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Hands-On: Forza Horizon 4 wants you to play online, but without the pain

by Eric Frederiksen | June 19, 2018June 19, 2018 10:00 am PDT

Forza Horizon 4 is doing things with online that it’s never done before. A huge, synchronized world with changing seasons and dynamic events. For those like me that like a world to feel alive but not actually be live, that sounds a little scary. I enjoy my solitude. But after seeing the way the game is going to work behind closed doors and playing it a bit myself, I’m really excited to see where Playground Games is taking the series.

You don’t have to play online

The game starts in online mode, but you’re not forced to stay that way. That’s just where the game starts from. If you want to play offline, you can. You just head to the pause menu and select the Solo option. The other players are replaced by drivatars, and the world goes on as it has. That also means that if you are playing online and your connection drops (shout out to my ISP), you don’t get booted from your game. You just transition seamlessly into solo mode.

I can’t give you grief

And then there’s griefers. Sea of Thieves handles that by making griefers part of the game, but Forza is doing something different. While formal races will have their share of collisions, the open world eschews that completely. If you park your car in the middle of the street, you won’t be ruining random players’ combos. If a random player wants to ruin your combo, they’ll find it quite impossible to do.

This was really my biggest concern. Ruining peoples’ days is a riot and a half for a certain audience, and it’s something that can drive the rest of us out of a game. It’s pretty easy to leave one game behind when there are 10 others to play, as we’ll be seeing this fall when we have games like Forza, Spider-Man, Tomb Raider and more all releasing within days of each other.

You can still rewind

This is an online world, but you can still rewind. I suspect this will be handled differently in races, but in the open world it’s no problem. Because you and the other players aren’t physically interacting with each other, you can rewind when you make a mistake, just as you can in solo mode. This has been a core feature in Forza since early on in the series, and removing it would be about as bad as taking the hadoken out of Street Fighter.

I played it!

I sat down and ran through the demo on the floor at Microsoft’s showcase just before the E3 show, a series of races that took me through each of the four seasons in different vehicles. In the short demo it was tough to get a feel for how thoroughly the seasonal changes will change the gameplay, but I was immediately taken with the U.K. as the setting. There had been rumors that the series was going to Japan for this game, and the rumors had circled more than once. I was disappointed at the reveal, but the truth is that the U.K. looks great, and it feels good to race in. It immediately feels more alive than the already-great Australia setting of Forza Horizon 3. Fog rolls down over the lake. Sheep – yes, there are animals this time around – move out of the way when you go off-road. Colorful flowers pop in the spring, replaced by vibrant leaves in the fall. It’s a wildly colorful game. It also feels immediately more vertical than Australia, which makes everything feel bigger and deeper.

Not shown in the demo are some of the other cool things Playground is doing with the game. If you dug the blueprint races, you’ll love making your own race routes this time around. The festival this year will have us buying houses that will impart certain benefits as well as giving you a place to take some pictures of all your dope rides.

Forza Horizon 4 isn’t going to convert those that have previously bounced off the series, I don’t think. As a fan of the series, though, I’m eagerly awaiting the game’s October 2 release date.


Eric Frederiksen

Eric Frederiksen has been a gamer since someone made the mistake of letting him play their Nintendo many years ago, pushing him to beg for his own,...

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