Forza Horizon: Great looks, great action

Console racers are quite firmly split into two sections - simulations and arcade racers.

Always have been, always will be.

 

Forza Horizon

For: Xbox 360

From: Playground Games

Four and a half stars (out of five)

 

You either want to drive round fantasyland with your hair on fire in an out-of-the-box drift car - so you choose a Need for Speed game - or you want to be able to tweak every gear and race on GPS perfect tracks - so you choose a Gran Turismo, F1 or Forza game.

Decision made. Easy.

Until now.

Forza Horizon has put a little spanner in the works.

Now I will get it out straight away - I am a Forza fan, have been since its earliest Dreamcast incarnation.

Don't get me wrong, I like a good arcade racer, Need for Speed Most Wanted is also a favourite, but the precision and beauty of Forza have always been just my cup of tea.

So when I heard the pre-launch rumours that Playground was turning the latest game in the Forza series away from the normal genre to appeal to arcade racer fans I was a bit apprehensive.

The setting is new - the game is based round the titular Horizon music/car festival, and there are no recognised tracks - the game is based in an open world stylised version of Colorado, but from the moment you are put into a car, the handling and physics are pure Forza.

Sure the crash physics are softer than Forza 4 and the handling a bit more forgiving, but both changes suit the game - and you will not complain when you are being forced off the track by an angry AI driver.

You, as a fresh-faced young racer just qualified to compete, have to work your way up the ranks to drive against the big boys.

This is done by driving round to various tracks, roads or street circuits and competing in events to build up your experience and, as important, your bank balance so you can buy and upgrade your vehicles. In between, you are free to drive round looking for hidden cars, taking up other players' challengers or competing in the excellent showcase events which act as a great change from the norm.

The story is not JK Rowling, but it is good enough to keep you interested, as are the various online and multiplayer options. And from the festival music to the roar of the various engines, the sound is also superb.

However, the icing on the already impressive cake is the way the game looks. From the fireworks at night to the sprawling, ever-changing landscape the whole thing looks stunning - there are no better looking racers out there.

Now I am not saying this game is all things to all men, but it is getting close. If you want it to be an arcade racer, then it is, but you can also do the full customisation/simulation stuff as well.

I love this game - it has stopped me playing Halo 4 and Fifa 13, and I cannot give it much more praise than that.