Out Now – Version Played: Xbox One X (£15.99)
I need to start this review with a few important details – firstly, I don’t drive in real life. There’s quite a few reasons why that is, but that’s perhaps a story for another time. In any case, consequently I have zero interest in cars. This means that I generally have no interest in the type of driving and/or racing game that seeks to replicate a more grounded, real world experience – games such as Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport, for example. I wasn’t even aware of the different Forza brands, nor the fact that they were vastly different experiences in tone and content.
I would have remained blissfully unaware if it wasn’t for Game Pass. Microsoft’s late-in-the-gen masterstroke has absolutely transformed and rehabilitated the Xbox for me; despite being a staunch 360 player for the entirety of that generation, I was immediately turned off by the ‘TV TV TV’ focus and doubling down on compulsory Kinect when the Xbox One was announced. Not to mention the conceited behaviour of some members of the Microsoft team (for example, who could forget Adam ‘Deal with it’ Orth’s terrible lack of awareness at this time?); it was like Sony’s unbelievable arrogance with the PS3 all over again (remember Ken Kutaragi declaring that people would simply get a second job to be able to afford a PS3?).
A little setback doesn’t always hurt in the gaming world, however. As Wii U’s failure led to the absolutely wonderful Switch and the PS3’s slow start was definitely not repeated with PS4 (Microsoft’s floundering helping to give Sony the perfect head start this gen), so too it seems that Xbox One’s fortunes are being turned around by some brilliantly canny decisions, albeit too late in the generation to make that much of a difference – especially now with two strong competitors in the field, rather than just one. Backwards compatibility and Game Pass are two features that may decide the winner of the next generation; at the very least, they give some very strong reasons to continue with the hardware manufacturer you’re already invested in. It was these features that led me to acquire an Xbox One recently.
In any case, back to the point – Game Pass introduced me to the wonders of Forza Horizon; given that it was ‘free’, I thought I’d give it a try. I’m glad I did; Forza Horizon 4’s idealised, open world British setting is absolutely brilliant and very characterful, with an awful lot to do even if you’re just driving around without engaging too deeply in the many, many activities on offer. The fact that a Project Gotham-esque points system exists, not just for skilful driving but even for destroying scenery or crashing outright makes it even more fun. Even for someone with zero interest in cars or driving, Forza Horizon 4 is a fantastic game.
Which brings us – finally, you may be thinking – to the Lego Speed Champions DLC. When I learned about this, it seemed absolutely bonkers. I had no idea how it was going to work or where the notion to plug Lego into the otherwise realistic Forza world even came from. It follows Forza Horizon 3’s Hot Wheels DLC, however, so it’s not entirely without precedent for the series to introduce a toy-based expansion.
The process of accessing the DLC is pretty straightforward (though it took me a little while to work it out, probably because I’m such a noob here). Once you’ve installed the DLC, a Lego logo appears on your map; travel there, press X and you’re transported to Lego Valley. After a brief introduction, you’re driving a Lego Mini and can set about completing missions to build a Lego House – which is an absolute joy.
Everything looks, sounds and feels so tactile; the Lego cars are beautifully rendered and it is wonderful to drive around the Lego-ized (totally a word) map, taking in the plastic landmarks, scenery and inhabitants – both human and animal. To add to this, a new radio station plays Everything Is Awesome on a loop; though this eventually becomes grating, it adds another layer of fun and Lego authenticity to the proceedings.
There’s a vast number of Lego challenges to complete. It’s jaw-dropping and perhaps a little intimidating when you first uncover the Lego challenge grid, but you’ll soon be compelled to complete those challenges – and in the process, collect more and more bricks; for expanding your house as well as to unlock further Lego cars.
As satisfying as it is to destroy very physical-feeling stone walls in the ‘real’ Forza Horizon 4 world, it doesn’t hold a candle to smashing through Lego scenery in this expansion. It’s wonderful to just look at how bold, bright and colourful the Lego map is, let alone drive around in the world.
There’s a few negatives, unfortunately. The selection of Lego cars is very small – just three playable cars, it seems (a fourth is available if you can find it in the game world, though that’s still a meagre selection on offer) – and you’ll be racing against normal cars, which is a real disappointment. The scenery too, sometimes shifts back to being realistic, rather than Lego, in some areas (though there’s always an element of this, it’s a shame that Lego trees couldn’t have been implemented across the full map, for example).
Honestly though, those points are minor in comparison to how much great stuff is here. An airport, a desert filled with Lego dinosaur bones, a football (soccer, to my American readers!) stadium, a race track and even a Lego-filled stunt park are all included (also, the haunted forest is a delightful addition!) and it’s an absolute blast to just drive around the world. The Lego town near your house is an absolutely wonderful creation too.
I feel like I’ve made a bit of an error in downloading and playing Lego Speed Champions before I’ve played that much of the main game – because I never want to leave Lego Valley. I’m sure that once I’ve exhausted all of the challenges and finished building my Lego house, I’ll return to Forza’s little slice of idealised Britain – but for now, I’ll continue enjoying my time in Lego Valley, where (almost) everything is awesome.
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