Screenshots provided by Microsoft
Due to Forza Horizon 3's huge crossover success, expectations have been high for the next game in the franchise. Well, by the time you read this,Forza Horizon 4 will have been revealed to the world. But does it meet the lofty expectations of the masses? What new features will Forza Horizon 4 bring to the table? And most importantly, is it still fun to play?
Luckily for you (and more luckily for me), I was invited by Xbox to go hands on with an early demo of Forza Horizon 4 at a special pre-E3 event. Though before we get into that, let's talk about what's new.
I'll get the biggest thing out of the way first: Forza Horizon 4's setting was officially announced as Great Britain. For many fans this news came from very far, very left field. There had been speculation for months that Forza Horizon 4's location would be Japan. However, after speaking briefly with Forza Horizon creative director Ralph Fulton, he told me that was never really the case.
According to Ralph, Britain was chosen because it was the best stage to showcase Forza Horizon 4's premiere feature: seasons. Dynamic weather has been a part of Forza Horizon since the second game but was previously limited to a day/night cycle and rain. There have been instances of snow and mud/dirt in previous game,s but those were typically locked to expansion packs and sequestered to specific areas of their game's given map.
In Forza Horizon 4, players will get all four seasons and the weather that comes with each. Winter will bring snow and frozen lakes, spring will bring daytime rains and turn dirt into mud, autumn will see the leaves change color and fall, collecting along the road, and summer brings the sunshine and may dry out lakes and streams.
Also, the effects of the seasons will be felt by all players at once as Forza Horizon 4's open world is also a shared one; as long as you're connected to the internet that is. But don't worry, Forza Horizon 4 is not an "always online" affair. An internet connection won't be required to play and there will be a single player mode, but obviously with the internet comes a more feature-rich experience.
We also learned when you can get your hands on the game. Forza Horizon 4 will be released this year on October 2nd. It will also be released on "Xbox Game Pass," which is a Netflix-style subscription service which gives users access to a large library of games they can download and play at any time. So, anyone who is a Game Pass subscriber will get access to Forza Horizon 4 as soon as it launches.
We know where the game will take place, some of its new features, and when it will come out. We're still missing the most important thing: how does it play? As I mentioned before I played an early demo of the game, though it was pretty short; about 10 minutes altogether.
While brief, the demo was relatively comprehensive. It begins with giving players the option of choosing one of three cars to start with: the McLaren Senna (which is also the cover car), a Dodge Viper ACR, or a Porsche Cayman GT4. Naturally I chose the McLaren because duh.
From there the goal of the demo becomes clear: it takes you through each of the seasons one by one. I started off in autumn with the McLaren and it looked beautiful. The "natural light" shining through the yellow and red leaves created a scene worth framing.
The controls felt just as good as before if not a slight bit tighter (though honestly it was hard to tell if any adjustments had been made to the physics or if the developers just turned on all the driving assists for purposes of the demo). Either way controlling the car was confidence inspiring. After driving the McLaren, the game seamlessly and cinematically transitioned me to winter, where I was suddenly behind the wheel of a trophy truck on an icy road flanked by snow banks.
From there I was moved on to spring which was easily my favorite season of the demo. I was put into a Rallycross car on a sunny but wet and rainy spring day. Water droplets hit the camera while wet mud reflected the sunlight and flew everywhere. Then out of nowhere I was flanked by dirt bikes with plumes of colored smoke coming from their exhausts. Finally I was moved to summer and back into the McLaren Senna for one last dry asphalt dash to the in-game "Horizon festival".
The demo gave a great representation of controls, gameplay, and visuals. However, it fell a bit short on depth. I wasn't able to look at the map or dig into the menus or options. I guess all that will have to come later. For now, I was left impressed with the promise of what Forza Horizon 4 has to offer.
If you're already hyped on the game, you can pre-order it now if you don't plan on subscribing to Xbox Game pass. For those who want to take a wait and see approach, I'd be willing to guess Microsoft will release a free demo of Forza Horizon 4 closer to the game's launch date. In the meantime, stay tuned as we'll bring you any new details or developments!
One more thing—the first bit of DLC for Forza Horizon 4 will be a Formula DRIFT car pack! Ok, now you officially know everything you need to know.