During this year’s E3, we climbed up to the lofty second floor of the Microsoft booth and caught a preview of Forza Horizon, the latest racing game from developer Playground Games in association with Turn 10 . From the offset, the developer told us that this is not strictly a racing sim and it’s not an arcade racer. “This is an action racing game.”
Horizon’s big idea, which seems to borrow inspiration from Burnout Paradise, is the game’s open world nature. Centered around the fictional “Horizon” music festival in Colorado, Forza Horizon allows you to drive virtually anywhere. They chose Colorado because of the incredible views and the diverse road types. Thanks to team members who have worked on rally titles such as DIRT, this is the first Forza game with an off-road component. In fact, Forza Horizon features 65 different surface types, from asphalt to dirt to anything in between.
I asked if this means that Forza Horizon is essentially two games in one – a street racer and a rally racer. “It’s more about being able to drive anywhere that you want to drive,” they answered. They used the example of a golf course created in-game. The developers decided that they wanted to be able to drive on the golf course as opposed to just using it as scenery that you blow past in a race, so they tweaked the game as necessary to make that happen. They also emphasized the sense of scale in the game and a game engine that now includes night racing and incredible draw distances. Indeed, the demo they showed us was simply gorgeous.
The Horizon music festival acts as the central place for car and music enthusiasts to gather, race, and show off. In every way, Forza Horizon is about appreciating cars. “We want to turn car lovers into gamers and gamers into car lovers.” To that end, the game features a system that pays attention to how stylishly you drive. It reminded me more than a little of the Kudos system in Project Gotham Racing. The more you speed, drift, weave through traffic, and so on, the more the game rewards you, and the points you earn go toward your popularity within the Horizon Festival.
Because of the game’s incredibly large scale and open world nature, it’s possible for players to get lost in the maze of streets and dirt roads, but the developers have come up with a nifty solution. Just tell your GPS where you want to go and thanks to Kinect’s voice command system, the game will map your destination out for you instantly via a series of arrows on the road.
With Forza Horizon, Playground Games wants to combine the authenticity of Forza Motorsport with “action-based driving gameplay.” And a partnership with BBC Radio DJ Rob da Bank and three in-game radio stations, the game makes the Horizon Music Festival the hub of car and music culture. If you’re a fan of the Forza franchise, or just a fan of cars in general, you should keep your calendar open for Forza Horizon this fall.
Forza Horizon launches on October 23, 2012 in North America.