Despite recent attempts to shake its Petrol Heads Only, Man-club image, (the inclusion of Top Gear mini-games and branding in the recent Forza 4 being the most notable), Forza has long been viewed as being a hyper serious, racing simulator that is to accessible what a brick to the face is to subtlety. Seemingly eager to broaden the series' appeal, Microsoft have come up with Forza Horizon - an arcade inspired, less serious, more drifty approach to a Forza game than we've seen before.
So what do we know so far? Well, apart from sharing the same technology under the hood, and being about cars, Forza Horizon seems keen to shake any stuffiness its namesake may have passed across to it. Set in a fictional motor festival, known as the Horizon festival, Forza Horizon doesn't just reward you for driving somewhere fast, or finishing in first place, but instead lets you earn points for driving stylishly. Pull off a drift, a burnout, or a near miss (amongst many others), and you'll be rewarded with points - the more points you earn, the more you climb up the festival rankings, with the goal of being crowned number one - starting from 250th. With a network of 206 roads in the colorado desert to race across, and the ability to spot a place 20km away, and then drive there, it sounds like there's likely to be plenty to see and do, too.
If you've been following the racing game scene over the past few years, the chances are that a few of the features mentioned above may sound eerily similar. A racing game that rewards you not for how fast you drive, but for how you drive fast, giving you points for drifting amongst other things? A racing game set during a festival? If it sounds like the best of Project Gotham Racing and Dirt combined, well, you should give yourself a self-adhesive star or consider a career as a detective, as the team behind Forza Horizon is basically an amalgam of the staff that worked on Project Gotham and Dirt, all brought together in a studio in West Midlands gaming hub, Leamington Spa.
With a team of arcade racing veterans behind it, and the freedom to reach out on its own, and, you know, live a little, it seems like Forza's finally getting the chance to let its hair down. We can't wait to see how this turns out.