Forza Horizon 4 review – still incredible in 2021 and beyond

6 minute read

In many ways, Forza Horizon 4 has been the culmination of my favorite aspects of the racing genre. I’ve never dove off into the sea of hardcore sims, but at this point in my life I’ve poured over a 1000 hours into a mixture of simcade and arcade racers.

What started with the early era of Gran Turismo on the PS1 soon gave way to various Need for Speed entries, Project Gotham Racing, early Forza games, and a smattering of games in between.

To say the genre clicks with me would be an understatement, and above all, the ability to jump right in and play has always spoken to me. I’d call the Forza Horizon series a sort of open world spiritual successor to the PGR series, but what Playground Games ultimately does better than anyone else is provide the means for immediate driving fun.

Forza Horizon 4 is accessibility done right – an experience that appeals equally to fans of the genre and those completely new.

A worthy experience in 2021 and beyond

While absent of mind bending reveals, Microsoft’s latest E3 showcase offered tons of experiences to look forward to for Xbox players.

Among them was the gameplay reveal of Forza Horizon 5. There’s no doubt in my mind that it caused a spur of interest in the fourth installment.

 

 

Those wondering if Forza Horizon 4 is still worth playing with the newest installment just around the corner should know that now is as good of a time as any to jump in.

Forza Horizon 4 is accessible in the best ways possible. There’s variety, ease of play, and an all around pension for making its world fun to drive in. I’ve always loved the genre, but I’d be willing to bet that even haters of racing will find an ounce of fun.

Sure, Playground Games’ next installment will undoubtedly up the ante, but there’s so much to enjoy in their vision of Great Britain.

A mix of setting, thrill, choice, and aesthetic make it pleasant through and through. Its main campaign offers plenty to sink your teeth into if you’re after something structured. You’ll also find plenty of side activities littered throughout the map in various form.

And for those looking to be amongst others there are rivals (time trials), online free roam, and multiplayer races.

Considering Forza Horizon 4 is on Game Pass, there’s really no reason to skip out.

The ultimate pick up and play

I tend to be someone that loves to dive into games with as little friction as possible. And for me, Forza Horizon 4 might be one of the best pick up and play games I’ve played.

From bite sized gaming sessions to hearty binges, Playground Games has made something accessible to all time constraints. There’s structure if you go looking for it, but Forza Horizon 4 never gets in your way once you’ve moved past the introductory stage.

Those less invested in the racing genre might find fun in zooming through the world and finding things to smash up, but there are also plenty of side activities with little barrier to entry to chew on.

This is open world racing at its finest, and everything has been crafted to make sure that you can find fun seconds after loading in. Furthermore, everything feels fantastic – from the physicality of each car to the audio and visual feedback of the world.

Variety abound

I’ve never been let down by the variety Forza series’ catalogue of cars and Forza Horizon 4 is no exception. There are hundreds of vehicles to choose from and endless ways to make them yours via customization and tuning.

But the car collection isn’t the only way that FH4 brings variety – you’ll find that there is plenty of contrast to the locations in the map and types of activities to jump into.

porche driving in water forza horizon 4

In my eyes these are the pillars of a racing game (physics withstanding), and Playground Games delivers on every front. Racing doesn’t feel as hand crafted as something like Gran Turismo Sport or the mainline Forza series, but the variety of event type, locales within the map, and manufacturers mean that FH4 is never bogged down by feeling samey.

This feeling is only driven further by the addition of seasons. Each season runs for one week and, as expected, completely transforms the aesthetic and feel of the map.

Some may not resonate with the fictionalized version of Great Britain – it certainly doesn’t have the punch of Forza Horizon 3’s Australia – but I found it to be inviting and homey. It’s certainly a more low key affair when all is said and done.

Yearning for more

Forza Horizon 4 is basically an excellent game, but there are things that felt missing. I felt that the game could have been longer in terms of career races. I’ll always be able to jump in and have some fun, but I would have loved more of what was already there.

Trying my hand at community races hardly scratched the itch and many of my attempts left me with a sad excuse for an experience.

Most of all, I hope that multiplayer is truly fleshed out in Forza Horizon 5. I came to multiplayer racing late in my experience and it was quite frustrating on multiple accounts. Even when fully queued the game loaded each race excruciatingly slow at times. Overall, it seemed to be half baked.

Getting into a race rule set that clicked with me was non-stop fun, but navigating up to that point was painful. In many ways, multiplayer feels like an afterthought when stacked against the seamlessness of FH4’s open world.

I think the shared open world multiplayer has a lot of room for improvement as well. I’m someone who loves diving into online worlds inhabited by other players, but there really wasn’t much interactivity.

Forzathon Live events are fun, yes, but feel bite sized in terms of what could be. I realize that crafting what would essentially be a lite MMO is a huge undertaking, but still, I was left wanting something new after very little time.

With that said, there are very few hurdles when it comes to jumping into an online free roam session with others. I’ve experienced a good amount of bugs related to Quick Resume, but little if any other quirks.

It would have also been nice to put a bigger community drive on time trials (Rivals), but this is also coming from someone who could sit and run around the same track for a couple hours at a time.

And this is biggest draw of Forza Horizon 4 – there are things which could certainly elevate the experience to something larger than life, but as it stands, it’s still an excellent title.

Xbox Series X enhancements – stunning and smooth

mountain look off in winter forza horizon 4

As a somewhat new owner of the Xbox Series X, one of the first things I did after initial setup was jump back into FH4 to check out the next-gen patch.

Whether you’re a veteran of the series or someone looking for games to stuff your Series X’s SSD with, this is a game worth diving into for the next-gen sheen alone.

It’s breathtaking and, interestingly, probably one of the most impressive looking titles I’ve played yet despite it being an Xbox One game. Texture, 4K resolution, and HDR all coalesce to make this a stunner through and through.

On top of this it runs at an incredibly stable 60 FPS.

Forza Horizon 4 already looked beautiful on my modest 1050 Ti equipped laptop, but this iteration of the game feels completely realized. The Xbox Series X paired with Playground Games’ artistic and technical prowess make for idyllic scenes at every turn.

The only downfalls I’ve noticed (and I’m certain this carries to other versions) is strange flickering on ground textures, taillights, and shadows. These things are very minor and are usually only evident when moving at slow speeds.

In summary

Forza Horizon 4 simply feels right as an open world racer. At this point, I believe Playground Games to be one of the most talented developers in the world due to their ability to crank out quality.

Is it a bit safe?

Sure, but excellent nonetheless.

I’d love for a bit of a more handcrafted feel, refinement as far as multiplayer, and a bit more overall, but this is still a game I know I’ll be diving into – if only for a moment – for years to come.

I can’t wait to see what Playground Games has in store for Forza Horizon 5 and I can’t help but ride the hype for what they’ll bring to the table with their Fable revival. Almost three years after its initial release, FH4 is still worth jumping into in 2021 and beyond.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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