Forza Horizon 4 has been actively supplied with a drip feed of regular content since its 2018 release, and lots of it’s been free. That kind of consistency in long-term support is rare in gaming — outside of blockbuster titles like Fortnite, anyway — but it’s ensured that I return to FH4 every few months. This time, I’ve been drawn back by the addition of Rod Emory’s Porsche 356 RSR.
The Emory RSR is the crown jewel of this Series 34 update, set to drop next week. Players can claim it by fulfilling 50 percent of the summer season playlist — basically an assortment of various objectives, from race wins to pulling off certain stunts. It’s joined by another addition, the 1968 Pontiac Firebird.
I have a love/hate relationship with FH4. On paper, it’s an extraordinary game. The breadth of cars on offer truly has something for enthusiasts of any stripe, developer Playground Games’ miniaturized rendition of the U.K. is refreshing to explore through the seasons — even if Edinburgh feels a bit lifeless — and the game is expertly optimized for PC, my platform of choice. There’s so much stuff in Horizon, you’d wonder how a car nerd and arcade racing lover couldn’t be totally enamored with it. And yet...
FH4 is a shining example of a game that suffers from excess. It’s aimless in its progression, far too willing to reward players for every piddling achievement, and tries so desperately to be all things to all people that it fails to cultivate a personality of its own. It’s sort of like someone you’d meet at work or in school who’s obnoxiously, robotically nice to everyone indiscriminately. I also don’t love the game’s rubbery physics, though that’s a highly subjective matter and they’re certainly serviceable.
That’s my philosophical beef with FH4, and I could go on for forever and a day about little, needling complaints — from the franchise’s stagnant approach to car customization and livery editing, to its reliance on old and inaccurate car models from Forzas past. Ultimately, though, I look the other way on most of these issues and just play the game anyway, because it’s a staple at this point. All it takes is a car like the Emory RSR to pull me back in for a week.
The hot-rodded Outlaw Porsche is a highly controversial vehicle by its very nature — one of my colleagues called it “cheesy” despite being “technically cool.” But it’s the exact type of car you can’t really drive in any game besides FH4. And the Horizon series has always been very good at zeroing in on those fringe areas of car culture — the weird restomods and the curious one-offs. Need For Speed’s dabbled in it, though those games tend to have an exponentially shorter shelf life than Microsoft’s racers.
At this point, FH4 is less of a game and more a place to go. And while I respect it for its staying power, I deeply hope both Forza franchises hit the reset button now that we’ve entered the Xbox Series X era — that Turn 10 and Playground ditch everything and wipe the slate clean. I have a sneaking suspicion they won’t, simply because that’s never really been Forza’s modus operandi, and that the next iterations of Motorsport and Horizon will feel more or less like their predecessors with lots of the same content, but shinier. I wish I’m wrong.
Until then, I’ll just dip back into FH4 and tool around in the Emory. It’s not like I have much of a choice, since every other new racing game I was jazzed about playing in 2020 has been delayed.