A few months ago Turn 10 studios released an incredibly vague trailer for a game they called “Forza Horizon“. The trailer was comprised of a few glamour shots of high end cars on a road that seemed to be in the middle of no where, traveling to some type of event. After that teaser trailer was released it left most with way more questions than answers. What is Forza Horizon? When is it coming out? Is this Forza 5? What’s with the party scenes? What if God was one of us? Ok maybe no one asked that last one but all the others queries were being thrown around forums all over the internet.
Well today I can officially give you some real answers to many of those questions. Yesterday I was invited to a very low key and very exclusive pre-E3 Forza Horizon event at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Los Angeles. At this event a handful of journalist including myself got a primer to what Forza Horizon is all about and more importantly we got to play an early build of the game before it will be exposed to the rest of the world on the E3 showfloor tomorrow so in this post I will give you some of the answers you may have been looking for, my impressions of the game, and some new screenshots! In a day or so we will have more content and an exclusive interview with the developers behind Forza Horizon. For now seek your answers below!
What is Forza Horizon?
The number one question after the super-vague teaser for Horizon was released was “What is Forza Horizon going to be?” The short answer is that Forza Horizon is going to be an open world “action-racing” game. Instead of sanctioned events happening at race tracks all around the world as in previous Forza games, in Horizon players will explore a somewhat imagined area of the Colorado Desert in a free open-world way. When I say open-world I mean that players are not restricted to race tracks or even the road. You will be given a large area and you can drive where ever you want, when ever you want to along highways and by ways of this magical area of Colorado. While on these roads you will encounter other AI controlled cars that may want to race you or are just part of normal traffic.
There will be something of a central hub called the “Horizon Festival.” The Horizon festival is the focus of the game and why you are out in the Colorado desert in the first place. In the context of the game’s story think of the Horizon Festival as a cross between the Goodwood Festival and the Coachella music festival with a dash of Gumball 3000 thrown in for additional flavor. It is where speed, music, and hoonage come together. From a functional standpoint the Horizon Festival is where all the different game modes live. Whenever you decide you want to end your drive around Colorado, you return to the Horizon Festival and from there you can enter car shows, join street races, or multi-player events like racing or some of the other “playground” modes that are popular in other Forza games like “cat & mouse” and much more.
Why did Turn 10 decide to make this game?
The overall mission statement of the Forza Motorsport franchise and the ultimate goal of the team at Turn 10 Studios is to, and I quote “Turn car-lovers into gamers and turn gamers into car lovers”. This mission as been at the core of everything that has been put into each Forza game to date. However, Dan Greenawalt (creative director) felt that perhaps maybe the simulator-based Forza games to date are not as “kid-friendly” as he would have liked them to be. For teenagers and older people all Forza games have been awesome but due to their hardcore, simulator nature may have been a bit daunting to the younger audience.
It was this thinking that inspired Forza Horizon. Turn 10 wanted to create something that had all the refinement that enthusiasts would expect from a Forza game but in a package that can be easy to pick up and play for just about anyone and still be a lot of fun. When I say “fun” I mean being rewarded for doing things that would otherwise get you thrown in jail or at the very least cause you to lose a race. In Forza Horizon smashing through road signs and picnic tables is encouraged. Drifting around a canyon road will earn you points, and just barely threading your way between two cars on a busy street is not frowned upon. Although just like any other racing game, crossing the line (when there is a line) first is always the ultimate goal. Now, the idea of an open world racing game like this is not new. It has been tried before by EA Games and their “Need For Speed” franchise and also by Atari with their “Test Drive” games but none of them have really pulled it off without having the problem of repetitiveness or a feel that was too “arcade-y” with unrealistic physics and over the top presentations.
Forza Horizon is how Turn 10 plans to succeed in this area where others have failed.
However, the guys at Turn 10 knew that to take on such a project would be too much with everything else they have going on so they brought in a new studio based in the UK called Playground Games to develop Forza Horizon.
Who or what is “Playground Games”?
