Qt3 Games Podcast: Forza Horizon 4, Loop Hero, Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Holy crap, who hit Armando’s verbose setting??

I see you haven’t seen me wax poetic about She-Ra yet.

I mean, you’re right.

I’m sorry for the novel, but I have to go to bat for my baby here.

Horizon lured me in because I love rally, and it has more classic rally cars than any of the dedicated rally games out there. Try driving the Talbot Sunbeam in one of those games. You can’t. It’s not in any of 'em. In Horizon I get to drive a suped up Sunbeam, complete with Henri Toivonens old WRC livery. Be still my beating heart.

I even get to play with stupidly rare rally cars like the Rover Vitesse, which was driven by Tony Pond once upon a sometime. If you’re a rally nerd, getting to drive those cars goes into pretty serious fantasy territory, and I simply don’t agree that they all handle the same. I have to take into account the weight and the relative torque of every car. I have to tune them differently to get the most out of them, because the engines don’t all output the same.

Neither do the suspensions, by the way. Driving the special edition Escort RS1800 feels deliciously dangerous because the springs are naturally pretty soft and the height of the suspension means it’s really easy to throw the weight around. Just like in the actual car!

The first hurdle for me is that it’s a game made for kids, which feels like an odd choice, but I guess it’s a money thing. They really want those Fortnite bucks. You can tell immediately from the way the NPCs patronize you, it’s like Dirt 3 all over again. It’s all “Dude amigo, YouTube, cowabunga, you’re so cool, party at my place” - But Britishly. When you drive through a hedgerow the game pats you on the head and goes “Awesome driving there lil buddy, here, have 500 points and a little dopamine. You’re super special!”

It feels especially awkward to me, because the driving model is pretty darn grown-up. The cars sound right, they handle right*, I get a keen sense of suspension, grip (on different surfaces) and torque that is much better than the likes of serious rally games like Dirt Rally 2.0, where the cars feel like they float on top of the road, and you just don’t have the same sense of grip, or how the weight of the car is shifting. Driving on dirt in that game feels like driving on an air hockey table. Not so in Horizon.

I personally think the map is gorgeous, you got forests, valleys, heaths, beaches, villages, motorways, a city, a quarry, a train station, an airfield and a festival full of douchebags. But I do think the standard races are pretty terrible.

The courses don’t make the most of the map, they’re not very imaginative or technical, and they’re plastered with all these barriers that take the attention away from the scenery. Rally is about technical driving on challenging roads that were never intended to be raced, but the dirt courses in Horizon tend to be bog standard circuits in disguise.

I went full nerd and decided to make my own routes, and while that is exhausting, it’s also pretty rewarding in the end because I get to drive a stage that is “just so”. Making a challenging rally that starts in Edinburgh and goes down to the coast, onto gravel, through a village, onto the beach, to end at that perfectly picturesque lighthouse at the end? Priceless!

In winter, the huge lake freezes and suddenly you can use that too. Come on. Y’all. Please. Solid water, just for the one season. That’s fricken cool.

You can also just use other peoples designs. I’d definitely recommend doing that, or making your own. The standard races really do nothing for me.

The biggest disappointment for me is that they have all these amazing rally cars, but no proper rally mode. There’s no time trial, it’s all rallycross, which probably goes back to the fact that it’s a game aimed at people who are significantly younger than I am.

They need some NPCs to smash into on the corners, and I think the devs assume that they don’t have the required attention span to drive a stage on their lonesome and appreciate a technical challenge.

Which is really sad when the rally cars are so damn good. Why wouldn’t they go all the way and do it right?

It’s also kinda disappointing to me that upgrading a car spoils the realism. In order to tune the gears, you need a “racing gear box” which is always 6 gears. A 1970s Group 4 rally car with 6 gears? That’s just dumb. Everyone knows those cars only had 5. And you could tune those gears just fine. The earlier generation only had 4, so being forced to use 6 feels even more ridiculous with a Renault Alpine.

