Stunning Locations. Pumping Music. Gorgeous Cars. Yep, the Horizon Festival is back in Forza Horizon 4 moving from the Australian Outback to Playground Games home in the U.K. the game has some serious shoes to fill after 2016’s phenomenal Forza Horizon 3. Is the latest Horizon Festival worth getting a ticket for or should you just skip the Festival this year?

Forza Horizon 4 actually takes a step back from Forza Horizon 3 rather than having you run the festival you are instead another festival patron looking to rise through the ranks of the Festival and be declare King Of The Festival.

While it may sound like it a downgrade the structure hasn’t really changed you still compete in races to earn XP and credits to unlock cars and increase your rank in the festival however the overall progression system has changed and changed for the better. Rather than having a basic unlock system that unlocks content as you increase rank each race is split into a different discipline like Street, Dirt and Drag each time you compete in a race you earn Influence (Horizons XP System) and you level up that discipline which in return unlocks new events and new customization items. Speed Traps, Danger Zones and Drift Zones have also returned and they are better than ever unlike Forza Horizon 3 when a zone is started you phase through cars preventing you from wrecking into another car which will prevent many a controller from being thrown.

This freedom in progression affects every aspect of the game from racing to finding the 200 Bonus Boards to even stuff like making Vinyls and making Blueprints eveything you do can make progression and it’s a system I hope Forza keeps in the future.

Forza Horizon 4 still includes the Showcase events 5 unique events that put you against things like a Hoverboat and a train. Fans of Halo will definitely get a kick out of one of the Showcase events however I do wish they were spaced out better as you get access to the first 3 extremely early on which kinda ruins the excitement of unlocking one.

There have a been a few things added like Character Custimization you can pick from preset male and female racers and dress them up in clothes and set various emotes like Dabbing, Flossing and whatever else you think is popular in 2018. It made not be a substantial feature but it is a nice inclusion for those who want a little bit of personality added to their characters.

Houses are also a new feature these act as HUBs and allow you to change your character and they grant various perks like the Drone Mode or extra Wheelspins and Barn Finds. The only issue with houses is they are insanely expensive and while some of the perks are nice they kinda feel like an after thought.

Bucketlists events which started out in Forza Horizon 2 have been replace with Horizon Stories these 3 mini stories have a much bigger narrative and have you helping to film a movie, running a car rental service and the last one I don’t want to spoil but fans of racing games should definitely get a kick out of this one. These are simple missions such a reaching a destination in a certain time, hitting a certain speed and various other tasks each one has 3 stars you can earn and trying to get all 3 stars on each is quite difficult.

Forza Horizon 4 also has 2 big new additions the first is Horizon Life available after you qualify for the Horizon Roster this is the main mode of the game you and up to 71 other players join on one server and you can do what you want engage in one on one races and compete or work together in co-op events. You aren’t required to play online at anytime and the best thing about Horizon Life is that if you lose connection to the server it doesn’t boot you back to the main menu it just switches you into offline mode which is an amazing inclusion. It also prevents other players from ramming into you and photobombing picture by having them phase through you unless you choose to let that happen.

However, the biggest addition is Seasons. Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter make the 4 seasons for the Horizon Festival. These aren’t just simple changes to scenery like everything Forza does it has a serious tangible effect on the game. Spring is full of rain which can make handling trickier, Summer is hot and allows for the fastest driving, and Winter freezes the lake and makes it drivable. These season are 7 real world days long which can be quite annoying to some people who hate snow and want sun but you can make custom events using the Horizon Blueprint with other season and the seasons have special events and special Barn Finds which might help making the season you don’t particiularly enjoy a little more bearable.

Getting to the Horizon Life is probably the biggest issue I have with Horizon 4. In order to qualify for Horizon Life you have to be added to the Horizon Roster which requires the players to play through all 4 seasons. This took me about 5 and half hours which is a pretty substantial amount of time for what is essentially a tutorial. While I do appericate getting players accustomed to the seasons there had to have been a better way to do this.

Forza games are known for there cars and Horizon 4 is no exception. While it doesn’t have the 700 cars of Forza Motorsport 7 it has a great selecion of 450+ cars though it does lack the Toyota, Mitsubishi and Lexus licenses which is kind of a bummer. Each car however is drop dead gorgeous and the Forzavista which allows you to get up and close and personal with them is still such a wonderful inclusion being able to see some of the beautiful cars in great detail is just breath taking sometimes.

The variety of machines is also incredible it has pretty much any kind of vehicle you want offroad, rally, hatchbacks, street, exotic there is a car for pretty much any person and you will want to drive them all. Each of the 450+ cars has a pain staking amount of detail from the exterior to the interior to most importantly how they sound as each one sounds spectualar and you can just tell how much time the sound designers spent trying to make sure all of them sound as authentic as possible. Attached to all 450+ cars is a skill tree and each car has a rarity effecting how many skills are earnable thankfully skill points are handed out pretty generously and most skill are used to get more skill points so it isn’t as much of a grind as it sounds though completionist will be playing for a while. I do kinda wish there was a way to auto distrubute points so you don’t have to continually pause to add points.

Just like the cars the scenery is gorgeous as well the U.K. here isn’t 100% accurate and instead is like a best of you have places like Edinburgh which houses the famous Edinburgh Castle and famous landmarks like the Uffington White Horse which you can of course ruin by driving a really fast car through and doing donuts on. The game can appear sparsely populated which can be seen as a bad thing to some people but it really didn’t bother me.

The handling model has not changed much since the original Forza Horizon and it hasn’t really needed to. The quality and flexibility of the handling model is still top tier it isn’t a full sim but it is a bit more realistic than something like Need For Speed and it can customized to how you like it. You can change assists like brake control, traction control, even things like difficulty and rewind functionality and you aren’t penalized for using assists you do earn more credits the less assists you have on which can let anyone of any racing level enjoy the game.

Music is also a big part of the game and the music selection this year is great. The 5 stations XS, Pulse, Block Party, Timeless and Hospital Records are all extremely enjoyable and clearly had some serious music heads choosing music. Bands and Artists like Foo Fighters, Beck, MGMT, Marshmello are wonderful additions and while the DJ chatter can get repetitive each station is absoutely worth listening to.

Performance for the most part is steady my copy was played on an Xbox One X in the 4K 30FPS Quality Mode and for the most part it holds the target framerate the biggest issue I have experienced is some freezing for a split second and the game slowing down and then speeding up it hasn’t had a huge effect on the game but it is hopefully something they can patch out. The Xbox One X version does come with a 1080p 60FPS mode as well dubbed Performance Mode.

Forza Horizon 4 is a game that anyone with any interest in racing games should play. The game does have a few odd design decisions I wish were either cleaned up or changed however the amount of content included and the smart changes to progression along with the excellent inclusion of seasons make this a Festival well worth visiting and one you might not want to leave any time soon.

As a added note it’s included with Xbox Game Pass so anyone who has that has no reason to not check it out.

Score: 4.5/5 (Exceptional)