It occurs to me that I’ve been playing Forza Horizon 4 for a few weeks now and haven’t spoken about it on my blog at all. It’s unusual for me to enjoy a game like Forza Horizon so much seeing as how I’m really not a car person, nor have I ever really found myself playing very many racing games growing up, and yet something about Forza Horizon works for me.
The Horizon games take themselves much less seriously than other racing games, taking place in a world where a roaming car and racing festival travels around the world, consuming all local culture and destroying people’s homes and businesses for the sake of millennials smashing their indestructible cars around the landscape.
I’ve always found the “lore” of Forza Horizon pretty hilarious. These massive festival sites move into a beautiful part of the world and slowly consume all local culture and landmarks into their mass of dabbing, millionaire racers whose immortality and near infinite sources of money make them an inescapable force.
As shown with the multiple passing seasons in Horizon 4 as the festival arrives in Scotland, and bits of England, once the Horizon Festival arrives, it never ends, making the area all but inhospitable to the locals who existed there beforehand. Even our historical monuments are bought from under us by some 20-somthing youth who was doing the macareina on top of an ancient Roman monument moments before.
All jokes aside, it’s the ridiculousness of everything that creates what is a game that focuses on having a whole lot of fun without worrying about how much sense any of it makes.
Players are dropped into a world with a few cars and given free reign to approach the world in any way they want, be it through the various race types (Street racing, off roading, cross country), speed traps, drift zones, there are collectable and simply filling in the map. And that’s not the half of it.
The real sign that showcases what kind of game this is though, is that success is completely irrelevant to progress. Traditionally, to actually progress through a video game, you have to be some kind of good at it. It’s like that old Dara Ó Briain stand-up skit. He talks about how video game are the only medium that deny you content you paid for if you’re not good at it.
Forza Horizon 4 gives you the same rewards regardless of whether you win a race or came last, relatively speaking. Sure you might have to race twice as many events to earn the same amount of money and influence, but considering you’re probably doing those events anyway, it hardly makes a difference.
It gamifys driving cars in a way that draws me in, opposed to a more sim-like game which would not. It’s the exact opposite of modern Fifa, which I feel plays too much like a video game and not enough like real football. I find myself frustrated by the things that happen in a game of Fifa, that feel unrealistic compared to the way the game is played at any level in real life, where as I revel in the game-like aspects of Forza Horizon.
I love sending my car hurtling off a cliffside at 200mph only to smash into a tree 20 feet off the ground and drive away with no significant damage to either the car or its driver. It’s silly in the best way for someone like me who has no reverence for the “art of cars”.
Forza Horizon is a social playground in which cars are your toys, Playground Games know this all too well with the way they present the world and even put out expansions based on Hot Wheels. You’re given the tools to make your own fun and a set of suggestions to get you going.
Even if you couldn’t care less about motorsport, car culture or any of the ability to modify, tune or paint your car aspects of the game, there is still more than enough to take you back to your childhood, playing with toy cars on the rug, except now you don’t have to ruin your old man knees like me when doing it.