So Forza Horizon 4.
From the way people talk about it, I was expecting a game where I could drive around the British countryside and there’d be optional races and it’d all be fairly laid-back and cool, and maybe that game is in there somewhere, but it is under a whole bunch of incredibly annoying stuff if so. I’ve got a few contradictory thoughts about the game.
It looks good, runs well and seems to have a decent physics model. That’s pretty cool. The physics model also means the cars feel unresponsive and annoying, unlike, say, Gran Turismo (possibly in part due to very different racing conditions), but it seems realistic enough that I could probably get used to that.
The presentation is violently, puking-inducingly “British Bourgeois”.
I’d normally refrain from calling a game bourgeois - most games arguably are to a significant extent, but this is something else, like, multiple levels of disgusting Middle-of-the-Road, super-safe, middle-class, early-middle-aged bullshit. It’s actively repulsive to me. I feel like the character in that William Gibson novel, Pattern Recognition, who allergic to certain brands and so on (particularly Tommy Hilfiger, which is super-understandable). It’s a visceral reaction, too, and not just to one element. It’s like the whole package of the presentation. The whole fucking sub-Top Gear bullshit about “The Festival” (which is supposed to be cool and dream-like, but reads to me more like The Prisoner or something the bad guy is doing in an episode of The Avengers), the garishly-subdued (yes I know!) colours, like rainbows everywhere but not gay rainbows, that’d be too risky, fucking pointless flashy camera angles and like just… middle-class tastelessness of this incredibly recognisable kind. No edge at all - like I literally can’t believe teenagers could play this and not retch.
And oh my god, it just keeps going with this shit - the soft-voiced super-middle-class women who talk to you, and somehow know my fucking RL name, which is gross and makes it feel like I’m being violated by Amazon Echo/Alexa. Like one of them has a slightly regional accents, but it’s super-safe, like 85% RP, 15% regional, wouldn’t have someone who spoke like a real person!
The music. Fuck me. I didn’t know they made music this bad. Maybe there are some good tracks buried in there, and like, I admit, this is absolutely the trash direction “semi-realistic car-game” music was going in like 2002 which is about the last time I played something like this - the most boring technically-modern soft-rock, lame house, lame electronica, weak-ass no-beat rap. Fuuuuuck.
The music was so bad, I had to go check that it wasn’t me, and a “kids today” thing. It isn’t. Most of this music is not particularly popular with “kids today”, and even the few bands which are, they’ve carefully chosen their like, least-rocking, least-energy, most like… pastel-toned but not even that cool shit possible.
I can see from the soundtrack list that there do seem to be some good tunes buried in there but what the actual fuck? I mean, as I said, this was entirely predictable from how downhill the music was going in stuff in the early 2000s (because it wasn’t stuff that was genuinely cool then, it was stuff like, the middle-of-the-road non-cool kids listened to with their fucking dad bopping his head along to the safe-ass slow beat). And there are two stations which look like they might have better tracks, but perhaps I have to unlock them? At this point even the classical station (which wasn’t available), which is wall-to-wall “the most middle-of-the-road safety-pop-classical you know!”, is looking pretty good.
Anyway, like jesus christ though, it’s not the music, it’s just everything (though the menus are okay I guess), even the fucking racing line they draw you glows the same “rainbow-but-not-gay” colours (not sure what colours they’re skipping to give that effect but it’s something). I can turn some of it off - the “turn right in X” lady for example, but that’s least obnoxious bit.
I’ve played like random Japanese games that required understanding their culture, and strange games from all over the world, but I’ve never felt remotely as viscerally repulsed and made to feel “you are not the target audience” (whilst literally trying to tell me I am) by a British game, about Britain. There’s got to be a pun with a driving game being so aggressively middle-of-the-road, but damn, I’m too distressed to find it.
- The gameplay seems okay, I guess, so far. Like, I was expecting a bit more. Sure, the early stuff is bound to be easy, but it’s all easy in a kind of particularly boring way, like, you’re not totally smoking everyone else, and you don’t feel like you’re nailing it perfectly, your car is just slightly faster than those of other people. And then at the end of any given race we’re back to creepy-ass reassurances from the super-middle-class lady (and when I mean super-middle-class, I mean smack-bang in the middle, like a not hint of upper or academic or lower or working class in there). I don’t fucking need reassurances. I don’t need to be told “2nd place is great and I’m going places”. I’m not failing executive or retail manager or something who wants a lady in a computer game to tell him how great he is. Jesus. Aaaaahhhh.
So yeah that was a hell of a trip. It was kind of worth installing just to feel such a goddamn reaction to a game I expected to be just like a normal, decent driving game (which is what I think it is under the nuclear-grade shit muzak, horror-show bourgeois presentation, and so on). I’ve rarely felt so young. God I felt like getting a facial tattoo and listening to some death metal or gangster rap or something, and I don’t even like any of those things. I listened to some 1970s jazz instead and felt slightly better.