Seasons are everything in Forza Horizon 4. Weather has been a high-level feature that Playground Games has wanted for a long time. It’s already in the instanced races of the main Forza series, of course. All of the tech exists to not only make it rain, but accurately depict driving through that rain.
But how do you make it work in an open world?
As Summer turns to Autumn, Winter, and Spring, Forza Horizon 4‘s mission is to provide new challenges along with its seasonal changes, while seamlessly integrating multiplayer. It’s chosen this task in the midst of recreating its own home of Britain. And no matter the season, Forza Horizon 4‘s weather will dynamically change driving physics.
Here’s how it’ll all work.
Forza Horizon 4‘s Britain
It’s all about Britain this time around. Lovely roadside stone cottages. Oddly agile sheep that avoid your speeding rampages.
There are several benefits to setting Forza Horizon 4 in the developer’s backyard. There’s a certain amount of pride on the line, but it’s also very easy to get the details right.
While Playground Games could only send a small team to Australia for research on Forza Horizon 3, it’s feasible to quickly and cheaply send a much larger team around the UK. Here in Australia we got a kick out of the little details, like seeing our uniquely coloured recycling bins faithfully rendered. We can expect that and more from the red phone boxes of Britain.
The world of Forza Horizon 4 will be the same size as the last game, but with notable tech improvements. The most notable is the weather systems Playground has been wanting to implement for a while now — but we’ll get to that. Multiplayer is now more seamlessly integrated. And If you’ve got an Xbox One X, Forza Horizon 4 will also run at 60 frames per second.
Parts of this new world will be purchasable, too. While the whole game takes place in a fictional event that involves racing and drifting all over the British countryside, you’ll have the opportunity to put down roots – or just buy a vanity home – in a dozen or so houses up for grabs. These range from small cottages to larger, more famous dwellings.
It’s a singleplayer only feature, but it’s the ultimate status symbol in Forza Horizon 4. Park your favourite car outside and take a photo, enjoying the juxtaposition of slick McLaren against 14th century stone.
While Playground will be building Britain to the best of its ability, this won’t be a 1:1 recreation. Much like the Australia of Forza Horizon 3 saw us driving for a few minutes between Byron Bay and the Outback, this is primarily a fun open world. That’s fine by us — who really wants to drive for literal, real-world days to get to the other side of the map? Plus, the introduction of weather systems allows Forza Horizon 4 to effectively create different driving experiences using the same space.
Weather Systems in Forza Horizon 4
When deciding which features to put in the game, weather and Britain came as a packaged deal. As it was put to us, “We went with Britain because we went with weather, and we went with weather because we went with Britain.”
Britain is a very seasonal location, allowing Forza Horizon 4 to showcase its simulation-level driving physics in very pronounced Summers and Winters.
“We have hundreds of surfaces in the game, and on top of that there are the weather conditions,” said our demo driver at E3. “But it’s not just about the surfaces, it’s about the conductivity. The way heat is transferred from the surface into the tyre. That will change according to temperature, wetness, etc. You’ll notice the difference on the same track across different seasons, and across the day/night cycle.”
For those not well versed in four-wheeled physics, weather will have some even bigger effects. Sections of the map will change entirely. An island in the middle of a lake, for example, would become accessible when the lake freezes over in winter. A strong river might dry up in the Summer, revealing new routes.
On top of that, Playground will be adding in its own season-based challenges in Forza Horizon 4. In fact, seasons will be its main way of adding new content. Each season lasts one week in real-time, and will always come with new things to find. Every player will be playing in the same world, with synchronised seasons.
“We wanted there to always be something to look forward to,” said our demo driver. “When an experienced player teams up with a novice, they might say ‘If you like this area now, wait till you see it in Winter, I’ll have some cool paths to show you.'”
Every asset in the game changes in some way across the four seasons. It’s like there are actually four versions of Forza Horizon 4, and we were happy to see how many practical, gameplay effects the seasons have in addition to visual style.
How Forza Horizon 4‘s Multiplayer Works
There are a lot of fun ideas here. Your world of Forza Horizon 4‘s Britain will be seamlessly integrated with others, with racers and drift partners sliding into view from off-screen a la Journey.
There’s a basic communication system in play so you can ask folks if they want to do a drifting challenge, or join a larger race. To avoid griefing, no car-to-car contact is allowed until you allow it, or join a competitive race.
Speaking of competitive races, Playground will be running world events on the hour, every hour. These will start out on a massive scale, and whittle people down through multiple challenges until there’s a winner. The Online Adventure mode is competitive only, and will feature teams and rankings for those who want to get serious.
While the “rewind” mechanic has been used before in Forza games, here it actually works in the context of online multiplayer.
A highly requested feature from the community was being able to make your own route, and Forza Horizon 4 let’s you do it. Found a cool path the developers didn’t anticipate through the changing world? Now you can save it, and share it with other players who can rate them.
If you don’t really want to take part in any of the online multiplayer shenanigans, there’s a quick “Horizon Solo” button which makes the experience completely offline until you say otherwise. The developers think you’ll have a much better with with Forza Horizon 4 with multiplayer enabled, but hey. Sometimes you just want to drive alone.
There are more than 450 cars in Forza Horizon 4, but this is very much a game about the world. It’s about Britain, but more importantly, it’s the realisation of an idea of four different versions of a play space, rotating every week.
It’s a perfect fit for the tech of the Forza franchise, and we think Forza fans will enjoy the blending of their world with others online. It’s up to Playground to make interesting challenges that’ll go along with these ideas, and with new ones added every week, there are sure to be some hits. Not to mention, you can create your own now — and we expect the community aspect of this game to increase as a result.
You can expect it on October 11th on Xbox One and Xbox Game Pass.