What better place to launch a new, supercar-filled racing game than the Australian International Motorshow? It’s quite fitting to pilot a $300,000 dollar Lamborghini in virtual reality, then going to sit in the real deal shortly after.

We were invited to attend the official Forza Horizon launch to get a feel for the game prior to its release (to tell you folk how it is, of course) AND to have a crack at winning some prizes.

The Microsoft team had setup a wicked eight player network system, resulting in 16 of us battling it out over two heats for the top prize – A brand new XBOX console and a bottle of champagne! When there’s a free XBOX and free booze involved, you know the racing is going to turn serious all of a sudden. That wasn’t all however; there was a cool Nissan 370Z on display and plenty of promo girls.

First impressions of the game? The visuals are stunning. Overall, the graphics engine has been tweaked to produce a much more authentic feel and vibe to the game. Striking yellow hues from the sun can be seen illuminating the greens of the grass and the textures coating dirt roads for example.

It looks less ‘simulated’ than the last Forza renditions, or one could say, more organic. Even prior to the race starting, we were stunned at how much of a visual impact the game made when compared to the older titles. We were certainly impressed, and that’s coming from a bunch of Forza die-hards.

The course layout picked for us had a mixture of corner styles, but more importantly it demonstrated the new gravel road physics engine that has been added to the game. This is probably one of the more important key features, as it brings a totally new driving experience to the Forza series. Like us, we are sure that there are many; many people wish to get their modified Audi Quattro widebody out on the dirt sideways. There’s no point trying to hide that fact!

So, how did the dirt feel? Well, the car choice was not entirely welcoming to loose gravel (we were racing Lamborghini Superleggeras’, not really a rally car!); regardless you could still feel the absolute change-up in driving feel. Initial turn in was lost, and carrying the slightest ounce of extra speed punished you with horrid under steer.

However, a bit of weight transfer, or even a quick dab of the handbrake, had the mighty Lamborghini on opposite lock earning its share of drift points. Excellent! We can see hours of fun being had on the countless kilometers of dirt roads that there are in the game.

The tarmac physics engine has also been tinkered with, in order to provide a different style of gameplay. Remember, Forza Horizon functions on an open world style of game play, so naturally it has become more ‘Arcade’ than ‘Simulator’. It’s a great balance, providing just enough realism yet being increasing enjoyable having to dart around traffic and take out fencing in order to shave a few seconds off your last sector.

Overall, we were impressed with the game. It offers that classic style of open world game play coupled with the best physics engine and selection of cars. Oh, we thought we’d leave the best bit ‘til last. Yes, you can still modify cars in this version. Don’t worry!

We’d like to thank the guys at Microsoft for inviting us along to have a hoon on their game, and allowing us to enter the competition. We will be receiving a copy of the game soon; so we can bring you even more in-depth footage and coverage of the game as we progress through it.

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