One thing that you don't expect to hear when you pick up a Forza game is that this fairly hardcore racing sim is taking cues from the arcade racer series, Burnout. But it's fairly hard to deny the fact that Forza Horizon seems very similar to Burnout: Paradise. However there's nothing particularly bad about this the idea of a racing simulator series taking place in a large open world is a pretty rare thing and this title seems to be heading in quite the interesting direction.
When the E3 demo starts up you and several other racers are on your way to the Horizon Festival in Colorado and have stopped at a roadside location. But a voice over the radio informs you that only about ten spots are still open for new racers so you have to bust your hump to get there before the other racers do so.
While the background to the race isn't spectacularly interesting the race track itself is miles away from what you would be used to from a Forza game. The track isn't a track so much as it's an open road with civilian traffic trying to drive to their destination while you and the other racers jockey for position. Even more than this is the interesting fact that the track is quite spread out, with a fairly wide variety of roads you can take to your destination. These branching paths allow you a good bit of freedom to get to your destination although you'll want to be careful when the traffic reunites since it's quite easy to end up in a massive fender bender at these spots.
Speaking to Scott Catlin, one of the lead designers on the title, the two main focuses of this title were freedom of the road and car torture. You'll be trashing your car a lot more than in previous titles since these aren't going to be the neat, organized track races. We're looking at an open world with full free roam, street races or even off road races. There's even drifting challenges for you to bean into corners constantly. All of this promises to trash your vehicle quite a bit no matter how pretty and shiny it is normally. The spec races you can enter at the Horizon Festival might be more organized but it seems that those are likely to be in the minority.
The cars aren't going to be strictly race cars either but more along the lines of cars people would show off at a car festival. Sports cars or drag racers might be more in line although the one shown off at the demo was definitely more of a sporty car. And they were so pretty!... Ehem. I mean they looked quite impressive to my professional eye. The area of Colorado where the game takes place is almost as attractive as the cars. The developers have taken a photo realistic rendition of the area and then actively modified it to enhance gameplay. An active day and night cycle will modify how you approach races as well since you're not exactly going to have an easy time navigating a hilly area you're unfamiliar with at night so you'll want to be careful.
Considering the lackluster Kinect integration of the last game I decided to ask what the approach was to the Kinect for this game. I was informed that instead of what we saw in Forza 4 they're going to integrate voice commands that will streamline your experience. Since it's an open world it is easy to get lost and to help you out it is now possible to use your voice commands to reprogram the destination in your GPS. So if you want to get back to the festival an example command might be "Map. Festival." and your GPS path will auto-adjust without any menu fiddling. A small use that is rather convenient.
Don't let the new gameplay approach fool you, Forza Horizon looks and feels like a Forza game. Horizon releases on October 23rd at the end of this year and it definitely looks like it's shaping up to be a fresh take on the Forza universe. More information will be released over the next few months but overall I can definitely say that I'm far more excited for this Forza than I have been in quite some time.