Without a new Halo, Gears of War or even a Crackdown to fall back on this Christmas, Microsoft is pinning its hopes on Forza Horizon 4 for the festive period.
Luckily for Microsoft, the Xbox One’s only exclusive of any note in late 2018 is a good one.
This is a content-rich game with stunning visuals, incredible set-pieces and a game-changing new weather system that’s spread across four different seasons.
Seasons are a particularly inspired addition, and the reason why you’ll pump more hours into Forza Horizon 4 than any of its predecessors.
Beyond the obvious aesthetic differences – and you couldn’t set a game in the UK without diverse weather – seasons transform the world map and the way you approach each race.
There’s a great example early on in the game when you race off-road on a dusty dirt track in summer, before carrying out the same race in the mud and rain of autumn.
Things get even trickier once winter rolls around, as you splutter through the snow and skid over ice. You can even drive across frozen lakes.
After an introductory prologue in which you experience the varying weather conditions, Forza’s seasons change every seven days.
With events, championships and barn finds limited to specific seasons, you’ll have a dramatically different Forza Horizon 4 experience from one week to the next.
It’s an inspired way of keeping the game fresh and a great way of motivating players to return.
With races feeling so dramatically different, it also offsets any problems with replaying the same content.
Not that this is much of a problem, of course, because Forza Horizon 4 has more activities than Centre Parcs.
There’s a ton of different races and race types, hundreds of vehicles to unlock, barn finds, spectacular showcase races and story events that have you performing stunts one minute and paying homage to arcade classics like Outrun the next.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, and we haven’t even mentioned online.
Forza Horizon 4 makes it easier than ever to buddy up with other players, thanks to servers that hold up to 72 players.
While the increased player count makes it more likely that you’ll run into somebody during your travels, Forzathon events pretty much guarantee it.
Players will receive a notification when a Forzathon event is about to begin, and it’s your goal as a collective to complete objectives to earn rewards.
It’s a superb way of making Forza Horizon 4 feel like a living, dynamic world.
With ever-changing seasonal events and new updates that will let players design their own race courses, Forza Horizon 4 is about as close to a must-have game as you can get on Xbox One, and one that will keep you busy until the inevitable sequel pops up in a couple of years.