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Forza Horizon  

E3: Forza Horizon is more than casual racing

3:26 PM on 06.07.2012
E3: Forza Horizon is more than casual racing photo

Me? I love Forza Motorsport. It's exactly the type of the racing game I love to play with its focus on simulation and car acquisition. But what about people that want to drive, explore and race others? What abou the folks that want something a bit more laid back and hip? 

Turn 10 and Playground Games has an answer with upcoming Xbox 360 racer Forza Horizon. They call it an open-world action racing game, but you're already calling it their take on Need for Speed. But not so fast there, arcade racer. It does fall in the pick-up-and-play category, and they're definitely aiming to make a more accessible racing game, but the focus here leans more toward authenticity.

The "horizon" part of Forza Horizon refers to the Horizon Festival, an event that serves as a hub for career play. It's set in Colorado, and it combines the world of music, culture and style. We were told that the game is the intersection car and youth culture, but that sounds horribly cheesy, so I'd ask you to put that bit out of your mind. Let's just say that it's legitimately cool, and that car lovers and racing fans are probably going to dig it. 

That Colorado setting opens the game up to mixed surface and full-on dirt road racing, a first for the franchise. Playground has team members that worked on other off-road racers, like Collin McRae and the Dirt series, so we're probably in good hands. There's going to be 65 different surface types -- I can't even think of more than 10 types right now, so we're in for some surprises.

On the gameplay side, Horizon uses Forza Motorsport 4's physics engine, meaning that you'll get realistic car movement, and not that glide-y, slidey, butter on the tires feeling. Playground says that they did not want arcade handling for the game, so if you're looking for that, Horizon may not fit the bill. The goal was to capture cars' individual personalities, and they did not want any compromises in that. If there's such a thing as fun authenticity, that's what they're going for. And from my time with it, I think they're on the right track. 

Horizon's play lets you ride up alongside any car and race it, just as you'd expect in an open world. Between bouts you navigate Colorado's scenic roads, working through both civilian and festival traffic. Passing, speeding drifting and about 30 other challenges earn you points, and the more you score, the more popular you are at the Horizon Festival. One of the goals of Horizon is to become the most popular driver at the festival.

Playground insists that you'll get fast, straight-away enjoyment out of Forza Horizon, but that's not necessarily what I saw when watching others play. Me? I had no problem, and thought it played great as-is. Others playing seemed to have a hard time staying on the road, and turns were always rough, with most players sliding into walls. What was up? Was it just that everyone sucked?

When I asked Playground's Gavin Raeburn about this, he said that Horizon is an authentic racing game, and that braking is important. After joking that some of them may have just been terrible players, he admits that there's about a one race learning curve, and says that he sees that the second race has players doing much better. It should also be noted that some of the parameters, like the assists, have been slightly changed to affect how the cars behave, making the handling much more accessible. 

Horizon looks really nice, and that makes sense as the dev team had full access to the Forza 4 graphics engine. They've beefed it up a bit, though, with a lighting system that smoothly transitions time of day to work with their persistent open-world setting and its 24-hour day/night cycle. Colorado's sun-drenched hills, roads and farms all looked quite lovely. At night it looked even better, with headlights and festival spots illuminating the mountains and roads. 

A Kinect-enabled GPS feature was shown off in the demonstration, and it really does seem like it could cut down on that lost feeling you might have in other open-world racers. Using your voice, you can call out for guidance to a destination ("Where am I going next?") and Horizon will draw a green path to guide you. Calling out for directions ("What's the nearest race?") will pull up a map and send you there. This will definitely be of help in a world that features hundreds of miles of road to drive.

If you're wondering about cars, all we know is that it will feature licensed vehicles. I drove a Dodge Viper, and you can see a few others, like Nissan's 270 Z and Ford's GT in the screenshot gallery. Playground says that they are still locking down the car list, so expect more details later this year.

Forza Horizon is a game that was made to be accessible, but it doesn't go into full-on arcade racing range. As a sim racing fan that would sometimes likes to kick back and relax with an online race, this is fine by me.  Playground is out to show with Horizon that authenticity does not need to be compromised when trying to make a fun racer, and I think they're on the right track.

