While you might be expecting the racing sim you've come to love so dearly, there's something you should know right off the bat; Forza Horizon is not Forza 5. That's not to say it's something you shouldn't wait for, though...
What it is, then, is a return to fun. Where you're not so focused on lap times, but more about driving, enjoying the cars, and most notably, the environment and music. Forza Horizon is a game for car dudes, giving you a digital world to be a car guy in. If that means street racing in a bright orange Evo, off-roading in a Raptor or nailing road signs with your track-prepped E30 M3, it's all you.
Horizon takes place in Colorado, where the map is enormous. If you see something in the distance, you can drive there, the game won't just end at an invisible wall. You're a cool looking dude, obviously, because you start out in a VW Corrado, minus the electrical problems or VR swap issues. The scene is a Summer music festival, built around gearheads, both guys and girls. The map is outlined with different race events, categorized by difficulty and you're eligibility depends on the color of your wristband. With more wins and more experience, you earn new wristbands. Get it? Good.
There's more, though, because even the gaming part if of this game is untraditional. Most games are built so you have to finish every possible task in career mode in order to move forward, but much like Colorado as a state, Horizon is about your freedom. Do what you want. You don't even have to win races to move on, though I can't seem to find a reason you wouldn't at least try your hardest to take podium. Between the sanctioned events you can gain popularity by driving like an irresponsible idiot, which is actually pretty awesome. Skim between two cars on the road at 100mph, drift over a crest and nail a stop sign with your rear quarter-literally, any act of hoonage will get you some points.
It's hard for the diehard simulator lover to get down with this concept, I'll be the first to admit. I don't even really play many games anymore, and when I do, it's usually Forza 4. I understand it. I want to be on the track. But going into this with an open mind, Forza Horizon was so much more mindless and, while games aren't supposed to induce stress, it was more relaxing. The music helps, too-everything from The Black Keys to Friendly Fires. The playlist is actually genius, and I want it for my own car. The game makers are brilliant. They teamed with a legitimate DJ from the UK to make the set for the game and it shows. This is effort we've never seen before, and it's simply smart. I wouldn't be surprised to see other games try this route in the form of audible entertainment, either. Hint.
More on the simulator love, though, because what's great in this game is that you're left with mostly the same physics as Forza 4, but in a more arcade-like environment. There's always a distinction between arcade and simulator, and Forza Horizon is hands down the link between the two. Go snag your copy, and turn the volume up, and say goodbye to whatever work you were doing-it's one of those.