The one thing that I’ve always found comfort in racing games is that no matter how hard you crash, you never die. I remember being anxious whenever I heard car accidents on the news as a little kid. I became so aware of the real-life ramifications that I decided to try and escape from all of it by delving into the fantasy of the racing genre.
I’ve been playing racing games for so many years it’s hard for me to keep track nowadays. Ever since my childhood, I’ve always been very competitive when it comes to them. I remember winning almost every race against my younger brother when we used to own Gran Turismo on our original PlayStation. That was until my parents gave me an Xbox a few years earlier, and my PlayStation One had to meet its unfortunate demise to the antiques closet.
Despite this, I got used to the Xbox and started getting into Forza Motorsport. Although it wasn’t Gran Turismo, I still fell in love with it very quickly. I got an Xbox 360 a couple of years later, and even still I’ve being playing Forza to this very day.
While playing Forza Motorsport 3, there was one computer player that went beyond pissing me off, Marco Rossi. No wonder he came first place while driving like a complete asshole. On many occasions he rammed the side of his car into my back wheel as I was trying to make an incoming pass. Not to mention the number of times he’s done this at the start of a race.
Then Forza 4 came, and that bastard was doing the same shit to me as before. It got old instantaneously, and my hatred for Rossi grew to the point where I started giving him a taste of his own medicine, even though it wasn’t in my nature to race aggressively. Eventually, I started to become more aggressive with my driving behaviour as the difficulty of my opponents in Forza 4 became a lot more taxing, especially on the Silverstone Circuit.
It wasn’t long until Forza Horizon was released, and even though it didn’t follow the same formula as its predecessors, it was a breath of fresh air nonetheless. It’s been a while since I actually played a decent free roaming racing game.
I did the usual. I completed all the festival events, did all the showcases, PR stunts, street races, used an online walkthrough to knock down all the discount signs, and discovered all the roads. On the final showdown with Darius Flynt, it took me several retries of that tedious “Goliath” endurance race just to defeat that pain in the ass.
Afterwards, I started playing multiplayer, and one day as I was waiting in one of the custom game lobbies with several others, I overheard somebody in the lobby,
“Darius Flynt is a douche, yeah, but at least we didn’t have to put up with that fuckin’ M. Rossi. That guy can’t drive for shit!”
I joined into the conversation and shared with the other user my contempt towards the AI player. He told me he hated M. Rossi so much, that he even joined a car club dedicated to his hatred. Since I wasn’t in a car club of my own yet, I was curious to join. So I took his offer and became a new member of the conveniently named, “I Hate M. Rossi” car club.
A few days later I started up single player as usual, and I noticed that there was a festival event that was left unchecked. Initially this didn’t make any sense, since I did notice before that I unlocked an achievement for completing ALL of the festival races, including the showdown with Darius Flynt. I went to the event and my worst nightmare was revealed. My rival was Marco Rossi.
At first I couldn’t believe this was happening, so I created a party chat network with one of my friends from the “I Hate M. Rossi” club and told him about my discovery. He checked his internet to see if anybody had discovered this easter egg before, but found no results. Because of this, he simply came back telling me that I was ‘joking around with him’ and that I was ‘conjuring up an urban legend, much like the Golden Warthog easter egg from Halo 2’. I even checked the internet myself and discovered that there were no references to an M. Rossi easter egg. At this point I thought to myself that maybe I must have done something to unlock it that nobody else has done before, like a secret combination that I accidentally cracked without even knowing.
Despite this, I pressed on to race against my ultimate rival. He was armed with a heavily modified Ferrari FXX, while I took one of the best performance cars in the game, the Koenigsegg CCX-R. The track was the dreaded “Goliath”, with the only difference being the time period set to ‘midnight’. The race started and M. Rossi bolted past me, making a deafening roar that was unlike the original FXX. We began rocketing down the freeway and I found it almost impossible to keep up with his car. It was superior in every possible way. Not only that, but for some reason I couldn’t rewind either, which only made the race seem unfairly challenging.
But in the very few instances I got ahead of him, there seemed to be something noticeably different about his behaviour. Instead of trying to ram my back wheel, he simply slowed down and tried to avoid all possible contact with my car, only to resume accelerating past me again. It was almost as if he finally became aware of his wrongdoings and started to atone for his actions by racing with precision and care instead of using brute force.
I restarted the race one more time. My plan was to intercept him at the curvature on the freeway just beyond the hill. When we got to the slight curve, I managed to get the position of my car just perfectly so that it would go around the curve without losing any speed. I honed in on Rossi, drafting behind him. Now was my chance. I slowly approached him from the right, and swung the front wheels of my car to the left. The front bumper of my car collided with his back wheel, and he started to spin uncontrollably.
