Forza Horizon ‘Rally Expansion Pack’ Review
Price: 1600 MSP ($20)
Turn 10 and Playground Games are back for more Forza action with the Forza Horizon Rally expansion DLC. So being the Forza nerd I am, I figured I would take it for a test drive to see how it stacked up against Forza Horizon itself (which scored a 9.5 back in late October). And the results? Well it’s a mixed bag.
What I Liked
New Gameplay Mode
The rally mode the DLC adds to the game is a mostly-welcome addition. However, as you’ll see later on, it’s not that well implemented in the game itself. The off-road courses in Forza Horizon were always a ton of fun to zip through, and the Forza Horizon Rally pack is nothing but off-road courses. Horizon Rally also introduces new environmental hazards to play off of such as rock formations on the track and embankments capable of flipping your car if you take them the wrong way.
Of course, just like the rest of Forza Horizon, Horizon Rally is stunningly beautiful and gives the game a chance to showcase some of the otherwise inaccessible backwoods locations of the Horizon Festival grounds just outside of fictional Carson, CO. Sadly, these visuals are mostly wasted because you’ll be focusing on the track the whole time, desperately trying to stay ahead of your arbitrary invisible opponents, and you can’t free roam between races to take in the sights at your own pace.
The courses in Horizon Rally are a nice mix of completely new tracks and pre-existing courses leftover from Horizon itself. The DLC does a good job on blending both the new and old material together in an otherwise seamless manner. Just like I mentioned in my review of Horizon back in October, Turn 10 excels at crafting custom courses, so it’s no surprise that the Rally DLC has some rather inspired and beautiful tracks to it. I just wish they were integrated into the main game of Horizon a little better, but we’ll touch on that matter later.
The Rally DLC shines best in multiplayer mode. This is perhaps the expansion’s sole redeeming quality, enough to make it tentatively worthy of a purchase. Unlike in single player mode, the rally features are integrated into the race type selection so you can easily hop into rally games on the fly in the midst of your other online activities in Horizon. It is, of course, tons of fun to bomb around off road in multiplayer, though be advised, the ever-derpy “Forza Multiplayer Physics” are always at play, so be ready for the occasional race-destroying glitch.
What I Didn’t Like
Not Integrated with Forza Horizon Proper
For starters, the bulk Horizon Rally exists as a separate game mode from the regular Horizon single and multiplayer modes. I’m incredibly disappointed that it wasn’t integrated into the Horizon hub map as optional races you could run during your Horizon career. The last major Forza expansion, the Porsche Expansion Pack for Forza 4 was directly integrated into its main game mode, so it makes me wonder why Horizon Rally is its own separate mini-game. Given the way it’s set up, it really forces you to judge it on its own merits apart from the rest of Horizon, so looking at it that way it really comes off lacking in comparison. Compared to Horizon proper, which was huge, open, and spectacular, Horizon Rally on the other hand feels small, narrow, and basic. You’re trapped in a menu between races, just like in the regular Forzas—it’s counter-intuitive to the main tent pole feature of Horizon, which was the free-roaming open world.
Limited Number of Rally Cars
When I say ‘limited,’ I mean it—there’s only five rally cars to choose from. You can use quite a few other cars from your garage in rally mode, but it’s the rally cars that are already specialized to get you the best times in the events. And even then only one of them, the Subaru Impreza WRX STi, will get you anywhere close to the podium.
The ‘Expert’ Guide
I honestly thought this was some weird new GPS like the one that helps you navigate the hub map in Horizon, but no, apparently it’s an actual person. That surprised the hell out of me, because the voice actor behind the guide is so terse, abrupt, and monotone that I thought he was portraying a computer and was honestly weirded out when it started consoling me with lines like “we’ll do better next time” or “that was a tough race” whenever I finished in like 17th place. Some of the things the guide says make little sense if you’re not familiar with rally terminology, and even then I had trouble understanding just what he was saying because the voice is muffled under the engine sounds. You can only take hearing stuff like “hard right, no cut; care, jump;” or “steep bank outside” so many times before you just want to turn the damn thing off.
The colourful cast of d-bag fellow racers from Horizon is absent from Horizon Rally, and while you can occasionally spot Hailey Harper skanking it in her green jumpsuit between races, neither she, nor any of the other named rivals you face in Horizon actually appear as competitors in the races. What’s more, she’s not even the designated rally racer in Horizon, Ramona Cravache is—but I’m just nitpicking. It’s still major a letdown though, because one of the best parts of Horizon is listening to all your various rivals trash talk you before a race and then moping the floor with their smug asses and listening to the various ways they deal with defeat, be they graceful losers, potential new friends, or, in the case of the aforementioned Hailey Harper, petulant denialist huffbabies. Given the narrower scope of Horizon Rally, that kind of interaction is missing from the expansion, and honestly, it’s all the weaker for it.
No Way to Judge Your Progress (in Single Player)
While multiplayer pits you against actual other racers, with visible cars and all, in single player it’s just you versus the clock with 49 other completely invisible racers all vying for 1st place in races where microsecond mistakes can send you tumbling from 1st down 30th with little warning. These occurrences are about as common as they are arbitrary and because it’s just you out there, you have no real way to judge how well or how poorly you’re really doing until you clear a checkpoint and the positions update—cue surprise 30-place tumble. You to simply feel your way through each heat and pray you’ve got a fast enough car to place 1st overall once the whole race is finished. I know rendering 49 live opponents is way too much for the Xbox 360 to handle, but couldn’t there have at least been like at least one other car on the track, just to give you something to gauge your performance off of?
No Sense of Accomplishment
Again, this stems from it being disconnected from the rest of Forza Horizon. There’s an inescapable air of “so what?” hovering around the Rally DLC. Nothing you do in it really matters one bit. It doesn’t affect your career in Horizon proper at all. Sure you can make some decent money in Horizon Rally to put towards your Horizon career, but nothing you do in the DLC furthers your progress in the main game or changes anything that goes on it in. It’s like you’re playing a completely separate game. It’s the same problem plaguing the Mass Effect 3 DLC releases as of late—like Horizon Rally, both Leviathan and Retake Omega feel rather disconnected from the core of ME3, as nothing you do in them really effects the way the rest of the game plays out, especially in regard to its ball-numbingly stupid ending. I mean, sure, you get some more achievements out of it, but if that’s really what it comes down to for you, there are far better things to spend your 1600 MSP on.
Ultimately, the Horizon Rally DLC feels like a hollow addition to Forza Horizon, something that could have been a great expansion to an already great racing game with a little more time and effort, but instead turned out to be an anemic vestigial add-on. The rally stages themselves are well done and the expansion does add some decent new features to the gameplay, but it just comes across as perplexingly unnecessary thanks to its poor integration with the rest of Horizon. So, is it with the cost of admission? Probably not, definitely not at 1600 MSP, I’ll say that much.
If you already bought the Forza Horizon Season Pass, then go ahead and get it, because, let’s face it, you’ve already paid for it, so you might as well get your money’s worth. Otherwise, I would only recommend downloading Horizon Rally if you’re absolutely hard-up for new races in Horizon, or if you want to try out its multiplayer features online. Beyond that it’s just a rather flawed DLC release that you can easily afford to pass up.