There aren’t a lot of concrete details about this Forza spin-off, but there are some strong reasons for optimism.

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The next game in the Forza franchise won’t be called Forza Motorsport 5. In fact, it won’t even be developed by Turn 10. It’s a spin-off arriving this fall by the name of Forza Horizon, and it’s the product of UK startup Playground Games. Now, if you’re a Forza purist who’s already prepared to write this game off, you might want to take a step back and rethink things. We don’t know much about it yet, but what we do know has us very, very intrigued.

The first thing you need to know about Forza Horizon is that the developer, Playground Games, has quite a racing pedigree. Originally started by a handful of Codemasters veterans, the studio has since found fortune in the wake of a few unfortunate studio closures. According to Turn 10′s Dan Greenawalt, Playground Games has built itself up with salvaged talent from both Bizarre Creations and Black Rock Studio–a pair of recently shuttered studios known for creating terrific racing games over the years.

So the pedigree is there. This is a shop that knows racing games, which certainly counts for a lot. But that brings up the question: What sort of racing game is Forza Horizon? Well, that’s where things get a little hazy. It sounds like Microsoft won’t be revealing too much about Horizon until the Electronic Entertainment Expo, but there’s room for speculation.

Take a look at that trailer up there. Now, ignore for a moment the dance rave scenes, which are almost certainly the product of some overzealous marketing team somewhere up in Redmond. What piques our interest are the wide stretches of open road in the desert. It doesn’t seem too far outside the realm of possibility that this could be a road trip game that has you chasing the horizon (see what we did there?) in a cross-country journey of some kind.

Tearing across open stretches of highway in a high-powered sports car is one of those deep-rooted fantasies that all car lovers share. It’s the reason Need for Speed: The Run had so many of us interested before it wound up being just sort of OK. There have been precious few truly great road trip games. If Forza Horizon does end up being that sort of game, you have to believe Playground Games’ pedigree gives it a good shot at succeeding.

That’s a bit of speculation on our part, but there’s not much to go on right now. Hopefully we’ll find out more about Forza Horizon in the near future. Stay tuned.

By Shaun McInnis