Way to ruin it...
Oh yes, I finally played this game that every NFS fanboy was raving about. They claimed this was the ultimate car racing game, spoiler: it is not.
Then what is it? I really don't know and apparently the developers didn't either. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here, start at the beginning.
And if we really want to go to the beginning, we have to talk MS Store, because that is where this game is from. And it is still garbage. Why? Because the MS store downloads slowly, and the download stopped and failed multiple times. Having to manually restart the download for the game to finally be playable.
And it is also garbage because of UWP. Which means the game is not moddable, if even a single hair is out of place it will no longer run. So I couldn't even get rid of the 25 second long unskippable logo animation at the start of the game. My time is precious and if someone wants to waste even 25 seconds of it, they better have a damned good reason. I'm ok with watching their crappy logos in 640x480 once, but not every time I start the game.
So what's the game itself like? Do you want the bad news or the good news? Good news is that it tries to be like Test Drive Unlimited, which is the actual ultimate car racing game, for the uncultured ones out there. Bad news is that it falls short by no small margin.
The first rule of imitating someone is to do it as well as or better than them. Otherwise what's the point? I'll just choose the original.
FZ4 borrows the basic gameplay from TDU, but it is smaller, less exciting and generally more boring. First off why the UK? If I'm thinking great driving roads and scenery that's not what first comes to my mind, or second or third, or hundredth.
I had zero interest in exploring the map, it all looks the same anyway, not much variation. At least it's small, not that's a good thing, but it makes the pointless drives to racing locations shorter. Because there will be a lot of pointless driving in this game. Since there is no fast travel. OK, ok, don't scream I know there is, but it is paid, and only usable for a few special locations.
At least it's not paid for by real money. Don't worry, the game still has microtransactions. And it shamelessly plugs them all the time. It even puts paid cars as your opponents in races. I see a cool car I want, then try to buy it only to find that it is paid. If I had a webcam now you'd see me showing the middle finger to Microsoft and to anyone who tries to bait me into in game purchases. Not now, not in a thousand years, not ever.
But I digress, why is driving in a driving game so bad? Because the scenery is dull and most cars suck, that's why. Almost every car in the game is an undriveable mess. Either they are slow as a slug, or they understeer like a pig. Or worse unable to go in a straight line. Or will randomly flip over for no reason.
It is unfortunate that the most drivable car in the game is the first car I got in it. That makes the whole race for money and purchase / upgrade cars bit pointless. But buying better cars / upgrades is pointless anyway, because the opponents are always matched to you in every race in the game. Whatever car you choose the game will make every opponent use cars from the same class and performance level.
It's really disheartening when you get your hands on a rare or legendary car, show up to a race with it only to see that half the opponents drive the same car. Way to ruin my excitement.
So the only reason to switch cars is for your own amusement, and to find one that handles like you prefer.
But let's circle back to the beginning, my first impressions of the game were terrible. I tried to play with a wheel, not a good idea. Especially since the game has a bunch of driving assists that are turned on by default, so I wasn't really driving at first I was wrestling against the assists. Until I found how to turn them all off and switch driving mode to 'simulation'. The game is still better played from KB in this mode, but at least I feel in control. And the driving model is better than I expected, which is big praise from me.
No it's not a simulation, but it's no criterion game either where there is no anchor to reality whatsoever. Here you can detect faint roots in reality. Except for wheels off the ground, because that bit is ridiculously bad and definitely not based on any physics engine.
The races are very short, again proving the point of being smaller and less exciting than TDU where there was a 200km race, and some other very long runs. But then again TDU's map was about 100x60km. Forza Horizon 4 by my estimate is roughly 10x6km, so about one tenth of it which is laughable. But you'd think then it crams a lot of excitement into that small map, right? WRONG. The map is as dull as it gets.
Between the endless repetitions of the same thicket lines and hedgerows and stonewalls there is not much scenery to speak of. There is one tiny city, but most races take place on the open roads anyway.
The game has character customization but it seems like nothing but an appalling front to push microtransactions, as 99% of the clothing items are paywalled. And there is no actual character customization you can just select from a bunch of presets, all of whom look like millenials.
At first the game gave me the impression that it will have some story, but that was too much to hope for as it turns out. And it all culminated in the biggest disappointment I ever had in any game.
Do you know why you are racing in the single player part of the game? To unlock the MMO part! That is your reward. It's a scam! I was excited to find what is this horizon roster they were talking about only to find that it just means the competitive online portion of the game. What a bummer.
You can also purchase houses in game, but they have no purpose as far as I can tell. You don't need garage space to store cars as in TDU, and they don't serve any other functionality either, you can't even hang out in your bungalow. That's where you start from when you load up the game, that's it.
So the game went full circle for me. Like so:
At the beginning: Terrible!
After 1 hour: this is actually not that bad
After 2 hours: it is actually good
After 4 hours: ok now it started to get boring
Reaching the goal: Oh no this is Terrible!
Let's see the pros and cons:
- OK Graphics
- Weather effects
- Changing seasons
- Driving model for an arcade game
- The Stunt driver challenges were fun
- Small map
- Not the greatest choice of location
- Pointless avatar customization (microtrans bait)
- The goal of the single player bit is to unlock the multiplayer bit
- Shameless plugging of DLCs and microtransactions at every turn
- The Top Gear bit’s secret purpose is to make you hate Chris Harris
- Catch up, and terribly scripted seasonal showcases
overall impression: 6/10
If you have a Game Pass for PC, it's worth to check it out, but I'd not recommend it as a buy if you just want a good SP game like me.