It was here on in that the game did something completely unexpected. The game went into a slow motion cut-scene where Rossi was spinning out of control, and inevitably span into the oncoming edge of a guardrail that split the freeway and the exit on the right-hand side. The driver’s side of the car aligned perfectly towards the guardrail and collided into it at 170 miles per hour. Almost like a cut-scene straight out of Burnout, the car crumpled, bending around the rail with shards of glass thrown everywhere.
This looked spectacular at first, until I noticed that blood was dripping from the driver’s head. The most disturbing thing for me wasn’t the blood that was being shown, but the way the side of the car’s body bent into his torso, as if the side of his body was being squashed by a steam roller. His malformed body was enough to confirm that he was certainly dead.
It was at this point that the anxiety from my childhood came back to haunt me. I had never seen such a graphic depiction at this magnitude, of somebody being killed from a street racing accident, let alone in a video game!
The cut-scene ended and the race continued as normal, but I noticed his car was still there. I span around and drove to the crash site. Puzzled and disturbed, at first I wanted to take a photo of the wreckage to show everybody the easter egg, but I just couldn’t do it. Thoughts were going around in my head. This may be the first and last time anybody will ever discover this easter egg until possibly many years from now, if not ever. But then again, taking a photo of a wrecked Ferrari FXX with a blood-dripping, malformed corpse and uploading it to the storefront? Am I crazy?
Instead, I went back to the race, and retained some hope that I could finally finish the race in first place. It didn’t last for long though, as I still felt queasy that I had just killed M. Rossi. It also didn’t help when the announcer on the radio declared that, “Nobody from the Horizon Festival has died this year!” I finished the race and received undeniably the biggest prize in the game; 52,754,145 credits, enough to purchase every car in the game excluding VIP cars, barn finds and downloadable content. Considering that it was a showdown race, as expected I also won M. Rossi’s car.
However, the car still had noticeable differences that freaked me out. The right-hand side of the car was bent back to shape, but it was still crumpled. The right headlight didn’t work, and the glass from the windscreens still shattered. It didn’t take long for me to also notice that there were drops of coagulated blood on the hood of the car; a mark of shame.
I returned to free roam and noticed that the time period was dusk, except everything looked slightly darker than before. The radio was permanently switched off, and I couldn’t change channels. It got even more bizarre when I tried to play my own music on my hard drive and the track was playing, but no sound came out. I revved the engines, and like last time, the deafening roar violently erupted from the engine. The car was amazing. Its acceleration was unprecedented and easily had the best handling and braking in the entire game. What also caught me by surprise was that it was an X-Class car, which I never thought existed in Forza Horizon until now.
I drove around South Beaumont, and noticed that the sun was setting. Everywhere was a ghost town. There was no sign of traffic anywhere, and in the distance there were no fireworks or skylights at the Horizon Festival. I attempted to fast travel to the festival by accessing the map, but I was prohibited from accessing it since the message box stated that, "The Horizon Festival has closed down due to an unexpected event. We apologise for this inconvenience".
So instead I drove all the way to the festival, and by this point everything was getting a lot darker, and I had never put so much dependence on my headlight until now. When I got to the festival, nobody was in sight. No crowds, no rivals, no traffic… nothing. The whole place seemed abandoned and rusted. The signs were stripped and the lights broken and torn down. In the middle of the festival ring, there were vertical piles of cars of all shapes, sizes and classes, crumpled flat on top of each other. It seemed that what was once bright and vibrant has now become nothing more than an enigma; a place devoid of life and colour, consumed by darkness.
I decided to drive away, but while doing so, I started to hear a song that was coming from the loudspeakers at the festival. It sounded like the loudspeakers withered with age, as the noises were rather blurred and distorted. I couldn't recall what song it was, but what I knew for certain was that it wasn't any of the tracks from the three radio stations in Horizon. Instead, it was music that was commonly played during a memorial service. Everything about this easter egg was breaking me psychologically. I had no idea what was going on, nor what was going to eventually happen to my main character. I found myself wandering around Carson, uncertain of where to go or what to do, and even the entire town was abandoned. Some of the houses ended up in charcoal ruins, and trees and lampposts were knocked over.
After nearly a whole minute of wondering, the music stopped and was replaced with soft static from the radio. The static was then abruptly cut off by a recognisable female voice:
“If you’ve got cash burning a hole in your pocket, why not visit the Autoshow? We have cars for high-rollers like you.”
Her presence was so unfitting to the current situation it wasn’t funny. Until every 20 seconds, she said exactly the same thing. It became apparent that her voice was being looped on a voice recorder.
