Between yesterday and today, many websites reported about allegedly leaked Forza Horizon 4 concept art that (according to the reports) seemed to indicate Hong Kong as the location for the game.
To my knowledge, the rumor originated from Vandal, and then bounced on Reddit. This of course caused all sorts of websites that didn’t pay too much attention to details to report it as a legit leak, alleging that Hong Kong is the location for the rumored upcoming game that is likely to be presented at E3.
Unfortunately, this is is not the case. You can see the artwork for yourself below. At a superficial glance it’s convincing, isn’t it?
It’s worth mentioning that some of the findings included in this article have been posted in this Resetera thread, while the rest comes from the in-depth analysis conducted by yours truly.
Vandal’s writer alleges to have found the artwork in the portfolio of the concept art and production design firm Leading Light Design, based in Guildford, England.
Leading Light has indeed worked with many game developers and publishers, including Microsoft Game Studios, as we can see at the bottom of their official website. So yes, it is indeed likely that the artwork (or at least part of it) is bound to the Forza Horizon franchise.
A relevant element to this story can also be found on their website: To be precise, it’s the fact that the artwork isn’t in any sort of protected client-only area or hidden portfolio. The gallery below shows how the images appear precisely on the front page of the site for absolutely everyone to see alongside concept artwork created for other video games like No Man’s Sky and more. All you have to do is to click on the little dots to browse to the right picture. Everything is right in the open.
You can bet your full monthly wage that a concept design company with the experience and client pool of Leading Light Design would never, ever, display art for an unrevealed video game on the front page of their official site. It’s simply not done.
You don’t work for Microsoft, Sony, Bethesda, Activision, Ubisoft, 2K Games, and more to slap their secrets on your front page. Anyone believing that this is possible is simply drunk.
This alone should easily be considered solid evidence that we’re not looking at the artwork for an unreleased and unannounced video game. It’s honestly baffling that the author of the original article did not realize this, and that the many websites that bounced the alleged “leak” around selling it as something legit did not think to verify its actual legitimacy.
Yet, if you need more elements, we can dig deeper.
Further evidence is in the picture with the Forza logo printed on a balloon. As you can see in the gallery below, that’s the logo used for the first Forza Horizon, and for the Forza Motorsport series only until Forza Motorsport 4.
The logo used from Forza Horizon 2 and Forza Motorsport 5 onward is visibly different and thinner.
This means that the concept art is probably either for the original Forza Horizon, or it could be for Forza Horizon 2 before the new logo was designed. Logos are normally one of the last things created for a game, and it’s likely that the concept phase of the second game of the Horizon series predates the time in which the new logo was finalized for Forza Motorsport 5.
It’s extremely unlikely that an artist would use today a logo which has been obsolete for five years.
If this still isn’t enough for you, we can take a look at some of the cars in the artwork.
The chase image above shows a Mazda Furai concept car. It appeared in Forza Motorsport 3 and 4 and then disappeared from the series. This isn’t surprising since the only functional car was destroyed during road tests by Top Gear in 2008.
It never appeared in the Forza Horizon series. Yet, it makes sense that it would be present in concept artwork for the original Forza Horizon game since it was probably drawn during the Forza Motorsport 4 timeframe. On the other hand, it makes little sense for it to appear in concepts for a 2018 game, ten years after this obscure car’s destruction. You’re not going to find this one in a barn.
Another telling image is the Nissan GT-R above. To be more precise, it’s a GT-R SpecV, which was replaced in 2011. This is compatible with the concept art phase of the first Forza Horizon as well.Again, it’s unlikely for such an old model to be used for the art of a game set for release in 2018.
Now let’s take a look at the image above. The blue car is a 2010 Ferrari 599xx, which is also compatible with the timeframe in which the first Forza Horizon would have been in the concept phase. The original game was also the only one in which the 599xx appeared in the initial car lineup.
Last, but not least, below you can see the only image that has an explicit connection with Forza Horizon, showing a depiction of the Horizon Festival and the old-style Forza logo mentioned above. While you’ll need to squint, you’ll notice a very interesting detail: the deck lid medallion with the running pony is very specific and identifies the car as a 2012-2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302 which is once more compatible with the original Forza Horizon and did not appear in Forza Horizon 2 and 3.
Examining all the evidence, we can come to a rather solid conclusion that the concept artwork featured in this “leak” was designed for the original Forza Horizon, and has nothing to do with Forza Horizon 4.
Yet, Forza Horizon was set in Colorado, so why are these images set in Hong Kong? The answer to this question is actually quite simple: in the Forza Horizon Behind The Scenes Episode 2 featurette, Creative Director Ralph Fulton revealed that the team did “deep research” on “just short of thirty real-world locations” before settling on Colorado. The pictures here are likely to be part of that concept research, while Hong Kong was being considered alongside tens of other locations for the original game.
So there you have it. This is no leak, but simply a concept art design company openly and proudly displaying its work on an old video game, which is perfectly normal and accepted in this industry. If you were hoping for a Hong Kong setting for Forza Horizon 4 due to these images, I would advise against holding your breath.
We’ll probably learn the real location for the game in a few weeks at E3, and rest assured that you’ll read it here as soon as Microsoft announces it.