The latest title in the acclaimed open-world racing series takes players from Devon to the Scottish Highlands. But how did the developer get the feel of the country right?
It’s the little moments that get you. The golden autumn sun glinting from the windows of Cotswold cottages. Sheep running across the road in the Scottish Highlands. Skeletal oak trees lining starkly frozen meadows. It is very strange to play a modern big-budget video game and to be taken back to childhood memories, to places that feel somehow imprinted on the psyche. In this way, Forza Horizon 4, the latest open-world driving sim from Leamington Spa-based developer Playground Games, may be the most emotional racing game I’ve ever played.
Since the arrival of the first title in the series six years ago, each Horizon has featured a densely detailed, near photo-realistic reproduction of real-world geography. The first was in Colorado, the second was southern France and northern Italy, the third, Australia. The setup is always the same: players take part in a festival where they drive dozens of beautiful cars through a vast backdrop, getting involved in a range of races and challenges, but mostly just drinking in the exotic locales. This time, however, the team brought the game home. Forza Horizon 4 is set in an idealised Britain that, while not precisely based on real places (apart from a scaled version of Edinburgh), takes the geography, architecture, flora and fauna of each location and replicates them in gorgeous detail.