A lot of people seemed to be surprised - and in some cases horrified - when Forza announced the latest expansion for Horizon 4. I’m a little puzzled as to why - Horizon 3 had one reasonably serious add-on and a second one that was Hot Wheels-themed and completely bananas. Is the addition of a new world based on a popular toy for FH4 so unexpected?
The Horizon 3 Hot Wheels was hugely entertaining, too, so we’ve been hoping that Horizon 4 Lego Speed Champions is just as fun and silly. Here’s what we discovered after spending a little time with it:
It’s the “Lego-themed“ part of Playground’s description of ‘Lego Valley’ that’s key - not all of it is made from virtual bricks and pieces. The grass is still, well, grass, and you’ll find plenty of ‘real’ trees, cliffs and other topographical features. The roads are made of virtual tarmac rather than thermoplastic, but at least the cat’s eyes are Lego.
You can’t help but wish the Lego valley was - as the interactive map suggests - made entirely from the stuff. You know, just like that Lego world you dreamed of making in your bedroom as a kid, only you never had enough pieces.
The town of ‘Brickchester’ is fully Lego, however, and impressively detailed. Perhaps rolling that aesthetic out to the whole environment would have been too tall an order for a mere expansion, but then again, it was managed for Hot Wheels, so why not here?
When this expansion was announced, Playground games noted that you could “build a Master Builder’s House”. But don’t be fooled into thinking this will provide an outlet for your creativity - players merely collect bricks through completing PR stunts, races and the like, before plonking down a house of bricks with a set design.
That’s enough to get you hooked, though, with further brick hauls allowing you to build a garage and Speed Champions cars like the Ferrari F40 Competizione.
There’s something oddly amusing about blasting around in a cartoonishly-proportioned Lego car that handles (to an extent) and sounds like the real thing. You can drive around Lego Valley in any of your normal garage cars if preferred, but there’s arguably more entertainment value in the ones made from bricks.
Speaking of which, special mention has to go to the Speed Champions McLaren Senna. Why? Because the active rear wing functions just as it does on the real one.
If you grew up with Lego and continue to keep up with the brand’s current activities, you’ll constantly spot little references and Easter eggs. From the ‘City Pizza’ billboards to the name of the map’s UFO crash site area (probably worth a Google), there are loads of things to spot.
There comes a point in any Lego-loving child’s life where proceedings take a smashy turn. Hurling models off the landing, firing them at skirting boards, launching them over improvised ramps - surely most of us have been through this phase, and are aware of ensuing mess.
Crash a Speed Champions car in this expansion, though, and it won’t explode into many pieces, one of which will cause much swearing later on when it’s stepped on by an adult. A shame, but the game’s physics do allow for limited damage, with small pieces of the Lego vehicles dropping off if you stack it, and the remaining bricks taking on a more worn look over time.
Fortune Island and its treasure-hunting thing is fun and all, but there’s not a huge amount to separate it from the main game. It’s effectively more of the same - fine if that’s what you’re after, less so if you’re after a change.
But if we were to pick only one to download and play, it’d be Speed Champions. Yes, it is a shame it’s not as, erm, Lego-y as we might have hoped, but you can’t help but admire the way it refuses to take itself seriously.
It’s colourful and fun without seeming childish, and even when you’re smashing through plastic foliage in a Lego Mini rally car, the whole affair still feels very Forza Horizon-ish. The map’s not huge and we suspect more committed gamers will rattle through the challenges quite quickly, but they’ll almost certainly be smirking like idiots the whole time.