I was always under the impression that Microsoft was a pretty hands-off publisher, really only pushing for minor things like accessibility and Game Pass… but listening to Mike Brown’s podcast and several other opinions from Forza YouTubers like Ericship111, and SepiSP4, there really is this strong implication everything down to the core fundamental design of this game is being heavily controlled by higher-ups.
It would make a LOT of sense. Forza Horizon 4 was the first game to release after PGG was bought out by Microsoft, and it was the weakest title in the series at that point. Horizon 5 releases and even with an extra year of game development, it’s Horizon 4 all over again but worse.
With the seemingly awful development of the new Motorsport reboot with recycled car models and sounds (From the ground up by the way, guys!) and removing actual New To Forza cars to use them as DLC, this franchise seems like it’s held on a leash by Microsoft, forced to be nothing but a flashy graphics benchmark to draw in buyers. Combining with the terrible selection of actual New To Forza cars that were clearly added for product placement rather than player enjoyment, it really just seems they’re puppeting Forza Horizon along as this soulless moneymaker.
It hurts seeing the franchise in this state, it really does. Never have I seen a franchise with so much potential to design a game that utterly blows away everything else and make racing game history, yet throw it all away in favor of making the same exact game three times in a row.
Mike Brown might’ve left because he didn’t feel he was right for the job. But the more likely thing is he left because of how little power and creativity he was allowed to flex. I keep holding out for the moment where the game pulls itself out of the dirt, and creates a fantastic, fulfilling title packed full with meaningful, original content.
But with this whole idea of Microsoft Executives, people that aren’t even game developers, dictating how this game is made and optimizing it so it makes the most money with the least effort just completely blackpills me on the future of Forza, both Motorsport and Horizon. Even on a smaller level, SepiSP4’s video about how corrupt everything is down to the customer support just shows exactly why I shouldn’t bother with this game anymore.
But the thing is I want to bother with this game. This is gonna sound incredibly cringy, but the Forza Horizon franchise is a total comfort game for me. Even at it’s blandest, being able to unwind by turning on a podcast or youtube video, building up a car (with the pathetically low level of customization options) and just driving around is so incredibly relaxing.
Test Drive Solar Crown releases at the end of this year, and based on the games that came before it and it’s overall presentation, this looks like a possible Forza Horizon killer. Even the reveal trailer from 2020 feels more like a Forza game than the entirety of Horizon 4 and 5 put together. Forza Horizon’s been stifled of it’s potential because of the lack of competition, but thankfully there FINALLY seems to be a game to jump to when Horizon 6 inevitably underdelivers.
In the meantime, I’ll still occasionally hop on this game, but it feels like the equivalent of going to a friend’s house. One who died and hasn’t even been buried. Just sitting there with a rotting corpse of someone that used to bring you hours of fun and entertainment.