Turn 10 and Microsoft Studios announced the coming of the next generation of racing simulator with Forza Horizon this week at E3.
Always a leading brand for quality graphics and physics, as well as a wide array of vehicles to choose from; Forza always serves up exactly what fans of on-track racers expect. Catering to the full spectrum of racing ability, the option to raise and lower difficulty through various means, such as: vehicle damage, opponent AI skill, and shift type (to name a few); Forza can have an appeal to almost anyone who feels the need to go fast.
On a personal note, as one of the few gamers (just under 7% according to TrueAchievements.com), who spent the extra ninety plus hours beyond the seasonal race mode to earn every last achievement in Forza 3, I swore that I would never touch another full-on racing sim again. The Solid Gold achievement nearly broke my spirit for racing games in general but, as a new trailer and screens emerge for Forza Horizon, I feel like I am ready to dive back in to the genre. There will be a little bit of a wait, however, as the game launches in North America, Asia, and South America on October 23, 2012, then October 26, 2012 for European gamers; so, until then, news and video will have to tide me over.
This latest iteration promises to bring together the realism and racing style that we’ve known in the series with the excitement of the atmosphere of a worldwide car festival and access to open-road racing that I, for one, enjoy after a bout of fenced in, on the track racing.
Cruising the open road seems to be a core mechanic to this new game, as the player will be able to select their favorite car from their garage and go exploring in the diverse landscape that Colorado offers. This will give the player the chance to race not only on the hard top like we’re used to, but also on unsurfaced dirt roads and mountain roads to provide the changing difficulty of tracks that switch between the three. This is always a great test of a driver’s ability and creativity in customizing their car, as dirt lends itself to a more risky rally-type driving style, and paved surfaces lean towards high-end performance and tuner cars.
New gameplay features such as the rewarding of not only the player’s ability to win, but to do so in style and with finesse, will also add depth to the racing experience. Clean driving lines and long and smooth drifts will be among the ways to increase your “Popularity Rank.” This Popularity Rank strikes me as the successor to the traditional experience-based system, but may be entirely aside from it. Street races for pink slips, winning festival events, and completing technical driving challenges will all increase the player’s rank, to bring the player up through the lists of talented drivers.
The online experience has also seen a shift toward a broader audience with the ability to go head-to-head with players via LIVE (a mainstay of any successful racing game), team up with friends to work through cooperative challenges, as well as having a little fun in the new playground mode. Despite my experience with a different racing game’s online challenge co-op (which often degenerated into the madness of “who can wreck the other seven people’s cars the fastest” due to the collective sense of humor my friends pool seems to have), I am eager to get into this. I’m interested to see what a game with realistic physics has to offer in this way, as well as how far they were willing to depart from their proven game type in the “playground mode.”
The “Horizon Festival” is the center hub for your single player career and multiplayer experience. Here you will have access to the normal suite of starting races and car customization, as well as being able to explore the parties, music, and cars that it has to offer. The game has the addition of three new radio stations that promise to play tracks from popular artists. Personally, I would have liked to see some great tunes from yesteryear (some classic rock for hitting the open road in an American muscle car) but, I’m sure the selection will be great as Rob da Bank headed this section of the game. If you don’t already know who he is, give him a Google, you’ll thank me later (in the comments, please).
All in all, the Forza series has taught us all that physics are good, supercars are great, and fulfilling the need to go fast (then the need to decelerate quickly, because you didn’t see that turn coming up) is amazing. Beautiful graphics, a wide selection of vehicular choice, and a stunning level of realism, are what we have come to expect, and Forza Horizon will not disappoint. If you’ve never played a racing sim before, give this one a try, it just might surprise you.