GAME REVIEW: 'Forza Horizon'
Title: “Forza Horizon”
Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Playground Games
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
The Grade: A
What is it? An open-world racing game set in Colorado. The action in “Forza Horizon” centers around the Horizon Festival, an automotive and music festival that has brought fans from all over the world to take part in a celebration of racing competition and car culture. Think of Race Wars from the movie “Fast and the Furious,” but in a mountain setting and without the nitrous oxide.
Balanced controls. One of the things I’ve always appreciated about this series is how well it handles driving controls. The gameplay in “Forza Horizon” is not too arcadey and not too technical (I’m looking at you, “Gran Turismo”). It’s like the third bear’s porridge in “Goldilocks.” Just right. The steering is completely customizable, depending on how well (or poorly) you drive, and this takes absolutely nothing away for the individuality of each car. They all have a personality of their own and feel as authentic as their real life counterparts.
Options galore. With its open-world setting, there’s no one way to play “Forza Horizon.” Gamers can choose to play the narrative driven Horizon Festival section or just wander around exploring the game’s huge map. It all depends on your mood. There are a wide variety of driving modes but my favorite is the Showcase Events. These race showdowns are all about entertaining the crowd with odd race pairings (I raced my Ford Mustang against an airplane). For gamers with an artistic bent, you can spend hours in the shop creating custom paint jobs with designs as unique as you’d like. Some of the created content I’ve seen is amazing.
The future’s so bright. Beginning in November, “Forza Horizon” owners will get a steady stream of cars through monthly DLC. Each monthly DLC pack will include six cars, including cutting edge supercars, drivable classics and virtually all points in between. Individual DLC car packs will cost 400 MS Points ($5) but season pass owners will have access to the first six monthly DLC packs -- from November 2012 through April 2013 -- at no additional cost.
Bring your checkbook. Gamers can enjoy “Forizon Horizon” without buying any downloadable vehicles, but if you choose to jump in, things can get expensive quick. Six cars for $5 is a bit pricey, especially if there’s a car in a pack you don’t care for. As for the season pass? It’s 4,000 MS Points, which in real money is $50. Yikes. Of course, no one is making you buy these extra vehicles.
Not much of a Kinection. In “Forza Horizon” gamers can use the Kinect as a GPS by using their voice to find events. This feature works well enough (as long as the sound on your TV isn’t too high), but doesn’t really add anything to the gameplay experience.
Racing games are like guacamole: You either love them or hate them. This title is the exception for racing games because it has something for every level of driver, no matter your preferred driving style. With intense driving action, the lighthearted fun of the Horizon Festival and some of the most beautifully rendered cars and environments you’ll ever see in a game, “Forza Horizon” is a must buy.
Gazette Media Columnist Terry Terrones is a veteran video game journalist. He has written for numerous publications including GamePro, PC World, GameZone, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/terryterrones.