Forza Horizon 4 review: Seasons and social hooks make the best arcade racer even better

“I see a festival that never ends, where you can be whatever you want to be. It’s not your dream holiday anymore. It’s your dream life.” Those lofty words are your introduction to Forza Horizon 4, and then you’re barreling down the road at 180 miles per hour, soundtrack thumping in your ears.

It’s an appropriate intro for a series that’s become as much about a lifestyle as anything else. If Forza Motorsport represents love for car racing—tuning the vehicle, nailing a tight sequence of turns, pushing your driving to its limits—Forza Horizon’s about a love of cars period. In an era where the automobile feels increasingly endangered (or even for many irrelevant) it’s Forza Horizon 4 that clings to the fantasy of driving a sports car down a sun-dappled road.

This time you do so in the UK, and you can do it with a lot of friends if you choose—but none of that really matters. It’s either your dream life or it isn’t, and chances are you already know the answer.

A car for all seasons

Anyway, the United Kingdom. I’ll admit, it feels a bit like a step down from Forza Horizon 3’s Australia. So much of Forza Horizon is spent driving aimlessly around admiring environments, and Horizon 3’s Australia had natural beauty around every corner. There were beaches, rainforests, cities, and of course the red dirt of the Outback, all spotted with iconic landmarks like the Twelve Apostles.

Forza Horizon 4 IDG / Hayden Dingman

It’s not that the United Kingdom is ugly, especially not here. Forza Horizon 4 does a great job squishing together interesting elements, from the twisting streets of Edinburgh to ancient old-growth forests. But it’s not as immediately eye-catching as Horizon 3, and at the worst of times feels like little more than a retread of Horizon 2’s Italy and France. The cottages are slate-roofed this time instead of terracotta-tiled, but there’s a familiarity to the rolling hills and picturesque farmlands.

Or at least, that’s how it feels during the summertime. For the first time, Horizon 4 introduces seasons to the festival.

We got a taste of this at E3, with the game running quickly through a montage of autumn, winter, spring, and ending with a sprint to the Horizon Festival center in summer. Turns out that’s actually the introduction to Forza Horizon 4 proper, so you’ll go through the same set of showcases.

Forza Horizon 4 IDG / Hayden Dingman

From there, you’ll go through all four seasons again—this time slower. Starting out in summer, your goal is to qualify for each successive season of the Horizon Festival by earning “Influence,” same as the previous games. You earn big chunks of Influence for races, and a smaller but steady stream of points for roaming around, jumping off cliffs, drifting, et cetera.