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Petrol festival: what is Forza Horizon?

Wednesday, 3 October 2012 13:46 GMT By Stace Harman

As Forza Horizon gets set to roll out next month, Stace Harman speaks to Playground Games’ design director Ralph Fulton to find out how the game fits into the wider Forza family.

Forza Horizon

Forza Horizon is Playground Games’ first title, but the studio features industry veterans who have worked on a number of racing franchises including Project Gotham, Need For Speed, Split/Second, Colin McRae, DiRT and F1.

While franchise fans won’t be able to import car lists from previous Forza titles, Horizon will reward you with a host of vehicles if it detects a save file for either Forza Motorsport 3 or 4. The level of reward will be based on how far through those games you progressed.

Those eager to check out Horizon’s full car list have a wait ahead of them yet: Microsoft is to drip feed the full range of vehicles right up to the game’s release at the end of October.

Forza Horizon features 66 licensed music tracks that constitute over six hours of music, all hand-picked by British Radio 1 DY, Rob Da Bank.

For those struggling with what Forza Horizon is and where it fits in the broader spectrum of both Microsoft’s critically acclaimed franchise and the racing genre as a whole, Playground Games design director Ralph Fulton has a message for you.

“[Forza Horizon] is all things to all men and I mean that in the best possible way. You can really have whatever experience you want with it and play it however you want,” he pauses before adding, “But I guess that doesn’t really help people pigeonhole it, does it?”

No, Ralph, it doesn’t. So, instead, how about this: Forza Horizon is like the series packed up its bags and went on holiday, in the best possible way. It’s chilled out, willing to try new things and much more open than its more serious Motorsport cousin. It’s also ready to party at the drop of a hat. Underneath it still belongs to the Forza family, as evidenced by its obsession with providing the authentic driving experience that diehard Forza fans crave, but it’s also eager to meet new people with a ready smile and laid back attitude.

Those worried that this is tantamount to the series dumbing down needn’t fret; the familiar Forza physics have been applied to more than 60 road surfaces and there’s the added depth and breadth of both on-road and off-road racing. There’s also a multitude of options, offered on a race-by-race basis, which will enable veterans to toggle the numerous assists that will be so welcoming to series newcomers. Want to ride without ABS, traction control and that telltale green racing line? No problem. Want to graduate from automatic to manual gears and then move onto using clutch control too? You can do that. But for those that have perhaps been intimidated by Forza Motorsport’s adherence to authenticity or turned off by its po-faced, almost clinical presentation, Forza Horizon is an ice cream on a sunny day.

“What we’ve done with Horizon is make a game that’s absolutely compatible with that Forza DNA,” assures Fulton. “So, it’s all about quality and passion, innovation and authenticity but expressed in an entirely different way. We’ve done that by asking ourselves what car experiences we can bring to Forza that the series hasn’t already afforded. The core promise of Forza Horizon is it’s the first time were allowing you to take the car away from the race track and drive on the open road with your stereo up loud.”

That’s not just a metaphorical stereo, either; music is a key part Forza Horizon’s identity. If you’re thinking that the notion of the Horizon festival around which the game world is built is a gimmick or a feeble attempt to cash-in on some imaginary cool factor, then stop it, stop it right now. The Horizon festival is a key differentiator not just to other Forza games, which have rarely been lauded for their soundtracks, but also to other racing titles. Three in-game radio stations play a variety of Dance, dub step, indie and rock featuring the likes of The Maccabees, Arctic Monkeys, The Chemical Brothers, Skrillex and The Enemy. Even if you’re not particularly keen on a particular genre or act, you may be surprised by what your ears find appealing when you’re cruising an open road with the sun at your back or tearing up a canyon pass at dusk.

