Forza Horizon 4 is the racing game of the season(s)

Platforms: Microsoft Xbox One

Mere minutes after you sit down with Forza Horizon 4 it becomes abundantly clear that the amount of time, energy and dedication which has been poured into this driving simulator has resulted in the best instalment of the franchise to date.

For franchise newbies, Forza Horizon 4 is an open-world racing game set in a British landscape, coloured by all four diverse seasons over the duration of the Horizon Festival. The Festival is a series of events in which players can compete in races, scrambles and stunt showcases to increase “influence”, thus unlocking bigger races, better cars and a richer version of the world.

Britain is an interesting choice of setting. Playing on temperamental weather patterns in the UK, Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring all come with variables which drastically alter the gameplay. A quick intro outlines these seasons and sees you tackle tarmac, dirt tracks and snow-coated fields. As well as laying out the foundations of the game’s mechanics, this hints at the replayabilty that the new seasonal dynamic offers – every part of this game comes in four very different modes.

Summer is where your adventure starts, and it boasts the most ideal driving conditions; dry weather means that your tires stick to the road which in turn produces fast-paced racing on every type of surface. Summer fields are flush with crops and, although such environmental changes are subtle, they add to the realism of the world and neatly separate the seasons. Autumn may be the most visually appealing of all four seasons and, along with the falling leaves, haybales replace the crops as harvest rolls around, peppering fields with obstacles perfect for you to drift in between for added off-road fun.

Winter brings the biggest seasonal change with icy roads and frozen lakes and rivers. This opens up new routes and allows you to test your driving skills on a much more dangerous surface. Cars really do perform differently at this time of year, and you may find yourself having to relearn how to drive all over again. Finally comes Spring, one of the most temperamental times of year, burdened with flash storms turning dirt tracks into mud baths which are the perfect setting for crazy off-road races.

Whilst the charm of the fortified open-world structure is a nailed on Forza staple, it’s clear that seasonal diversity raises this game above its predecessors. There are endless possibilities, numerous showcases which focus on the variability of each season, and a beautiful open-world. I have no hesitation in declaring that Forza Horizon 4 takes pole position as the best instalment of the series, and the best racing game on Xbox One.

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