Forza Horizon Demo Hits Xbox Live
[Ed.: Originally published on Tumblr, October 12, 2012]
On Tuesday, October 9, a playable demonstration of the highly anticipated new entry in the Forza Motorsport franchise, Forza Horizon, hit Xbox Live Arcade and is available for download now. The full game, due out October 23, will take place not on the track, as with previous versions of Forza, but on the (sparsely) populated roads of a fictionalized Colorado.
Moving from the track to the street presents a certain challenge for Turn 10, the creators of every entry of Forza Motorsport to date. Forza has long been the Xbox’s answer to the Playstation’s Gran Turismo franchise, that is a racing simulator that is much more hardcore than casual racing games like Midnight Club, Burnout, and Need for Speed. Forza Horizon’s predecessors used an advanced physics detection system that accurately simulated movement physics, hit detection, tire and mechanical wear, and a variety of cosmetic and performance upgrades that all affected how the cars drove. There was even a tuning shop where tire camber, splitter height, transmission gear ratios, and more could all be adjusted to the driver’s preference.
Using such a technical physics engine would not make for a fun street racing game, however. While Turn 10 says the engine is based off the one used in Forza 4, even non-devotees will notice a major difference in the way the cars handle. I played Forza 4 and the Horizon demo back-to-back using a couple of cars that are present in both games: a Mitsubishi Evo X and a ‘70 Boss Mustang. The Evo is a 300hp, AWD rally-bred monster that has the tendency, in real-life and in Forza 4, to exhibit a bit of understeer in corners. That is, the car does not rotate enough in the middle of a corner and swings wide. However, in Horizon, the Evo X has an oversteering quality and will spin if you push it too hard. It’ll also tackle wide right hand turns at 90mph. Try to do that in Forza 4 and your ass is going straight through a tire wall.
The Mustang is a different story. At about 3600 pounds, it’s not exactly light, and the majority of the weight is concentrated in the front half of the car. Being an early Mustang, getting the thing around a corner is akin to convincing Ted Nugent to give up meat. So the car has to slow down to a crawl before cornering so as to not plow straight through, and be careful not to hop on the fast pedal too quickly either, or you’ll be doing donuts on a track. All these behaviors are noticeably muted or absent in the friendlier Horizon demo, which has the Boss racing against its namesake, the P-51 Mustang fighter plane through the mountains of Colorado. Turning off the optional steering assist designed to make driving the cars easier did not produce a simulation-quality steering experience.
This is a Boss Mustang at the Nurburgring in Forza 4. It does not like turns
One other small point: at least as far as the demo is concerned, there appears to be no more mechanical damage to cars when involved in an accident. Cosmetic damage is preserved, but I like that there was a certain dangerous element should a car be involved in a major pileup in the previous Forzas (such as when an engine no longer produced power or steering alignment was altered significantly).
All in all, I am looking forward to the full release of Forza Horizon, because I know that if Turn 10 makes a more casual racing game with the same enthusiasm as they bring to Forza Motorsport, I know Horizon will be solid. It also doesn’t look like Forza 4 is being neglected, as new car packs are released every month (for a price!), as usual.
New lighting effects are able to show the passage of time throughout the day