So it’s not that it’s an unvarnished pleasure, I have to swallow a few camels to enjoy myself, but I do think it’s worth it because the cars, and the driving, and the setting are so fricken irresistable. As long as I get to enjoy that fantasy of a rally nirvana, I can kind of block out the Coachella douchebags, and the fact that there always seems to be fifty bots trying to ram me off the road like Immortan Joe, when I just want to complete my perfect rally stage.

*I think there’s a problem with clutching out. I don’t use that technique myself, but I’m guessing the devs didn’t feel it’s important because 13 year olds don’t know what a clutch is anyway.

It kinda sounded like Tom didn’t know you could end a run and take 100% of the mats by hitting the retreat button at the camp site.

Definitely with Tom on Animal Crossing. I ended up with a copy after a Christmas lockdown snafu, so I played it for about a month, despite knowing from past experience it would not be my thing. It wasn’t. I don’t care about making my house or island look a particular way, or acquiring more stuff, so it all felt completely pointless.

I do like FH4. It’s a terrible CarPG, for sure, but that’s not really how to think about it. It’s a car collection driving game which gates stuff behind progression (I will agree the progression system is kinda dumb, and worse than FH3’s). It’s not competing with The Crew, at least for me. It’s Forza, but open world and arcadey. If you don’t care about driving and tuning particular real world cars, then yeah it’s not going to appeal. I’m not a car person particularly, but even so there’s a thrill to driving stuff you’ve seen on TV whatever that you don’t get driving a generic street racer in The Crew or Burnout. I’d also say that if you’re mainly doing the street races, you’re missing out on the best stuff, and for that matter the more CarPG aspects of the game, like the various story mission chains. I do think you’re being unfair to the landscape too. It’s not as spectacular as the Australia of FH3, but they’ve done an amazing job of capturing it, or rather presenting it in its best light, and there’s something cool about how they haven’t gone to the traditional open world extremes of environment.

Haven’t listened yet, so apologies if any of this is redundant.

A lot of the standard races will generally just conform around whatever class of car you’ve chosen, but there’s lots of events that require you to choose certain classes, brands or types of vehicle.

The difficulty can be almost as arcadey or sim-like as you want. If you turn all of the assists off, the driving model becomes reasonably close to a Forza Motorsport game. Some leaderboards and stuff also make a point of noting what assists the people had on. The off-road races are a bit of mess skill-wise because of all the jumping and bumping, but the dirt and road races absolutely take skill on the higher difficulties or online.

As for the seasons, it sounds like maybe you’re still in the lengthy tutorializing phase of the game, where the game runs you through all of the seasons in a few hours. Once you get moved into the “live” servers, the season changes once per week, and the races all generally conform to whatever season it is.

One thing I definitely will say, is that the game is very much about constantly giving you more and more toys to play with. There’s no real starting off in a junker, and working your way up to a Maserati or something - indeed, you could even get a free Maserati in your first Wheelspin reward.

FH4 is all about collecting the hundreds of cars like Pokemon, and the social aspect of the live world, the Forzathons, and the various MP modes.

Can I friend you and play your stuff? This sounds awesome.

Is this really true? I remember racing against time in some of the races, not against other racers. Maybe I’m remembering Forza Horizon 3?

This is the big thing I want them to change in a FH5 - better characters and “story” instead of the relentlessly sunny and optimistic (and dull) people that populate FH3 and 4, and a more structured SP experience instead of the very hands-off one they have no, where it just throws events and cars at you and you largely go do whatever you want.

Some people like that sandboxy nature of the FH games, but it’s always been the one weakness for me. I want a better sense of linear progression.

Yeah, I agree. I said above that you can ignore the parts you don’t enjoy as much, but I always end up leaving Horizon games “unfinished” as a result. I get over a hundred hours out of each one, but I just get this feeling that I never really “completed” the game. I wish that maybe they had a main story or something that was considered complete or something.

I’m failing to see how they can do this. The rumor is that the next one is set around Tokyo. I mean, maybe they can explore some aspects of Japanese culture and characters who are not happy with the everyday grind of daily life, but I think that would feel out of place in a game of this sort. After all, you’re just going to leave those characters behind and move on to the next race. Any attempts to get deeper with any characters will just feel superfluous anyway.