I went back to the festival and accessed the Autoshow. All of the cars in the Autoshow were missing, except for one. The car’s model name was simply titled ‘An Invitation’, and the rendering of the car was completely invisible, with a 0 credit price tag. I bought the car, and instead of giving me the message of, 'Would you like to return to free roam?' it instead sent me straight to free roam back in the FXX I started off with, with one exception. Something appeared in the message center:
“Head over to the freeway South-West of Carson. We are holding a memorial for a dear friend.”
I drove past Carson and onto the freeway, and came to the same crash site where M. Rossi was killed. The entire freeway was blocked with flowers, cards, and photos of him and his family, all lined across the road. At the site of the guardrail were a white cross and a racing helmet with M. Rossi’s initials. I entered Photo Mode once more to take a closer look of the gravesite, and zoomed in. The plaque on the cross was etched in black writing:
“The Unstoppable Marco Rossi, A beloved father and a racing legend, Atoned for his mistakes, paid in full, Will be sadly missed by everybody. R.I.P. October 23rd 2012”
Despite previous efforts, I took a photo of the plaque, saved it, and attempted to upload it to the storefront. While I was doing this, I still felt sick and constantly bitter about what I was doing. After all, I killed him. I didn’t mean to kill him, but I am still responsible for it. I uploaded the photo to storefront, and after several seconds, a message came up, “File uploaded”. The screen then cut to black.
“You murdered him, didn’t you?”
Out of nowhere the text displayed in the middle of the screen. There was no sound coming from the speakers.
“He atoned for his actions, raced alongside you, and THIS is how you repay him?”
The nausea kept building up inside. I knew that the ramifications that I had caused were catastrophic, after witnessing what had happened to the entire world.
“Now it is your turn.”
The screen then cut to the starting line of the “Goliath” race. Everything was now back to normal. The traffic was back, the lighting was reset to its default, but the time period was still set to midnight. The race began, except I was the only person in the race. It took me a while until I realised that M. Rossi was behind me, driving the Koenigsegg CCX-R that I previously owned. I realised that it was now my turn to experience Rossi’s fate.
I drove as fast as I could down the freeway, over the hill and performing the same manoeuvre around the curve as before. In order to avoid hitting the guardrail’s edge at the lane split, I placed my car very close to the left so that my car would be protected by the guardrail alongside. As Rossi was getting closer, I had to defend myself. I nudged Rossi out of the way just slightly, and he suddenly braked and stopped. I kept rocketing forward at 283 miles per hour, without a moment’s hesitation of stopping.
Without warning, the traffic ahead formed a wall as the cars began to change lanes. The change was so quick that even my reaction time and the car’s highest braking stats couldn’t avoid it. It smashed the side of another car at an angle, and I found myself tumbling in the air, smashed the invisible wall above the guardrail and crash-landed upside down, crushing the driver’s skull.
The traffic disappeared. The skylights vanished, along with the moon and the stars, and the distorted music in the distance played. Once again, the world returned to its darker form, until the only thing that could be seen was the helpless wreckage lying on the road. The screen went black again.
“You were given one last chance”
“Now it is too late”
“He crossed the finish line”
The screen came back to the wreckage and the music stopped. Momentarily, the eyes of the crowd started to emerge from the darkness around the wreckage, staring at it. I expected the expressions on their eyes would look angry and intimidating, after what I previously did to M. Rossi. However, when their faces started to emerge, every person had a disturbing smile on their face, some of them even started to laugh hysterically. The laughing became even more sinister, and the faces of the crowd started to replace the darkness that surrounded the wreckage. This persisted for roughly 30 seconds, and the screen cut to black once more.
“And you never will.” The Xbox 360 automatically shut down. I was too frightened to do anything at this point, as I spent the rest of the night trying to comprehend everything that had just unfolded. It was a bright summer morning the next day, and after many hours of meditating under psychological trauma, I turned on my Xbox 360. Everything worked fine. Forza Horizon was still in the disk drive, and as much as I was eager to banish the disc and the game forever, I decided to play the game one last time. All that remained was a black screen, and nothing more. I removed all the data from my hard drive, reinstalled the game, and yet again, I was faced with the same black screen. I went through the collection of games in the drawer next to my TV. I put in Forza Motorsport 4. Black screen. I moved on to Forza Motorsport 3. Black screen. I put in Forza Motorsport 2. Again, black screen. Lastly, I put in Forza Motorsport 1. What else did I expect? A black screen. I was hesitant to break each of these discs in half since my sanity started to wear thin from all of this. But then I suddenly remembered. I still have my original Xbox in the antiques closet. I thought maybe I could try playing Forza Motorsport 1 from there. I set up the original Xbox, and inserted Forza 1. It started up normally, and initially breathed a sigh of relief as the loading screen came up. As I was about to start the race, the screen flickered, cut to black, and a message appeared. “The race cannot be played due to a runtime error:
An unexpected event has occurred – The player does not exist.”