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'Forza Horizon' is a blend of arcade racing and simulation

Casual meets Hardcore

Forza Horizon
Forza Horizon
Russ Frushtick is the director of special projects, and he has been covering the world of video games and technology for over 15 years. He co-founded Polygon in 2012.

A new developer is trying to bring a more casual racing crowd to Forza.

This year's Forza Horizon isn't Forza Motorsport 5. Horizon is more like an off-shoot...a different spin on a long-running racing franchise that aims to bring in new fans while appeasing some of the old.

For whatever reason, Ralph Fulton of Playground Games doesn't like the term "arcade" when it comes to describing Forza Horizon. No, he prefers the term "action racing." I attempted to press him on what that really means. What it sounds like is a racing game that's less worried about being grounded in reality, but still has a respect for real-world cars and physics.

That's how the game played, as well. The Forza games have always been reasonably welcoming to newcomers, but Forza Horizon is clearly trying to be even more approachable. Within moments of picking up the sticks I was able to take high-speed turns without too much worry of spinning out...a far cry from my performance in a normal Forza Motorsport game.

I asked Fulton whether the action racing theme carried with it more of a focus on crashes. He said that crashes are definitely a part of the game, though, in playing, it didn't seem like a priority as compared to, say, Burnout. There's no boost meter to fill up as you slam rivals into the railing. But giving a friendly nudge here and there may just place you in prime position for a first-place finish, so it's definitely not frowned upon.

There's also more freedom in least that's what Fulton is saying. Shortcuts are a big part of the game's open world, as evidenced on the radar, though the playable demo on hand wouldn't let me drive anywhere but down the main track. The radar was definitely populated with turns and alternate routes, though, so I'm sure those will come into play as the game gets closer to its release later this year.

The next level of puzzles.

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