I think they could introduce an actual narrative to the game beyond “look festival! you race man!”, which would create room for characters that are actually characters - not always-upbeat ciphers who just tell you you’re the greatest. This could go hand in hand with a more linear sense of progression, too.

The best I can say for the characters in FH right now, is that they are very easily ignored after the tutorial phase.

The funny thing is, the first Forza Horizon largely HAD these things, haha.

Well, not any later iterations of The Sims, but I would certainly ask the same question of Minecraft and the original Sims. And, sure, sandboxes are of course games. But my point is more about what makes games work. Unless there are specific objectives, tools/systems that I have to master to meet those objectives, and especially some force pushing back in opposition or at least a skill curve, I tend to lose interest rapidly. I need all three of those things, and they need to be integrated into a cohesive design.

I haven’t played an Animal Crossing since, gosh, maybe something on the Gamecube? But it seems to me Animal Crossing, Minecraft, the original Sims, and other sandbox games, don’t have the last of those three things, and they barely have the second of those three things. In some cases, they don’t even have the first of those three things!

Whoa, you assembled a legal case! I didn’t really need to be convinced so much as I was interested in your personal opinion, but if this were a class, you’d certainly pass!

“Because it’s fun” is the weakest answer to any question, because now we get to talk about what “fun” means. Other than whether games are art or the ending of Game of Thrones, I can’t think of a less interesting topic…

Hmm, I’m not sure I agree with his definition, and citing the dictionary right out of the gate is basically a great big neon sign advertising pedantry. Also, “toys” is such a dismissive term. But I’m on board for the basic point you’re making.

And I certainly see Animal Crossing as more sophisticated than a set of action figures or a train set or a die-cast car. I guess I’m saying Animal Crossing isn’t “fun”, or it’s “boring”, or “my horizons of enjoyment have stopped short of its borders”, or it’s “less of a game”…take your pick…because of the lack of any meaningful challenge beyond gathering stuff that’s been conveniently laid out to be gathered. A lot of games simply reward you for time invested, but they introduce friction, frustration, or possible failure to raise the stakes. Some people don’t need that, and I’m guessing those are the sorts of people who happily embrace Animal Crossing as a game no different than Civilization VI, Last of Us, Hearthstone, or Project Cars 3.


Apology NOT accepted. This is what discussion forums are for!

See, I would love for Forza Horizon 4 to have showed me where this stuff matters! Where or how are you playing that you need to tune your cars? Or that you’re actually getting this sense from the driving model?

I tried some rivals mode stuff, but it always seemed like a matter of just taking the best car from my 100 cars, downloading someone’s upgrades to get it to the tippy top of the class threshold, and then downloading someone’s tuning. There was nothing to encourage me to tinker and everything to encourage me to just use whatever was at the top of the leaderboards.

I haven’t played Dirt 2 in a long long time, so my point of comparison would be Dirt 4 and WRC9 and even Art of Rally, but I never got the feeling Forza Horizon had a driving model that could do justice to so many different cars. And note that I was playing with all the assists off. I am staunchly anti-assist in a driving or racing game!

How do you make the race challenging if you’re the one who made the course? I didn’t mess with blueprints outside the context of specific tracks, because it seemed like nothing other than a way to set a time on a route, and then try to beat your own time. Is that what you were doing?

Have you played Dirt 4, WRC9, or even Art of Rally? They seem like they have much more what you’re looking for, other than the obscure cars you mentioned. And they wouldn’t expect you to swallow any camels!


Dear lord, I did NOT know that. I know about that button in the corner, and being able to hold it down to toggle an option to retreat next time you get to camp. BUT I DIDN’T KNOW IT WOULD LET ME KEEP ALL MY STUFF!!!1!

So much rage right now. So much.


P.S. Thanks for the heads-up. My grinding is going to be a lot more efficient now.

I don’t know if you mean generic in the sense of Burnout (fake brands) or generic in that you don’t care about them (which is how I feel about supercars and hypercars and all those other Batmobile wanna-bes), but there is nothing generic about The Crew and it is by no means limited to street racers. The Crew is a master class in how to do variety in a caRPG without just opening up a firehose like Forza Horizons does it. It’s got tons of different real-world cars and they can morph into all sort of different incarnations based on the kinds of events you bring them into.

