Has the potential to be bland, but handled as deftly as this and it can be the best thing to ever come from the new world to Britain.
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The Forza Horizon series is, in my opinion, a masterpiece. The original Forza games, while good racing simulations with plenty of customisation options and the ability to design intricate decals for your vehicles, were always pretty straight-laced. There was plenty of fun to be had in racing, but it always felt like the sort of thing that had a governing body somewhere of the sort that might possibly be run by a creepy, elderly billionaire. Horizon binned all that.
From the first incarnation, Horizon threw off the shackles of audited loops built to specific regulations in favour of running flat out on US highways, and doing donuts in town centres. After the first in series visited the US, the sequels touched on Italy and Australia before the 4th installment landed in the UK. While I thought the previous entries in the series were brilliant, the fact that the fourth's set in the UK — on this Festered Isle — really made it stand out. It's also not just set in my homeland, but also in my home town: Edinburgh.
Edinburgh's a fantastic city, small and rocky, old and full of character. It also has terrible roads. Just awful. And I don't even drive. As I type this I'm sitting in my flat and if you were to ask how to drive to my office from here I'd have absolutely no idea. Roads are closed, traffic's redirected; walking I'd have no problems, but directions by car? No clue.
You might be tempted to use the extensive tram works as an exceptional circumstance to justify the situation, but really twas ever thus. I have, for the 22 years I've lived here, struggled to direct anyone to anywhere within the city with unwavering difficulty. Edinburgh is a city to navigate on foot; in a vehicle it's a nightmare. Not so in Horizon.
Horizon opens the city up, it cleverly squashes and stretches the familiar roads of the city so that the landmarks feel like they're situated where they belong, but it's sufficiently reconfigured that this simulacrum lends itself to exploration on four-wheels. It's not just the city, but the whole area it maps, Britain feels (in a sad reversal of reality) open.
This means that it's possible to blast off from Edinburgh castle, scream along the usually perplexing road layouts, rocket out of the city and off towards the various Harry Potter filming locations of the Highlands in a supercar without ever once having to figure out whether a particular road is one-way or not.
Forza Horizon 4 makes Britain look beautiful and makes Edinburgh not only charming and quaint, but also thrilling and traversable, and it does without exhaust fumes, with minimal carbon emissions and almost no Jeremy Clarkson. Almost.