[Update: One week after Eliminator launched, developer Playground Games has wildly altered the damage inflicted by the final circle. Before, it took 90 seconds to knock you out; now, it’s about 4 seconds. Drastic correction, yes. But it’ll definitely eliminate the problem of opportunistic gamblers winning a disproportionate number of battle royale matches.]
Forza Horizon 4 has players tearing around a digital recreation of England with more purpose than usual. Thanks to an update last week that added a free battle royale mode, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. Eliminate or be eliminated. If you’re not first, you’re last.
The majority of Forza Horizon 4‘s battle royale loop works. It approximates everything that more popular battle royale games have adopted as standards. Looting takes the form of finding random car drops throughout the map and claiming those vehicles if they represent an upgrade over what you’re currently driving. Killing is imitated through a one-on-one race to a randomly-placed finish line; the winner takes the loser’s car, and the loser is kicked to the menu with the discomforting knowledge that they weren’t fast enough. There’s a wall that constantly shrinks, forcing players into closer proximity to one another.
However, the entirety of the loop does not work. Once there are 12 cars remaining, there’s a 30-second timer before the Final Showdown begins. This is how Forza Horizon 4‘s Eliminator mode crowns a champion. The Final Showdown is a mad scramble across the map — far outside the boundaries of where that last, small circle held a dozen players — in a randomly-determined direction. It’s not perfect but it’s sort of necessary. It beats the monotony of everyone trying to hide in the final circle, avoiding knockout head-to-head races for as long as possible.
It’s meant to be a meritocracy of sorts, the people in the fastest vehicles outperforming everyone else over the course of several miles. It’s not working out that way, though. Savvy players, especially those in underpowered cars, have found a method to break the Final Showdown. They’re simply leaving before the Final Showdown begins and hoping they’re going in the right direction.
The out-of-bounds circle allows players to be outside its confines for a cumulative total of 90 seconds before they’re eliminated. The damage doesn’t scale similar to other battle royales, however. In a game like PUBG, the first circle does negligible damage, and the end-game circles chip away health hard and fast. Forza Horizon 4 gives you nearly a minute and a half to be outside the gameplay area with no real repercussions.
Armed with this tactic, people are just bolting — guessing where the finish line is most likely to appear, and gunning it for a potentially huge headstart. There’s even an achievement, called “Heads Up,” for winning a game without acquiring any car drops. It’s meant for players to win head-to-head races, eventually ending up in a car that’s good enough beat everyone else. The more viable strategy is laying low in the starting Mini Cooper and then employing this method. It doesn’t matter how quick their cars are when you left a minute before them. I got this achievement last night. I don’t care if everyone else knows this cheap trick now that I got mine.
Every battle royale has risk/reward associated with engaging other players. Keep a target off your back and you’ll survive longer. But, your loot probably won’t be up to snuff, and that gives other players an advantage when you’re finally forced into confrontation. Forza Horizon 4 nails this dynamic for 95 percent of Eliminator and then throws it out the window when it matters most. It’s not the fastest who are necessarily surviving; it’s the people who are leaving first and gambling right. It’s stupidly frustrating to lose this way. Honestly, it doesn’t feel that great when you win this way either.