Yeah, instead of exaggerated biomes they have seasons. Which are a kind of biome, I suppose.


Yes I do.

I totally agree The Crew is a better CarPG. I’m just saying that FH4 isn’t trying to be one, or at least it isn’t best enjoyed in that way.

I do now recall that The Crew has actual brands, but the only one I can remember is a Nissan something or other. And that’s precisely because it doesn’t spend 47 seconds after you buy one to get you into it. For me, the car brands/models in The Crew are just a means to an end - I need a car to do these events to get these upgrades - whereas in Forza they are very much the point. Those barn missions are pretty tedious gameplay-wise, but man they reward you with some car porn. And, again, I’m not even a car person. I don’t have a driver’s licence.

What did the first Horizon do? If it was like the “story” and “characters” in the first Crew, we’re better off without them.

Has there ever been a driving game (about driving and racing cars, I don’t mean a vehicular combat game) with characters and a story that weren’t just either pseudo-tough-guy shitty Fast & Furious knock-offs, or a music video fantasy of cool dudes and hot women in expensive cars?

I like that idea!

Steam shows I have 12 hours played, but I’m sure some of that was the game running in the background. Basically, I got to level 30, and I think it was still winter in terms of the influence progression track. I forget what my next influence threshold was. The last one I remember was “getting on the Forza Horizon roster”. I was well past that, but I don’t remember what was next.

But even then, I was constantly being loaded in and out of different seasons. I imagine that’s from sampling different ways to play, which includes those challenge cards, and the showcase events, and rivals stuff, which I suspect are independent of the “current” season.

Yeah, I was surprised that my starting Audi was a class A car, and the only higher classes were S1 and S2. Is there anything in the game to encourage you to race different classes of cars?

What are these? There was so much garbage Forza argot in the game. My Forza, #Forza, Forzathons, Forza Life, etc., etc. It’s every bit as cloying as Electronic Arts’ terminally dumb appeals to car culture. As @MelesMeles mentions, it really feels like it’s made for kids.


In terms of tiers, not really, save that certain challenges are going to be really difficult in lower tier cars. Different types of car, sure.

Yeah, that’s my biggest issue with the game (other than the really obtuse UI). It’s so obnoxious.

If you got on the “roster”, I think that’s when it dumps you out into the live environment. It first has you do a few events in every season, I assume to show off the seasons feature - which ends up taking quite a while.

  • The “showcase” spectacle events usually stick with a certain season/weather because they’re meant to look a certain way.
  • The rival stuff I think does because you need consistent conditions to meaningfully pit people against each other - ie. someone racing in summer will be faster than someone in winter.

A lot of seasonal events and stuff will have more stringent requirements, like a series of races in old hot rods or something. There was one week where all events were in Mitsubishi cars. Those are the weekly/monthly events that reward you with the latest new cars they’ve put into the game, etc.

The bog standard races tend to just adapt to whatever vehicle you choose - if you go into a road race with a Chevy truck, the AI will all be similar vehicles around your PI number.

  • “ForzaThon Live” is an hourly social event that happens on the map. A pink circle will appear on the in-game map for everyone, I think 10 minutes before the hour. Anyone who wants to participate drives (or fast travels) there and waits for it to start on the hour. Then you all participate in some simple driving challenge. If you manage to do it as a group, you all get ForzaThon points - which can be spent in the FT store on cosmetics and cars.

They are dumb fun most of the time - people hooning around in cars with ridiculous liveries, honking their Windows XP shutdown melody horn (which is a thing that exists).

I actually don’t find Forza’s overall milieu to be anywhere near as insipid as something like Need for Speed. The NFS games are really tryhard car culture schlock that think they are cool. The “characters” in Forza Horizon, by contrast, are just relentlessly positive and upbeat cardboard cutouts, who mostly stay out of the way once you do new event types for the first time. There’s almost something weirdly endearing to how much they think you’re just the best, lol.