The Horizon festival acts as the hub, where you’ll return again and again. You’ll head there to receive your next festival wristband that entitles you to enter higher level events, to tinker with your growing menagerie of vehicles, soak up the festival atmosphere and revel in the adulation of your growing fan base. Your popularity with the festival goers is the game’s mark of how successful you are, which Fulton likens it Project Gotham’s Kudos system. While discussing Forza Horizon’s influences he also references both DiRT and Colin McRae and it’s clear that here is a developer who is proud of his team’s heritage and the fact that its veteran members have worked on a number of well regarded racing series’ in the past.

Outside of the festival, events are dotted all over the wide expanse of Colorado: from A to B sprints, off-road circuit races, night races and showy festival events in which you’ll race against a variety of vehicles from planes to helicopters to hot air balloons. During extended play it’s clear that the structured events are necessary, but when you’re not racing there is something really quite delicious about turning your stereo up loud and driving against the traffic, while the GPS system tells you to “turn around when it’s safe to do so.” The colour of freedom is Colorado sunset red.

I come away from Forza Horizon with a smile on my face and an extended play list of songs to add to my music collection. These are the memories that linger after spending time with Horizon: it’s feel-good, it’s as difficult as you want it to be and it’s a huge amount of fun. The events lend structure as well as a necessary sense of progression and are well tailored to suit a variety of tastes and play styles, but it’s the intangible sense of freedom that lingers.

“The undirected experience of Horizon is harder to quantify than simply listing the different kinds of races,” confesses Fulton. “It can be thought of in terms of us creating an open world that we’ve filled with stuff, but it’s also a world that we’ve filled with great roads; roads that are fantastic to drive on and that might reward you with something as simple as a great view.

“Another thing we’ve been trying to get at is providing that feeling of freedom that you get from the best open-world games. Here we go to something like Red Dead Redemption, which is probably the best example of an open-world in this generation. Our intention is to provide a world that’s so rich and so immersive that it rewards you just for exploring it. But that can be something that’s very difficult to articulate.”

Actually Ralph, I think that sums it up pretty well.

Forza Horizon arrives exclusively on Xbox 360 from October 23 onwards.

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3 Comments

  1. Iliad

    Looking forward to it. I don’t recall seeing anything in the media about whether FH uses Kinect head-tracking like on Forza 4 – can anyone on VG confirm this?

    I absolutely love the head-tracking in cockpit view on Forza 4 and see this as an essential inclusion on all Forza titles going forward, given the added reality it offers.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. SlayerGT

    I think I would be more excited if it were just Forza “on roads” instead of tracks. This notion of festivals and music doesn’t do anything for me. I like cars, engines, going fast, designing cars (I’ve spent 20 hours in the livery editor vs 5 hours racing in Forza 4). I’ll try the demo, but I’m honestly low on expectations. Have they even said how many cars are in the game?

    #2 3 years ago
  3. Stace Harman

    @1 It’s not come up in any of the chats I’ve had with the developers; the headline Kinect feature is the voice-activated GPS.

    @2 They’re keeping that under wraps, it seems. See the boxout up above for a note on the car list.

    #3 3 years ago

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    Pillars of Eternity, which still stands as the second most-funded video game on Kickstarter, finally releases today. It’s also getting some rather positive reviews scores, which we’ve rounded up for you. The isometric, party-based RPG from Obsidian Entertainment was one of the first video game projects to take to Kickstarter, and hit its $1.1 million […]

  • Take an in-depth look at Evolve’s Behemoth monster and four new hunters

    Evolve’s fourth monster, the Behemoth, as well as the four new hunters are shown off in new gameplay video. Evolve’s latest gameplay trailer gives everyone a good look at each of the four new hunters and the massive Behemoth monster. The hunters can be bought either separately or though the hunting pass, while the monster […]

  • PS4 firmware update 2.50 causing issues with Killzone: Shadow Fall

    The suspend/resume feature in PlayStation 4′s 2.50 firmware update is causing some issues with Killzone: Shadow Fall. Killzone: Shadow Fall developer Guerrilla has said that the game is experiencing some issues in some instance where the suspend/resume feature is used. The timing of when players put the game in suspend mode does have an effect, […]