E3: Forza Horizon is more than casual racing photo
E3: Forza Horizon is more than casual racing photo
E3: Forza Horizon is more than casual racing photo
E3: Forza Horizon is more than casual racing photo

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Forza Horizon

11:15 AM on 04.16.2013
The Forza Horizon 1000 Club DLC is free today

The free "1000 Club" DLC is live today for Forza Horizon. Essentially, it's a challenge mode that tasks you with besting literally 1000 tasks, with every existing car in the game. There's speed tests as well as other technic...more

10:00 PM on 02.27.2013
Forza Horizon's March Car Pack adds six new cars

The amount of DLC for Forza Horizon is really beginning to mount up. I mean, Turn 10 Studios hasn't quite reached Forza 4's level yet, but it's certainly getting there; and thanks to the recently announced car pack, we'...more

12:00 PM on 01.14.2013
Meanwhile, Forza Horizon debuts 2013 Honda Civic

While Gran Turismo 5 is showing off with their day-after announcement DLC for the awesome looking 2014 Corvette Stingray (see above story), Forza Horizon announces that they'll have a... Civic? Not hatin'. I'm a huge Honda fa...more

12:00 PM on 12.26.2012
Forza Horizon gets Recaro car pack on New Year's Day

Turn 10 and Microsoft have worked it out so that you can welcome the new year with six new cars for Forza Horizon with their Recaro car pack. In this pack, which launches on Jan. 1, 2013, you'll get a 2012 Cadillac Escal...more

8:00 PM on 12.17.2012
Forza Horizon Rally Expansion Pack hits tomorrow

The open world of Forza Horizon will journey off the beaten path tomorrow, December 18 with the release of the Rally Expansion Pack (1600 Microsoft Points). Free for season pass owners, this downloadable content adds five ve...more

1:00 PM on 11.16.2012
Forza Horizon devs talk up the coming content

The creative and community teams working on Forza Horizon are featured in this latest development diary, where they discuss what fans of the game have to look forward to with coming downloadable content. They also pimp the game's integration with Microsoft Smartglass and then call out gamers to compete with them in races.more

9:00 AM on 10.30.2012
Forza Horizon SmartGlass Experience is available now

Are you lucky enough to own both Forza Horizon and Windows 8? What are you? Rich? Well, Mr./Mrs. Baller, you're now able to download the free Forza Horizon SmartGlass Experience for Windows 8 PCs. This works as an interactive...more

10:00 AM on 10.28.2012
Forza Horizon: From simulation to driving experience

The Forza Motorsport series is known for its dedication to realistic physics and simulation-style race driving. Forza Horizon, released this week to Xbox 360, represents a considerable departure from the formula established b...more

7:00 PM on 10.24.2012
Unboxing: Forza Horizon Limited Collector's Edition

We've popped open a copy of the Forza Horizon Limited Collector's Edition so that you can peek inside for yourself. While the casing is nice (a steelbook and slip case), the innards of this package aren't much to look at as ...more

12:30 PM on 10.23.2012
Forza Horizon: behind-the-scenes look at the festival

The latest behind-the-scenes look at Forza Horizon digs into the festival atmosphere that the game is centered around. It's fireworks, lasers, dubstep, and bros, which may be right up your alley, or not at all. It didn't fit...more

Forza Motorsport

7:15 PM on 01.12.2015
Microsoft announces Forza 6...with a nice, stationary model of a Ford GT

Forget the Euro-dynamism and great soundtrack of Forza Horizon. Microsoft and Turn 10 have announced Forza Motorsport 6, baby!  Look at that well-modeled Ford GT, Forza 6's "cover car." Look at it. Look at it again. Exc...more

2:30 PM on 12.16.2014
Forza Horizon 2's first DLC takes places at the ominous Storm Island

Forza Horizon 2 shipped this fall with plenty of inclement weather, unlike some other game. Nevertheless, its first add-on centers around even more torrential downpours on the paradisiacal sounding Storm Island. Storm I...more

12:15 PM on 10.07.2014
Link: Open letter to Microsoft, Turn 10, Playground Games on DLC

Forza Horizon 2? Pretty damned good, right? Having to buy a car pack to get the most desired DLC car? Not so good. I have strong feelings of my own on that and other DLC topics surrounding the Forza franchise, but I can save ...more

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