When Playground Games announced they were taking Horizon 4 to Great Britain, I was worried that it was stepping back, after Australia, the UK does not seem so great, but they have delivered another mostly incredible game.
As is the standard these days, you are an unknown racer, who comes to the Horizon festival to make a name for yourself, however unlike 3, here you are not the boss, you are a no one and it is up to you, to build your reputation, because in Horizon 4, rep is everything. After you meet a few of the Horizon folks, you are given a choice of car and then told head to your first event, this is where the game starts to change, so you need to pay attention. There are multiple racing disciplines on offer, your basic racing, dirt racing, street racing (totally not sanctioned by the Horizon festival) drag racing, cross country and rally style and as you compete in them, you will unlock more events in that series. If you ignore something like Street racing, you could be in series 2 there, while the others are much higher.
As you level up and earn wheelspins (the regular or the super ones), or level in racing disciplines, you will eventually unlock clothing options, now I myself equipped the James Bond suit and never looked back, but if you want you can rock a tropical shirt, with a grandpa hat, neon shorts and gumboots. You will also unlock emotes, dances that you character does while either waiting for a race to begin, or after winning one and combining the two is quite funny, though utterly pointless as you can’t get out of your car to wander around, you only see your character in cutscenes and as you can only have two dance emotes selected, you see the same ones, over and over again. The other issue is that, when you hit up beauty spots, locations that attempt to showcase the true beauty of the UK, your character will do one of those two emotes again and seeing your guy doing the running man whilst standing atop a frozen waterfall might sound cool, but not only does it wears thin, fast, it takes away from the vista you are being shown.
However, the racing is still as incredible as ever, the controls are tight and responsive and even when taking place in drag races, a first for the Horizon series, it works perfectly. The game still rewards you for taking risks and pulling off crazy moves, but this time as well, it will earn you influence, letting you level up and unlock showcases and such faster. The drivatar system works as it has in the past, meaning that at random times, you will see the same characters for that session causing you no end of grief as they drive in front of you and such, however this year the game offers you the chance to do away with them and have actual real world people. When you take the game online, you get the shared world experience, letting you race around and interact with other drivers, which is where the seasonal event burnouts come into play and this feels amazing, which coming from someone who does not like shared worlds, is saying something.
What seasons do offer is a really incredible array of colours and sights to behold, in fact the game is staggeringly beautiful, so much so that I would just stop to check out a vista, quite often. As the seasons are on a 7-day, real world cycle, you will need to get used a set season, or just not play the game for that week, as there is no way to change it yourself, which when combined with the shared world, makes some sense. Taking your car of choice out and driving it amongst the trees as the leaves are shades of brown, red and yellow, is really nice and same for Winter, but swap trees with snow-covered fields, the game offers no end of sights to discover. While the game looks amazing, there is no denying that England, the UK, Great Britain, whatever you call it, is not a fun place to explore, there is no map variety to experience and while the seasons change the look, the map is still the same, only going to Winter with its frozen lakes, offers something truly different, Australia had a wealth of different climates to explore, Southern Europe the same, so getting nothing but green is a let down.
Review copy provided by Xbox Australia