car racing game without making you raise a sweat. It has a certain somatic quality to it; a frog in warming water comfort that enables the following thought to flick from one neuron to the next:
“We don't really need originality to make life easier do we? No. Calm down now. Keep calm and carry on.”
It is the gaming equivalent to that band from that advert with the nice girl singer doing the lovely, nice, adequate cover version of 'Ever Fallen in Love...' Forza Horizon's
satisfactory and adequate landscapes emulate those that preceded it without recourse to anything that could make its consumer feel challenged.
It's car handling is nicely and satisfactorally like the Keanu Reeves remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still
in that it's, well, not really provoking of any reaction other than “Oh yeah, that's vaguely unfamiliar and doesn't upset or discourage me in any way.”
, like a Honda Jazz, does everything asked of it in a thoroughly average and lovely way. Actually it's more like one of those killer whales that have lived all their lives in captivity and have learned to stand on their noses. Quite interesting to watch, quite interesting to play with but, when all is said and done, tame.
The plot is tame. The cars are tame. The landscape is tame. The driving is tame. The AI can be tame; it can also be 'Insane' (of course, this is 'Insane' in the sense that the wacky guy in the office who has a mug with “You don't have to be craazzzy to work here but it helps” is 'Insane', e.g. just insane enough.)
The fact that you can't play against a pal in the same room on split screen is also something that I personally and subjectively object to on ethical grounds. But, hell, I loved Paradise City
, and that didn't have split screen... so who is the hypocrite now? (I am see).
There is, in short, nothing whatsoever to dislike about Forza Horizon
at all. It is a safe investment for you, for Microsoft, for Turn 10 and for Playground, for retail, for all the car manufacturers and probably for your Gran when she buys it for you at Xmas instead of Need for Speed: Most Wanted