  • Bungie on Destiny matchmaking: “We believe there’s no substitute for a pre-made team”

    Crazy though this may seem, it’s possible that Destiny shipped according to plan. History points to community as a crucial component, far from the contingency that many now suspect. Paul Davies spoke to Bungie for clarity. “The community always engineers the best solutions for bringing players together. While Matchmaking is a great resource for introducing […]

  • Bloodborne works with suspend/resume, but only offline

    PlayStation 4′s newly-added suspend/resume feature works with Bloodborne as you’d expect, but only while offline. PlayStation 4 received the long-awaited suspend/resume feature today as part of firmware 2.50, and people are starting to test it out with various games. Bloodborne does work with the feature, but only if you play offline. Playing online is arguably […]

  • This is what Crossy Road looks like in first-person

    Crossy Road is fun and addictive. But in first-person, it’s mostly frightening. YouTube user Andy Front Films likes Crossy Road so much he decided to show off what it would look like in first-person. If crossing roads quickly and watching around for cars and trains, all of this as the camera chases you felt intense […]

  • Take a small behind-the-scenes peek at Mass Effect 4

    BioWare cinematic director Ken Thain has given us a very slim look behind the scenes at some motion capture work from the upcoming Mass Effect game. The upcoming Mass Effect game, whether it ends up being called Mass Effect 4 or not, will most definitely incorporate some form of motion capture work. How do we […]

  • Borderlands: The Handsome Collection – 8GB day one patch on PS4, 16GB on Xbox One

    Day one patches for Borderlands: The Handsome Collection are pretty hefty. Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of Borderlands: The Handsome Collection require players to download lots of gigabytes to make the experience as smooth as possible. The PlayStation 4 version has an 8.31GB day one patch. The Xbox One version however has […]

  • Get a PlayStation 4 with Bloodborne and The Last of Us for $435

    If you’ve been waiting for the perfect game to get to buy a PlayStation 4, there’s no better time than the present. Amazon is offering a good PlayStation 4 bundle at the moment. For $434.99, you get a PlayStation 4 console, The Last of Us, and Bloodborne. The Last of Us is of course the […]

  • Upcoming Battlefield Hardline patch to nerf the K10, buff battle rifles

    Battlefield Hardline’s first patch will focus on weapon balance and a few changes have been proposed. Battlefield Hardline lead multiplayer designer Thaddeus Sasser posted a few of the balance changes that the team is considering for the next patch. K10: reduce bullet damage to 33 Saiga and PTR: reduce recoil to bring more in line […]

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and a new Resident Evil game coming this year, according to research firm

    According to digital games analyst SuperData, a new Resident Evil game is due this fall and that this year’s Call of Duty is Black Ops 3. In its latest report on digital console games, research and analytics firm SuperData revealed that a new Resident Evil is coming this fall. “We anticipate this month’s downturn to […]

  • Bloodborne: you can add gestures to your messages

    As players get deeper into Bloodborne, they keep uncovering so many of its little new additions, including this one. Bloodborne, like all of the Souls games before it, allows players to leave messages for other players. These messages could be used to point players towards impending doom, treasure, or just be sarcastic and witty. What […]

  • PlayStation 4 firmware update 2.50 is now live

    PlayStation 4 firmware update version 2.50 has started rolling out. Reports are coming in saying that Yukimura, PlayStation 4′s firmware 2.50 has been made available to download. The update is clocking in at just 245mb, so get downloading. 2.50 brings with it many new additions, including the suspend/resume feature, backup and restore, accessibility options and […]

  • Harley Quinn DLC for Batman: Arkham Knight is a prequel

    Batman: Arkham Knight’s Harley Quinn pre-order DLC is set before the events of the main game, according to Amazon’s description. Today we learned a few details about the pre-order DLC for Batman: Arkham Knight, namely the Harley Quinn one. According to the description on Amazon, the DLC takes place in the lead-up to the events […]

