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Xbox's Forza Horizon makes Colorado the racetrack

Though it may seem unlikely as you stew in I-70 gridlock, Colorado is an excellent place to enact your high-speed racing fantasies. Or at least, Playground Games seems to think so.

Forza Horizon for the Xbox 360 is an open-world racing game that takes place in our fair state, against the backdrop of the raucous Horizon music festival. Developed by UK-based Playground Games and published by Microsoft and Turn 10 Studios, Forza Horizon is the first game in the gearhead-thrilling Forza series to take place in a single environment. So, how did Colorado become the setting for Horizon?

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"During the early stages of development for Forza Horizon, we researched a running list of locations we thought would make for interesting settings," explains Turn 10's creative director, Dan Greenawalt. "We had a list of finalists and Colorado was the clear winner. Colorado is such an interesting amalgam of stunning beauty and tremendous diversity, geological, climatic and otherwise."

In addition to shepherding the direction and feeling of the Forza franchise, Greenawalt is a former Coloradan himself, who went to Colorado College and says he has fond memories of road-tripping across the state.

Colorado made the cut, Greenawalt says, because of its incredible variety. "The Colorado of Forza Horizon represents all of the diversity that Colorado residents love about their state -- from the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, the sun-baked cliffs of red rock, to the flat lowlands in the eastern part of the state," he explains. You'll race across some real-life highways, but Playground was committed to cutting out the boring roads to deliver something more exciting than your morning commute.

The Forza team took a trip to Colorado in 2011, taking hours and hours of video and tens of thousands of photographs to transfer the feeling of the state to the game. Greenawalt cautions, however, that Horizon's setting is more like a fictional mixtape of Colorado's disparate elements than a 1:1 recreation. So don't expect to crash your 2011 Lamborghini Sesto Elemento into your house in this game.

Along with snowy peaks and stunning sunsets, Horizon will have plenty of that other Colorado signature, dubstep. "The Horizon Festival is the kind of thing that seems like it could be a natural evolution of where festival culture is right now. When you think about it, this is sort of a new Golden Age of festivals around the world," Greenawalt says. "We've got these huge music festivals like the Mile High Music Festival, Telluride and so many others."

Look for our impressions of how well Forza Horizon captures the Centennial State after the game is released on Tuesday, October 23.

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