The great thing about Forza Horizon is that it brings so many people together. It’s the only racing game I can think of that my non-car friends like. Forza Horizon 5 does not seem to change that; on the contrary, it seems to have gotten more people talking than ever before.
Still, like someone who do tends to nerd out and nitpick little things like the credibility of car models in the game, the degree of customization that can be applied to them and really just accuracy in general, the series has admittedly left me wanting more. It is therefore very exciting that the sound representation of the cars, especially engine sounds, has been stepped up FH5.
Fraser Strachan, Playground Games’ Lead Audio Designer, shed light on the work that has been improved FH5 sound on an episode of the studio Let’s go streaming which was sent on Monday. The complexity of the engine notes can be heard immediately, but before we dive into it, it is useful to explain how Playground has managed to take the leap it has.
This is thanks to new technology called “granular hybrid looping.” Strachan said that about 10 to 15 percent of Forza Horizon 4 cars used this method, but with the new game, the team has been able to use it on all the cars on the roster. This is how he explained it on the stream:
The old method was actually a looping method that would take a car – we would place it in a garage and on a dyno – and make it play like e.g. 1000 RPM, 2000 RPM, 3000 RPM. And it was a computer that did that, so it was a pretty simulated environment. We chop the loops out of them and play them off.
So there are a few things – they may sound like they’re in a garage, not really out on the track. And they can also sound a little wrong when you do not get the engine rotations that match. So with the new granular synthesis techniques, we actually take the recordings that we get out on the track – after driving up to the red line, down again – we chop each of the individual engine rotations up in a small sample, and we end up with thousands of small audio files that we can play in the game. And the advantage of granular is that it runs at 90 frames per second, which obviously clocks faster than our game actually runs.
This leaves the team with many more clips, which makes the engines sound more dynamic and responsive throughout the RPM range. Vacuum cleaners, these are not. Racing game fans have been looking for better sound from all developers since the beginning of time, and Playground has taken these requests to heart. You can hear the results yourself in video compilation below shows everything from a Camaro ZL1 to a Morgan 3 Wheeler and a Golf R:
An example of the handful of playgrounds that were shared was from an A80 Toyota Supra. I must admit that I do not have the fine-tuned ear for engine notes, and if you ask me to identify a particular car based on the sound it gives alone, I will disappoint you 80 percent of the time. But even I can pick up the rustling at idle, the rasping unit when Supra’s inline six runs at full tilt and how the pop in each setback has a unique pitch every single time.
This Supra also highlights how far the Playground went to ensure that the sounds of certain cars evolve as they are upgraded. The blue example in the video actually comes from the sound of a heavily modified car that the studio borrowed for the game. Strachan says that his team sampled notes from a few different Supras, so the sound of the car that makes – when you buy or win it in the game – will be quite different from where it ends when you moderate it.
This brings us to another facet of how serious sound is treated in FH5: audible upgrades. Every adjustment of the drivetrain and even changes in tire size will affect the sounds your car makes. You can even test the way a particular part will change the sound of your car when you use them. This is how it works, with a Vauxhall Monaro VXR as the subject:
You can tell that the aftermarket exhaust adds a good bit of reverb, upgraded cameras and valves adjust the pitch of the Monaro V8, and forced induction applies that rush. This will be music to the ears of many car nerds I know.
There are many examples in the first video of how Playground’s new sound technology will transform the sounds of Horizon’s many cars, so I recommend you listen through them all. Also pay attention to how the car’s surroundings affect the noise it makes. FH5 uses raytracing in an audio context as well as a visual, something you can hear in the echo of an AMG Project One when spit along a canyon wall. So much attention in this medium is lavish on the visual side of things, so it’s refreshing to hear what can be achieved when developers use the same attention and ingenuity on sound. I do not know about you, but I was just a lot more excited about Forza Horizon 5.