  • Bloodborne Vicar Amelia summon mystery solved

    Bloodborne players unable to summon near Vicar Amelia: here’s your solution. Bloodborne’s secrets are unfolding by the hour as clever players piece together From Software’s cunning design. Yesterday we reported problems summoning in the Cathedral Ward, before the Vicar Amelia boss fight. It turns out this isn’t a bug – or if it is, it’s […]

  • Steven Spielberg will direct film adaption of Ready Player One

    Steven Spielberg will direct the film adaption of the sci-fi, virtual world, video game themed novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Warner Bros. bought the rights to the film in June 2010 and hired screenwriter Zak Penn to rewrite the previous draft written by Eric Eason, according to Deadline. The book takes place in […]

  • Bloodborne players with PS4 headsets shouldn’t forget about the custom audio

    Here’s a friendly reminder for Bloodborne players with PS4 headsets: be sure to download the Headset Companion App from the PlayStation store if you haven’t already. As previously reported, the game supports a custom Bloodborne audio mode which can be uploaded. It contains custom audio created by developers specifically tuned to enhance the audio. This […]

  • EA explains why FIFA Ultimate Team transfer prices are now platform specific

    EA has posted a blog entry explaining its FIFA Ultimate Team transfer market price ranges which now include platform-specific pricing in order to best the coin sellers. EA said it has implemented the changes to FUT over the last several weeks because it should be “fair and fun for every player,” ultimately coming to the […]

  • Game of Thrones: Episode 3 – The Sword in the Darkness now available

    In case you forgot, Game of Thrones: Episode 3 – The Sword in the Darkness was released today. It is available on Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. The third episode releases on iOS devices and Android tomorrow, March 26. The Sword in the Darkness finds Asher Forrester heading to Mereen […]

  • Bloodborne players are already documenting their crazy antics

    Bloodborne has been available for almost two days now in North America, and already players are posting interesting clips and character customization choices for the game. Below are interesting takes on creating a character and videos of a frustrating death and another full of blood coming from a very painful place – monster or not. […]

  • FIFA Ultimate Team celebrates sixth year in existence with giveaways

    FIFA Ultimate Team is celebrating its sixth year in existence with special events running from today until March 29. According to EA, every FUT fan will be handed one free pack every day, and those who play at least one match in the FUT Birthday Cup will have a chance to win rare “tradable In-Forms” […]

  • Halo Online is a F2P PC game in development exclusively for Russia – video

    Halo Online is a free-to-play game which will launch this spring in Russia, and is in development with Saber Interactive. According the reveal event attended by IGN Russia, the game was designed to run well on lower-end PCs and runs on a modified Halo 3 engine. The game is set on a secret UNSC space […]

  • SteamWorld Dig Xbox One release expected in late May

    SteamWorld Dig is coming to Xbox One, developer Image & Form has announced. A firm release date hasn’t been announced, but the studio expects the title to arrive on the system in late May. “We’re preparing quite an elaborate Easter egg for the Xbox One version – a gaming thing that we really wanted to […]

  • SMITE celebrating first anniversary with a sale on skins, Ultimate God Pack

    Hi-Rez Studios is celebrating the first anniversary of SMITE with a sale. From today through Friday, March 27, the Ultimate God Pack, which includes all current and future Gods, will run you $19.99. Alll individual pre-launch skins are 50% off, and all Gem Packs will award bonus gems. In addition, from March 27-29, all SMITE […]

  • Borderlands 2 has sold around 12 million copies, says Gearbox

    Speaking with Microsoft’s Major Nelson in his podcast, Gearbox Software boss Randy Pitchford stated Borderlands 2 has sold somewhere around the 12 million mark. As of August 2014, it was announced by Take-Two in its financial report the 2012 game had sold-in 10 million units. Pitchford noted in the podcast he learned of the figures […]