The decision to set the latest entry in the wildly successful Forza Horizon series in Britain was always a risky move. After tearing around exotic locations like the South of France and Australia’s Gold Coast, arriving on the rain-battered shores of the UK might have made the game’s Horizon festival feel like a wet weekend at Pontins Camber Sands.
In hindsight, we needn’t have worried. After all, developer Playground Games simply hasn’t made a bad game yet, and that impressive streak continues in Forza Horizon 4, available on Xbox One and PC. This version of Britain is the sort of idyllic, picture postcard vision of our country that exists only in the minds of pensioners. It’s also the Horizon series’s most spectacular and involving game world yet.
The landscape is already varied enough to keep you interested, with the rolling green hills of the Cotswolds, the stark, primordial beauty of the Scottish Highlands and a generous chunk of handsome Edinburgh to explore. It’s supplemented, though, by the addition of the four, distinct seasons, rotating every real-world week, meaning the same race route can be a vastly different challenge depending on whether it’s buried under a foot of snow or not.
Most importantly, that world is stuffed with things to do all year round. Horizon 4 is like a hyperactive toddler, dragging you around by the hand showing you all its favourite toys. Every few minutes there’ll be a new challenge or a new barn find or an opportunity to spin a prize wheel, which could either net you a million pound hypercar or a pair of Bermuda shorts so tasteless even Timmy Mallett would think twice about wearing them.
It’s also crammed with enough challenges that you can focus on the events that appeal to you. If your preference is cross country racing, there’s hours of it to keep you entertained. If you’d prefer to tick off the brilliant new Horizon Stories, individual missions with their own miniature narrative, fill your Sparco boots. And if you really want to try and tackle a waterlogged rally event in a totally unsuitable McLaren Senna, you can do that as well. We reckon you’ll last three corners.
The upshot of all this buzzing activity, combined with over 450 cars and perfectly balanced arcade handling, is that it’s extremely difficult to stop playing Forza Horizon 4. This is exactly the sort of game that has you staring bleary-eyed at your watch at 3am and wondering how convincingly ill you’ll sound when you phone in sick tomorrow.
Perhaps we’re slightly biased, because Horizon 4 takes the roads we’re most familiar with and combines them into a Now That’s What I Call Britain greatest hits album. But you know what we’re more biased towards? Really good games. Forza Horizon 4 is unequivocally one of those.