TAKEN at face value, marrying an open world arcade racer with the authentic physics of a driving sim seems like a mad proposition.

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Forza Horizon

Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Price: £49.99

Format: Xbox 360

Age rating: 12+

TAKEN at face value, marrying an open world arcade racer with the authentic physics of a driving sim seems like a mad proposition. Fortunately, Forza Horizon just about pulls it off, combining the nuanced handling and vehicular voyeurism of the Forza Motorsport series with the sort of daredevil stunts and illegal street races you’d find in a Need For Speed game.

Everything is wrapped up in the fictional Horizon Festival, a sort of music-meets-car culture bash you’d only ever get in the US, where 250 petrolheads have come to compete in a variety of events. It all takes place in an imaginary Colorado that’s a mix of imposing mountain ranges, rolling plains and red rock canyons, all spliced together by lengthy highways, winding country roads and narrow dirt tracks.

Most events are point-to-point races or lap-based affairs that take place across varied terrain, encouraging you to test drive different motors to see which one is right for you. Sitting alongside these are street races, speed and stunt challenges, and special Showdown events that let you race against planes and hot-air balloons. You can also throw down challenges to other drivers and earn points for performing burnouts, drifts and other tricks.

Then there are the game’s multiplayer modes to consider. As well as racing against a friend’s ghost data in Rivals mode, you can invite up to seven other players to compete in a series of preset race events and entertaining mini-games. Best of all, though, is Free Roam mode, where you and your buddies can just cruise around Colorado in your dream cars.

As you’d expect, the game’s physics engine is spot on, and the range of cars that you can unlock is hugely impressive. The handling has been simplified to make for a more accessible racer and it’s much harder to spin out of control if you hit another car. That said, with all the game’s assists turned off, you’re left with an open world Forza that controls pretty much like its more serious stablemates, and you’ll need all your driving skills to beat your AI-controlled rivals. With both off-road racing and a full day-and-night cycle added to the mix, Forza Horizon deftly combines the series’ legendary authenticity with a stunning open world environment, resulting in a great big dollop of fun.

Score: 5/5 stars

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