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– Words: Jason Hanif. Photos: MJ Digital. Screenshots: Microsoft Studios.

The digital age we live in allows us to immerse ourselves in driving and racing simulations that could have only been dreamt of when we were kids. One gaming franchise on the forefront of racing game simulations is the Forza series on XBOX, and Turn 10 Studios have just released their latest offshoot edition, known as Horizon.

Turn 10 Studios is a subdivision of Microsoft. Those familiar with the Forza series will know the reputation which Horizon has to uphold. The previous Forza racing simulators push current gaming physics and graphic quality to their limits in order to deliver the most contiguous virtual experience. Horizon carries on in those aspects from its predecessors, but lets loose in a few areas which we’ll delve into a little later in our review.

To celebrate the launch of this latest rendition of Forza, a local debut was recently held by Microsoft on the eve of the 2012 Australian Motor Show commencement.

The pre-launch party gave selected media personnel access to test out the new Forza, we were given the chance to race head-to-head and review the latest incarnation of Forza, so lets move right onto gameplay.

Firstly, setting the scene. Forza Horizon introduces open world gaming to the franchise, set in Colorado USA with amazing graphics and colours. There’s a bit of everything in this lifelike environment from traffic to street racing and dodging (or smashing) obstacles.

Forza Horizon is a spin-off to its predecessor, Forza Motorsport 4. It’s important to note that whilst the previous edition focused on real-life simulation, this version has been broadened for a much larger target market. Physics, graphics and gameplay quality are still key components, but there’s plenty more to see and do in the new open world environment.

Horizon may not be as refined as previous versions in terms of simulation, but it’s now more than able to cater to casual gamers. We don’t mind it at all, letting loose on open roads is tonnes of fun. Sometimes all you want to do is escape reality a little bit.

Cheap thrills are always an added bonus too! There’s no doubt that this will keep you entertained for days on end. There’s a combination of sixty-five different surface types and conditions to test out varying from tarmac, gravel, dirt and snow.

Rolling over physics and models from earlier Forza games has, in our opinion, made this the best arcade style racing game available, it’s the perfect blend of real world simulation meeting arcade style features.

The real-life time cycle will see you driving into the sunset and through the evening. It’s picture perfect, there’s even a photography mode to capture the moment.

Powersliding through the twilight provides an equally impressive spectacle.

Forza Horizon is available in stores now exclusively on the XBOX platform. You can grab your very own copy from your nearest game retailer, just in time for the 2012 holiday season! Special thanks to Rob from MateSpace and Microsoft’s XBOX Australia division for giving us the opportunity to receive an advanced review of the game.