Playground Games has brought battle royale inspired racing to Forza Horizon 4 with ‘The Eliminator’, a new mode available for free on December 12 as part of the Series 17 update. The mode will be available to all players on Xbox One, Windows 10 PC, and Xbox Game Pass.The Eliminator pits up to 72 players against one another on Forza Horizon 4’s main map. All participants begin The Eliminator in a classic 1965 Mini Cooper – a level 1 car within The Eliminator’s ranking system – but can upgrade to faster cars via random air drops around the map (marked by coloured smoke) or by beating opponents in head-to-head races. Head-to-head races are initiated by a horn blast when close enough to a rival. When a challenge is triggered a finish line will be randomly dropped some distance away; first there gets to remain in the contest and the loser is knocked out. Head-to-head winners can either upgrade to a random new higher-level car, or steal the loser’s car (doing the latter only seemed useful when claiming the scalp of an opponent in a vehicle two-or-more levels above).
As usual with the battle royale format the play area contracts throughout the match, but once the circle reaches its final size head-to-head races are disabled and a marker is dropped elsewhere on the map for all remaining players to race to, like a free roam rush event. First one to the finish line is The Eliminator – everyone else, the eliminated.
According to Playground Games principal game designer Mike Brown, The Eliminator has actually been gestating for a long time.
“It started very early,” said Brown. “It wasn’t even a prototype; we were really just playing it with our imagination before Horizon 4 even came out. It started as a game that we were playing amongst ourselves where we were just doing head-to-head [races] within the world, and every time you lost a head-to-head the other person would change car, and it kind of blossomed from there into The Eliminator game mode we have today.”
“We first wrote up a formal design for it around that point before Horizon 4 had even come out, and we have been trying to find the best strategic point to do the work to make it and release it to the world, which we have decided is right now.”
Brown explained that sometimes it can difficult to determine whether a new idea has the stamina to work in the wild, but confirmed that the feeling in the studio has always been extremely enthusiastic around The Eliminator.
“We’re British, right? So we’re kind of subdued; a little bit understated at times,” said Brown. “We don’t usually get to whooping and hollering in the office. But that was not the case with The Eliminator.”
“People were screaming, shouting, jumping up and running between monitors to look at different people’s perspective on a race that was going on. Massive crowds gathering around people’s desks and cheering them on to the end. And that was from the very, very first prototypes. I think that energy and atmosphere has been there in every single play session that we’ve done at the office, and that is unique to Eliminator – it’s never happened on anything else that we’ve made.
“As soon as that happened, I think we knew that we were onto something that was going to be really quite special.”
I recently played two hours of The Eliminator and found it frantic, fun, and occasionally frustrating – all of which, I suppose, are core pillars of the no-second-chances battle royale brand of gameplay. There’s a certain ruthlessness to it when challenged by an opponent in a strong car several levels above yours (and the final showdown seems like a bit of a crapshoot depending on where you are in the last circle and where the finish line is dropped relative to you and the other remaining drivers) but more even match-ups are a blast. There are plenty of rewards on offer for participating, too, and Brown confirmed the Playground team is planning to add new rewards and challenges to The Eliminator going forward.
The Eliminator is just the latest addition to Forza Horizon 4, which has enjoyed a steady stream of new cars and new content since its release back in September 2018, and Playground Games is not stopping yet.
“Something like The Eliminator, which really is huge – it was a significant investment for us to build it,” said Brown. “I think it’s just great that we’ve been able to give that to players for free, including all the rewards that come with it. It has a bunch of exclusive cars and I can say it’ll almost certainly have more going forwards, and none of it will ever be charged. There’s no plans whatsoever to ever monetise it.”
“As long as players are still playing, still enjoying it, still telling us they’re enjoying the things we’re making, then we’ve got no plans whatsoever to pull support for Forza Horizon 4. It’s going really well and we’re really enjoying supporting it, and our players are telling us they’re really enjoying it as well. There’s still loads more to come even after this.”
Luke is Games Editor at IGN’s Sydney office. You can find him on Twitter every few days @MrLukeReilly.