Forza Horizon 5 is the best game in the franchise, and it also might be the perfect arcade racing game.
Developer – Playground Games
Publisher – Xbox Game Studios
Platforms – PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X
Another year, another Forza, it could be so easy to grow weary and exhausted by the sheer amount of Forza titles that have hit the shelves in the past 10 years.
One year, Turn 10 brings out a Forza Motorsports title that at it’s worst are usually very good. Then the next year another entry in Playground Games Forza Horizon series comes and takes us on another vacation with some of the worlds hottest cars. The consistency of the Forza series has always been impressive. The problem with always being so consistent however, is each new game introduced can have a hard time truly separating itself from the rest.
You always get the typical improvements and upgrades you expect from a sequel. Better graphics, more cars, some refinements to existing systems and more along those lines. After the Forza series has taken a much needed break, the power of next gen has arrived. Playground Games must have felt a certain kind of way about the situation, because the already excellent Forza Horizon 4 has been obliterated with Forza Horizon 5.
Forza Horizon 5 takes us away from the roling green hills of the U.K and into the southern paradise of Mexico. Like every other Forza Horizon title, the love they give each games home country is on full display. The slang, the music, the culture and history are all front and center no matter where you look in Horizon 5. The U.K based team made sure to give Mexico the treatment such a historic location deserves.
Now to really talk about what they changed about Forza Horizon 5 let’s talk about what they have kept. The absolutely stunning visuals have returned. The PC and Series versions performs incredibly right out of the gate. I have yet to encounter any technical issues with 5. On the Xbox Series X, they offer you a 4k, 30fps locked mode or a very welcome 60fps performance mode. Either mode is stunning.
The same great physics system returns. With several improvements carried over from previous entries, the feel of every single car is handled to perfection. The tuning allows you to control how much simulation vs arcade feel you want to go for. The assists all return and haven’t changed much from previous iterations.
The much hyped seasonal approach to the open world is back with but adjusted. Each season in the game is truly unique, but seasons such as Fall and Winter obviously work differently in Mexico.
Beyond the visual differences, each new season brings it’s own set of challenges and handling models to challenge everybody. New locations open up, and old ones fade away. Even races, events and barn finds will change, with some of those open world events only appearing in a specific season. Audio, visuals, and controls all work seamlessly together to truly immerse you in the Horizon experience, just as well as they always have in the past.
Now that we have got that out of the way, let’s talk about whats new.
Previous Horizon games, despite their excellence always had a couple things truly keeping them from perfection, the career progression, and the online integration.
Previously each Horizon title had you compete in various events strewn around the open world, in an effort to gather enough fans to expand the Horizon festival. Each time you upgraded a Festival site, another tier of events, open world challenges and showcase events would populate the surrounding area’s and then you rinse and repeat until you get to the end of the game and compete in the Horizon Championship race.
The problem with that format was the progression didn’t feel satisfying. Gathering enough fans, and expanding Horizon sites felt inevitable, but never fun in the moment. The way the game never really forced you to try different vehicles or play-styles would eventually make progressing through the festival races more of chore, than a fun task.
They always had a ton of content, just never a clear direction for said content. Cross country races, street races, speed traps, and bucket lists would all co-exist with no clear motivation for wanting to pursue any of these different styles outside of your own desire to perform that activity at a given time.
On it’s own, the old method wasn’t broken, or even bad by any means. By Horizon 4 though, that formula was feeling stale, and it was something nagging at me the entire time I spent in Horizon 4 and it ultimately kept me from caring much about any festival sites or events I unlocked.
Horizon 5 finally up ends the old career system on it’s head, and is one of the biggest changes the series has seen since it’s inception.
The new progression system doesn’t exist in a vacuum anymore. The brand new accolade and expedition approach to the open world, and the much improved online integration combine to transform the minute to minute Forza Horizon experience.
The online connected world from 4 is back and much more lively than ever. The connected online plus campaign experience goes a long way to completely changing the Forza experience on a fundamental level.
Every step of the way during your career, the festival finally feels like a festival. Players are always around, doing there own thing, hanging out near barn finds, taking massive jumps and the Rocket League quick chat system they have implemented keeps it civil and easy to communicate with anybody around.
If you find a player you like, a quick tap of the D-pad will allow you to invite them into your convoy, which is the new term they use for co-op play. Returning from Horizon 4 is the co-op, as now it allows players to connect and play through the entire career mode together. Even expeditions, special event races and more.
Every single different open world event or race you can partake in is back from the older games. Joining them is the job system. You can be a taxi driver, or a stuntman, and compete in multiple chapters for each job. The playground feature is brand new and allows for a Halo Forge style of editing tools take over the Horizon festival.
These player created events litter the world map, and add a great new dynamic layer to the already diverse and fully featured campaign.
The skill tree system from 4 is back as wel, and it’s easier than ever to invest in a car. All of these different gameplay elements all combine to complete change how you can play, progress, and interact with the content they have.
Forzathon, adventures, festival upgrades are all seamlessly connected and woven together in a massive, interconnected experience.
It’s the biggest single change they have ever concocted, and it eradicates the only real issues I had with the older Horizon games.
As I look back on my time with the game, I am having a very, very hard time picking out any flaws or problems I had with it.
The only thing I would like to see is some integration with a streaming music service, but even the in game radio stations provide excellent variety and is mixed to perfection in the game itself. They’ve also added a streamer mode to enable so DMCA won’t be an issue.
I have spent just as much time trying to find a a problem with Forza Horizon 5 as I have playing it, and I honestly just cant. Every minute I am not playing more of it I want to dive back in.
Forza Horizon 5 is the best game in the franchise, and it might just be the perfect arcade racing game.