An In-Depth Look at Forza Horizons @ E3 2012

Our next encounter with Microsoft elves took place in the late afternoon of E3 Day 1, and interestingly enough during another meal -- but this time it took place at a Wingstop on South Figueroa Street -- which in theory was within walking distance from E3 being just down the street from the Convention Center but also rapidly accessible via the excellent public transportation offerings of LA, including Tram and Bus.

In this particular instance the reason that we ended up at a Wingstop was not because we wanted to have wings, but rather because it was the closest location to the Convention Center that featured a Coca Cola Freestyle machine -- which is a soda fountain that offers more than 125 different flavors of soft drink (or combinations thereof) -- which my intern desperately wanted to experience. It does this by being loaded with micro-cartridges that each contain one flavor of syrup that are similar in design to the ink cartridges in ink jet printers. Pretty cool really...

Sitting at the table by the window was a trio of staffers from one of the Horizon exhibits -- it turned out that two were from the outside exhibit whose focus was display of the liveried cars that we saw on the streets outside of the press briefing, and one who was staff from inside. Yeah, we mercilessly pumped them for information about the game because hey, that's how we roll, and during the conversation that we had we learned that the view from the inside looking out for the elves attached to the exhibits was that Forza Horizon was not so much a car racing game as it was a car culture game.

The nearly overpowering need to experience a special Coca Cola soda fountain by our GU Intern lead to a conversation with some of the Forza Elves that reveals the new title to be more of a car culture game than it is a traditional episodic one...

The distinction is actually pretty significant, because it suggests that rather than representing an episodic offering -- which is what most of the titles in the main game series represent -- it presents a game that has a cultural emphasis to gamers, which in addition to being a different direction for the game series, is also a different internal view of racing. That is actually an exciting change of focus for most gamers, since it suggests that the game will offer a more complete car-and-driver experience. That bears explaining.

In most of the mainstream racing and car-centric games the experience is largely broken up into bite-sized chunks in the form of the races themselves -- and between each race the players involvement with their ride is largely restricted to buying and installing new parts for it, or taking it out on a test track to tune it. The most notable element in play that they do not experience is a casual relationship with their car; they don't just get in their car and take it for a ride in other words. Well it seems that at least part of the focus and the strategy that went into the design of Forza Horizon by Playground Games, but that actually makes a certain sense as the most obvious difference is that Playground Games is not Turn 10, so naturally their focus is going to be different.

While we are fans of the Forza series and its episodic race-centric game play, it did not take a lot of soul-searching to conclude that the idea of being able to casually drive your car -- especially within the construct that is a Forza game -- sounds like a very attractive feature to us. As the conversation continued, in addition to agreeing that these were some very tasty wings we also ended up agreeing that there was certainly room in our auto-racing video game experience for a more relaxed approach to racing and, more to the point, that being offered such an experience while enjoying the benefits that are part of the well-established quality levels associated with the Forza series would not be a bad thing.

Posted: 20th Aug 2012 by CMBF
Forza Horizon, Xbox 360, E3, 2012,