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Forza Horizon 4: Why this is easily the best racing game you’ll play this year

Playground Games' latest effort is miles ahead of the competition

The run-up to Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year when you’re a gamer.

While FIFA 19 is at the front of most gamer’s minds right now, Forza Horizon 4 shouldn’t be far behind. In fact, with a Metacritic score of 93 (compared to FIFA 19’s 84), Playground Games’ latest racer is actually a much better game.

Unlike the last Horizon, which was set in Australia, this one sees you zoom around the Scottish Highlands, Lake District and other iconic British locations.

For the first time in the series, Horizon features dynamic seasons.

You’ll cruise along the beach in the sun one minute before racing across frozen lakes the next. It was this, creative director Ralph Fulton explains, that made Britain the perfect canvas for their latest game.

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The landscape is easily recognisable as British

“The opportunity to do Britain as a seasonal representation was too bigger opportunity to pass up,” he said. “That was the major reason we went for Britain.”

With the seasons changing on a weekly basis in-game, it was important no details were missed – no matter how small. Take the sheep in the fields, for example.

“As loads of parts of Britain have sheep in them it would look odd to drive by empty field after empty field,” said Fulton.

“Seeing big fluffy sheep all year round didn’t make sense so the sheep get sheared with the seasons changing. A huge amount of work has gone into details like this, even the things you wouldn’t think of.”

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Classic cars still get some of the limelight

But it’s not just the environment that’s hyper-detailed… cars look and feel the part, too.

We get a touch more authentic with our handling every game,” said Fulton.

“That authenticity comes from separating different types of cars in terms of tyres, geometry, suspension (etc), and looking at how they deal with surfaces.”

“We have got far more granular with each game and you can really feel that with Horizon 4. We want people to come in, whatever the age and be able to pick up the controller and have fun with it.”

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Don’t hit the sheep they have done nothing wrong

However, the realism stops when it comes to crashing your car in a spectacular fashion, Fulton explained.

“You’re driving around in an open world, it’s about fast, fun, flowing gameplay, you don’t want your car to fall to bits.

“We have gone to great lengths to make pretty much everything smash when you hit it, just not your car.

“In real life, if you drive your supercar into a dry-stone wall in Britain (of which there are many) your car will come off worse. That’s not fun in gameplay.”

Instead, your car will be damaged layer by layer.

It’s little details like getting rid of layers of paint in a realistic order that help keep things looking authentic,” he added. 

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Your car is likely to take some damage in the harsher seasons… but it’ll be purely cosmetic

To launch this new open world racing title, Xbox unleashed pro driver and Gymkhana star Ken Block, and his ferocious 1,400 BHP Hoonicorn on the tranquil Goodwood Estate.

From drifting through the Estate’s pristine entrance in a screech of tires to terrorizing three classic British minis and donutting around a WWII spitfire, nowhere was safe during Block’s high-octane countryside spin.

He even tried to take Hafþór Björnsson (Hafþór is the World’s Strongest Man titleholder and the actor who plays The Mountain in Game of Thrones) for a spin, but the 6-feet 9-inch man mountain couldn’t fit in to the car!