At E3 2019 Microsoft finally revealed the next expansion to Forza Horizon 4 and it was arriving within days too. Following the trend set by its predecessor with a “serious” (Blizzard Mountain) expansion first and then the “fun one” (Hot Wheels) after that it was a real buzz to see that this time around it was LEGO that was getting the love.
The expansion drops you onto a new island with its own unique set of objectives to complete. It doesn’t change the familiar Forza Horizon process of completing an initial set of challenges before opening up more on the map but how it’s presented is very different. Here the player has a challenge board that lists everything that players can do and the rewards associated with them.
These rewards are in the form of bricks and once you accumulate enough you receive an additional in game reward such as an upgrade to your LEGO “master builder” home or a new car as well as having more challenges on the board unlocked. If you get far enough you’ll have access to the higher reward challenges along the edges of the board and start earning far bigger rewards.
The challenge board idea I could see being used again in future Forza Horizon games. It gives players a very clear idea of what there is to do in getting a 100% completion score or what you can do to earn the bricks necessary to move forward. For games that can be so vast in the choices available, allowing a player to easily make decisions seems like a smart way to make it more accessible to players. You can also tag each of these challenges and a tracker appears on your HUD that keeps count or sets the navigation point to a location on the map. It works nicely together with what is already in the game.
Mixing LEGO bricks with realistic environments might seem out of place at first but it works well and makes me think of those times as a child when you’d use different toys together to make the world you want to play in. Some great work has been done to make LEGO bricks look like you expect and it is highlighted in the car showrooms when you can look at the expansion’s unique cars in detail. The plastic parts look great and the decals have that same sheen the real ones do when you look at them closely under lights. It’s a small thing but it makes these models look amazing. The game doesn’t sky away from the material with plenty of pirate ships and flying saucers to be found and there’s LEGO minifigs EVERYWHERE. The opening driving sequence is great gives you taste of all this while cruising through many of the expansion’s landmarks and it really sets an upbeat tone.
I do have a few issues with the expansion though. I really wish that every piece of LEGO in the environment was destructible – some barriers can be broken through but others can’t and it can catch you out at the worst time. Not being able to customise your LEGO house seems like a wasted opportunity when you have the player earning bricks but not be able to build with them. The other is the the map can feel a little small. Some araeas are really well designed but others like the city seem like a wasted opportunity. If the city were bigger it might have become a popular location but more often than not it feels like it’s just a waypoint.
Putting the issues aside I am really enjoying this expansion. Fun is the point of it and it does its best within the limits of the game and the source material. It really makes me wish that the developers would have gone further and made and full LEGO racer (imagine Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts powered by the Forza engine) because this feels a lot like a tease of what is possible.
This is probably the last big expansion for Forza Horizon 4 and though it might not be as big a finish as I was hoping for it’ll make a lot of people very happy when playing it. I’m sure they’ll think it’s awesome. 😉