As I mentioned, Playground Games is a small development studio based out of the UK. What is special about Playground Games is that they are a small team comprised of individuals to bring you some of the best racing games from across the pond like the Collin McRae series, DiRT, GRiD and more. As you may have guessed many of the Playground Games team came from Codemasters, the studio behind DiRT and the new crop of F1 games. Playground Games is headed by Ralph Fulton who was formerly a manager at Codemasters and significantly contributed to DiRT2 and F1 2010.
What cars will be in the game?
It is very likely that Forza Horizon will not have the same vast library of cars that Forza Motorsport 4 has, but Playground Games went to painstaking efforts to go through that same library to pick the cars they felt are the most unique and would be the most fun within the context of what Forza Horizon is going to be. An official car list has not been released but from the demo and the screenshots it seems confirmed that the new Dodge Viper will be in the game as well as the R34 Nissan Skyline, Nissan 370Z, and Ford GT will be in the game. It should also be noted that while Playground Games picked cars from the Forza library, each car in the game was still re-created from scratch specifically for Horizon but each car still has the same stunning detail that we come to expect from Forza games.
Is Forza Horizon “Forza Motorsport 5″? Should I be worried about the direction Turn 10 is going?
The answer to both of those questions is “No”. Forza Horizon is definitely not “Forza 5″ In fact, I can very safely assume that part of the reason why Turn 10 Studios put the project in the hands of Playground Games is so their core team can continue to work on the next Forza Motorsport game. That said, there is no reason to fear that the Forza experience that we have all come to know and love has suddenly turned into something completely different or that it will go away. Furthermore, fans of previous Forza games should not shy away from Horizon due to its premise. While the idea may sound like some of the games you’ve hated before, Forza Horizon is still a “Forza” game. I will explain what I mean by that.
As I mentioned earlier, I had a chance to get my hands on an early build of Forza Horizon. Like many of you out there, I feared that I may not like where Forza was heading with this title. After a few moments of playing the game myself I can say that I am a serious believer. When playing the demo I got to pilot the new Dodge Viper around the Horizon area of Colorado and it was awesome! I was racking up points for drafting, drifting, and smashing through things but at no time did I ever feel like I was playing a wonky arcade racer. The physics felt exactly like Forza. The controls are tight and responsive. There was no “floaty-ness” or delayed handling. All the precision and accuracy is still there. This is due in thanks because Playground Games had vast access to Turn 10 Studios physics engine including the same Pirelli tire physics data used in Forza Motorsport 4. All of that in an open world, “action racing” package and it all worked together beautifully. Even when I tried the demo with driving assists off the realism of the car’s physics and the wacky goals of the game still worked together perfectly. Also, players will finally get to drive at night in a Forza game. Since Horizon is an open world environment the time of day will gradually change from day to night as the players hang out and race in the virtual space. There will also be instances where players are encouraged to race off road on dirt, gravel, various other surfaces.
Another feature that I found fascinating but did not get to try was the kinect functionality. With the Xbox Kinect players of Forza Horizon will have a voice activated GPS system. Lets say you are out on the open road trying to find a specific location but got turned around. Simply say something like “GPS, Horizon Festival”. The green line that usually would normally show us the fastest way around a turn will now show up to guide players to their spoken destination. While it was not mentioned, we imagine that the Kinect will also have the same functionality that it does in Forza Motorsport 4 as well in regards to controlling cars with just your hands and no controller.
When is it coming out?
As of now Forza Horizon is set to release on October 23rd 2012 in the Americas and Asia. Europe will see Horizon released on October 26th 2012.
Well it is difficult to come to a solid conclusion based on my limited time with the game and other information that will still remain a mystery for at least another few months but what I can say based on my experience and what I have heard from both Turn 10 Studios and Playground games is that I think Forza Horizon will convert a lot of “hardcore” gamers who think they are too good for this type of thing as well as bring in that younger audience that Turn 10 is longing for. I will get some more time with the game on the E3 show floor and once I do I will give some more feedback on my experience.
Also stay tuned for an exclusive interview with Dan Greenawalt of Turn 10 Studios and Ralph Fulton of Playground games to get even more insight into Forza Horizon.