'Forza' spinoff hits the open road

|
Photo -
Entertainment

The folks behind the successful "Forza Motorsport" racing franchise have thrown a bit of a curveball with their latest release, "Forza Horizon."

Until now, the games have all followed in the mold of "Gran Turismo," featuring sports and dedicated racing cars on dedicated racing circuits. This time around, the game takes on more of a "Need for Speed" feel, complete with pseudo-storyline and open driving environment.

The game takes place during a fictitious gathering called the Horizon Festival in Colorado. It's a combination of concert, street race and car festival. You arrive as a nobody who catches the eye of the cute-girl festival organizer, who serves up your voice-over instructions for the game. Your goal is to gain popularity, win races and eventually unseat Darius Flynt, king of the festival.

Winning races is fairly self-explanatory, but how does one gain popularity? Through random acts of vehicular mayhem. Everything from a smoky tire burnout to nearly sideswiping a car to knocking over stop signs will earn you points with the fans. They tend to happen naturally as you drive from here to there, going to the starting points for various races or off in search of "barn finds," which net you a rare car, provided you can find where it's hidden on a region of the map. Some of the cars are a bit too rare for belief: There is absolutely zero chance any Bugatti EB110 has been abandoned in a barn. But it's a fantasy, after all.

'Forza Horizon'
» System: Xbox 360
» Price: $59.99
» Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

You earn credits pretty quickly in this game, both from winning races and through sponsorships you generate by doing tricks while driving around. Which makes it all the more annoying that this game tries even harder to push the "token" concept from "Forza Motorsport 4." You can earn credits in-game, or you can spend Xbox points on a token to buy that car you've had your eye on. More frustrating is that some content can only be bought with tokens, giving the game's economy a "freemium" feel. This, despite the fact that the game isn't free in the first place (or even cheap).

More downloadable content is promised in the future, which would be welcome. The starting car selection isn't exactly huge by modern standards, but new car packs will doubtlessly come along. The graphics look great and the car physics work well in the large, open environment. It's a great game, but at times, it feels like Turn 10 Studios is trying to give you just enough of a taste to let them hold out for more cash.

mglennon@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment