Game Review: Horizon Chase Turbo: Senna Forever

Just in case you didn’t know, I’m a bit of an Ayrton Senna fan. I have even covered the great man on this very blog. This year, I wrote articles looking at a certain game that Senna was deeply involved in making. I even paid respects to the Brazilian hero on the anniversary of his death, when I looked back on how and why I became an Ayrton Senna fan. Yup, I followed Senna pretty much his entire career, right up till that tragic day on the 1st of May 1994. When Senna died, so did my passion for Formula 1. Yet, as is often said, ‘true legends never die’. This phrase has never been more veracious then when applied to Ayrton Senna. He may be gone but he lives on in so many ways. One of those ways is in the form of an expansion for the arcade racer, Horizon Chase Turbo.

Right, before I do get into this Ayrton Senna expansion, I just want to quickly go over what Horizon Chase Turbo is. What we have here is a pure, super-fast, buttery smooth, adrenaline rush of an arcade racer. If you have ever played any of the Top Gear games from the SNES days, then you know what you are getting with Horizon Chase Turbo. In fact, this game is so much like those classic SNES racers that it could very well be an unofficial sequel. The graphics, the music (composed by the same man, Barry Leitch), the sense of speed and so on. This really is Top Gear for the HD generation. Basically, what I am saying is that Horizon Chase Turbo is a fantastic arcade racing game and you should go and buy a copy right now.

Anyway, Horizon Chase Turbo comes from Brazilian indie developer and publisher Aquiris Game Studio. Ayrton Senna was Brazilian too. It only made sense that the developers of this cracking arcade racer keep the legacy of Senna alive in their game. And so, what we have is the expansion Horizon Chase Turbo: Senna Forever. A little addition where you get to be Ayrton Senna himself.

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What you get with this DLC is really two new modes added to the Horizon Chase Turbo base game. Those two modes are Career and World Championship. In the World Championship mode, you have three difficulty setting to choose from and each one gives you a set number of randomly picked races to compete in. Each of those difficulties also has its own F1 cars/teams to drive. Now, this isn’t a licensed game (outside of the Senna name), so there are no real-world teams here. But what you do get are very close representations of real teams. The likes of Ferrari, Williams, Lotus, McLaren, etc they are all here… just not with those exact names or liveries. But trust me, if you know your F1 history, you’ll recognise the teams regardless. The same goes for the tracks too. They are real-world circuits, only arcadey. I mean, you can go around the famous Grand Hotel Hairpin at the Monaco circuit at 130mph. So yeah, the tracks are recognisable, all the corners are there and if you know the real tracks, you’ll know them here too… but they are far from realistic. As I say, this is pure arcade action.

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The point of World Championship mode is to win the championship. Just as with real F1, you race for points. The higher up the grid you finish, the more points you get. Whoever has the most points at the end of the championship is declared the winner. Simple but thoroughly fun stuff indeed. Plus, with the World Championship mode, you can play 1-4 players, even split-screen couch play too… just like the good old days. Honestly, just with the World Championship mode itself, you get a lot of game here and essentially, unlimited F1 racing action.

But really, the main meat of this Senna expansion is the Career mode. here, you play as Ayrton Senna himself and relive highlights from his illustrious Formula 1 career. This mode is split into five chapters and follows Senna through his F1 life (excluding his Willims drive for obvious reasons). You start in chapter one, racing for this game’s version of the Toleman team in 1984. Finish that and move onto Lotus in 1985-1987, etc until you get to Senna’s glorious McLaren years in the late 80s and 1990s, including Senna’s Championship wins. Through the years, you will take part in some of Senna’s most memorable moments in F1. Like his first win at the 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix… in the pouring rain.

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Senna’s famous rivalry with Alain Prost is also in this DLC… though with a non-copyright infringing version of Prost. His first (and very painful) win at his home circuit in Brazil in 1991. Plus other memorable moments of Senna are used to frame the Career mode and tell the story of Ayrton Senna’s F1 life. Now, it did only take me a few hours to get through this mode (5 or so), but I think it still offers up a good chunk of great gameplay. Plus there are bonus objectives (Senna Marks) to try to complete for each race. You’ll be tasked with doing something like performing a perfect start, to not using any nitros… or even having to use all your nitros in one lap. These little bonus objectives add a lot of replayability to the game and even though I have seen the Career mode through to the end, I fully intend to go back and get 100% on every race.

As you progress through the years of Senna’s career highlights, the cars even change to be era-appropriate. The 1980s cars look like the 1980s cars and are different to the 1990s ones. Even when doing the Lotus years, the car (correctly) changes from the classic black JPS livery to the blue and yellow Camel sponsored one. The start/finish line accurately changes on some circuits depending on the year. The crowd cheer ‘Senna! Senna!’ on the Brazil race and more This DLC is full of small details that really don’t need to be there but are and they add nice little layers to the game. One of the features of both Top Gear and Horizon Chase Turbo is that your driver shouts out various slogans as he races. Overtake, get hit, crash and so on and the driver will react with a cartoon-like speech bubble. This is carried over to the Senna DLC, only replaced with quotes from Senna himself, another great little detail. There’s also the option of driving using the cockpit view. This isn’t an option in the base game but it’s really is a welcome addition here. I actually found myself playing using the cockpit view all the time. It just felt right, even for an arcade racer like this.

