Let’s get this out of the way early, Forza Horizon is an arcade racer. Where previous entries in the series, and unfortunately you have to measure Horizon in some ways against those that have come before it, the previous entries in the Forza franchise focused on simulation, Forza Horizon is balls-to-the-wall good times.
Taking place in the fictional Horizon Festival, Forza opens complete with a bombastic musical intro set to Muse, which perfectly encapsulates what is to come. Fast and frenetic, the pace kicks in from the very moment you get behind the virtual wheel and doesn’t let up for the entire campaign.
Anyone familiar with the Sony exclusive MotorStorm series will feel a pang of familiarity with the setup found in Horizon, but here developer Playground Games takes the concept to completion, something that Evolution Studios never seemed to master despite three PS3 attempts with MotorStorm.
Here the formula, although being nothing new, is tweaked to perfection. Right from the very opening race, where you can chose (and get rewarded by) how much assistance the game is going to give you, Forza Horizon takes the arcade style racing of the genre and stamps it’s own very Forza mark on it.
The developers of Horizon, Playground Games, are made up of some of the greatest minds of the racing genre. Creative fellows from Codemasters, Bizzare and Criterion lend all their skill and talent to making Horizon ape some of those legendary games, while also providing a distinctive flair to the arcade racing.
Horizon is a series of racing events, littered around a Burnout Paradise style open-world that encourages exploration as much as it does reckless endangerment. The festival takes place amongst some simply stunning Colorado scenery that varies immensely, providing copious different racing experiences that take place over a number of different surfaces.
The single-player elements of the festival finds your rookie racer attempting to go from 250th place all the way to Horizon champion. Racing and risking earns more points and wristbands that will also allow bigger and better events and cars to unlock, in typical, unsurprising, fashion.
What makes Horizon stand apart though is the amount of simple pleasure you’ll get from doing it. The handling, the physics, the gorgeous graphics, the sound design and the difficulty level are all so perfectly tuned that leveling up through the game is never a chore and lends itself to one of those amazing gaming experiences of “just one more race.”
And some of these races are just insane. Super challenges called Showcases (like taking on a fighter plane), litter the campaign, adding even more variety to what is already an action-PACKED experience.
In fact the game sometimes feels like it has almost too much going on. Student of many, master of none, could have been the result of having just so much packed in. But here, Playground has been able to provide enough variety without anything slipping for the most part.
The only slight niggle that can be leveled at the game is that it is a game that is rooted firmly in the history of the genre. Where these homages can make for a truly unbelievable experience at times, it also means that your fellow AI drivers and the narrative as a whole is still at a primary school level of personality. But when you’re racing at 300 mph across the desert landscape, does it truly matter?
Horizon is like a best-of collection of some of the greatest racing games of the generation. Taking cues from Burnout, Need for Speed, Motorstorm, and yes, Forza, the game is a blistering boost of automotive adrenaline, with a breath of fresh air being the least of the improvements that Playground Games have made to the series. I can’t wait to see what they do next. 
Platform: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsft Game Studios
Developer: Playground Games
Players: 1 - 2/16 online