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There are no real-world F1 car setups, but there are three basic setups to choose from before each race. There’s a high grip one that enhances the car handling, an aerodynamics one that gives you better speed and acceleration, then there’s a fuel one that gives you more fuel and an extra nitro. Just how twisty-turny the track is will pretty much help you settle on a setup. But you also have to look at the weather as in a wet race, the high grip setup really helps. So, there is a little bit of strategy here, but just not the in-depth kind you’d find in a dedicated F1 title. Oh yeah, there is fuel in the game too. You don’t have to do a pitstop as in real F1, you just drive over fuel can icons on the track before the start/finish line. So there is no pit strategy to worry about either but if you do miss too many of those fuel icons, you’ll most probably not see the finish line.

In terms of the actual racing itself, as I said, this is pure arcade action. The Horizon Chase Turbo: Senna Forever DLC is a far cry from the official Codemasters F1 titles… and that is a good thing. We need more arcade-like F1 games on the market. For the races here, breaks really are more of an option than a necessity. You can tear around some of the most demanding corners of some of the trickiest circuits in the world at breakneck speeds. I have already mentioned how you can go around the famed Grand Hotel Hairpin at the Monaco circuit at 130mph, but that is just the type of game this is. You can’t ‘crash’, you just get slowed down, bounce off the scenery and other cars. The races are usually only 3 laps long and never last you more than a few minutes or so. But this is what I adore about the Horizon Chase Turbo base game and this Senna expansion, it is just fast and frantic racing fun.

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Do you know what is great about the Horizon Chase Turbo: Senna Forever expansion… other than the gameplay that is? A percentage of the royalties from sales of the game will go to the Ayrton Senna Institute. This is a non-profit institution set up after Senna’s death and by his sister Viviane Senna. The aim of the Ayrton Senna Institute is to help with the education of students in Brazil:

“The Ayrton Senna Institute is a non-profit organization founded in 1994 to provide opportunities for Brazilian students to develop their potential through quality education.

Ayrton Senna was one of the greatest Formula 1 drivers of all time. Besides his passion for speed, Ayrton was passionate about Brazil. He longed for a country where everyone had the opportunity to be winners, but he knew that possibility was far from most Brazilians’ reality. Two months before his fatal car accident in Imola, Italy, Senna shared with his sister, Viviane Senna, his ambition to do something great for the future of Brazilians, especially for Children and Youth.

This dream was reinforced by Viviane Senna, who already worked for human development as a psychologist and also wanted to do more for younger generations. Ayrton Senna did not live to participate in the construction of this project, but Viviane Senna and her family decided to carry the dream forward.

The Ayrton Senna Institute is today one of the largest non-profit institutions in Brazil and supports thousands of Brazilian students and teachers with quality education.”

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So then, time for my final judgement. I’ll do two here, one for the Horizon Chase Turbo base game and one for the Horizon Chase Turbo: Senna Forever expansion. Whenever I do my final judgment, I always look at how much the games are being sold for and decide if the game is worth the money. With the Horizon Chase Turbo base game, you are looking at spending around £16. Honestly, that’s an amazing price for such a brilliant racing game. There really is a lot of arcade driving action here, which has seen quite a few updates since its original release too. Horizon Chase Turbo has grown and it really is one of the very best arcade racers on the market. A big recommendation from me, buy it now.

As for the Ayrton Senna expansion? As a dedicated Senna fan, I could be very bias here and just praise the game regardless. However, I’m actually more likely to call out a game for sullying the great man’s name. I have played quite a few Ayrton Senna DLCs, mainly from the official F1 games. To be honest, they’ve always left me feeling a bit ’empty’ with their lack of content for how much they cost. This piece of DLC is being sold for around £5. The Career mode will last you maybe 4-5 hours or so… but what a great 4-5 hours it is and there is some replayability there too if you want to go back and perfect each race. Then you have the World Championship mode, which does offer some really great F1 arcade action. If the base game is a beautifully crafted homage to 16-bit racers like Top Gear, then this Senna expansion is a brilliant and loving throwback to arcade racers like Pole Position and Winning Run.

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I’d honestly love to see Aquiris Game Studio make a full-on arcade F1 game, I could pitch some ideas. Anyway, for just £5, you get a great slice of DLC and one that really does pay respects to Ayrton Senna and his legacy. I guess you can trust a Brazilian developer to deliver the goods on a true Brazilian (and worldwide) hero. Plus, let’s not forget, you are helping out the Ayrton Senna Institute too, so well worth a purchase. As a Senna fan, I would’ve liked to have seen a few more of Senna’s iconic races added to the career mode and perhaps another hour or two of gameplay… but then I’m just hungry for good and worthy Senna content, which this certainly is. Horizon Chase Turbo: Senna Forever really has been put together by a team who clearly love and respect Ayrton Senna. The attention to detail and fast arcade action makes this the best Senna related game around, as well as just being a cracking racer in itself.

Buy this DLC, buy the base game too (if you don’t already own it). Even if you’re not a Senna fan, this is still a fantastic racer and a way to help out a worthy institute too. This is a great title and one crammed with plenty of top-notch arcade racing gameplay.

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“Wealthy men can’t live in an island that is encircled by poverty. We all breathe the same air. We must give a chance to everyone, at least a basic chance.”

– Ayrton Senna

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