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Forza Horizon 5 Secures Its Place As This Year’s De Facto Racing Game
Platform(s): Xbox Series (version played), PC
Genre: Open-world racing game tour de force
There’s a bit of a personal touch that Forza Horizon 5 gives you, for all of its “bigger, better, and more” approach to an open-world racing game RPG sequel. The gist of part 5 is about the same as Forza Horizon 3 and Forza Horizon 4: you race in a plethora of different activities, collect Car Points (CP) to get more cars and tweak the ones you have, gaze in awe at the fact that your meager salary won’t even land you a C-class vehicle, and then just get immersed in your virtual playland of the game’s respective country where you can tear up the asphalt, ground, and Mother Nature herself. All for the sake of participating in the game’s spotlight events where you do daredevil stunts and partake in races that can’t be pulled off in real life lest its organizers want a juggernaut-size lawsuit and damages list.
And you’ll be doing it on your own terms this time around, given part 5’s new way of charting your racing RPG progression. All that, with a lovely frame to boot.
Every new Forza Horizon game seem to have amped up the fun factor and thrill of speed with each new iteration, tweaking controls, adding accessibility options for all sorts of players (especially the Forza-patented Rewind feature), and giving you all the difficulty and assist options you need. Or if you’re hardcore, you can shut off all the latter and ramp up the Drivatar challenge for the pure driver simulator difficulty you find in your Gran Turismos.
In part 5’s context, the place you’re racing in is lovely Mexico, and clearly, developer Playground Games are going all out with the game visual and audio-wise. The game’s revamped engine and visuals are just immaculate. Every car you loved and lusted for is all in full detail here, from the new stuff like the Mercedes AMG and the new Ford offroads, to even classic Bentleys and Datsuns because there’s probably a racer out there who just wants to have fun. The backdrop is also a feast for the eyes, from the jungle vistas to the sunsets, to even the sandstorms that will wreck your day temporarily until you find the way out.
True, the sand in the beaches and desert areas could use a bit more touching-up, but that’s just a 1% issue in a game that delivers 99% in current-gen graphical prowess. Whether it’s in 30fps high-res mode with the raytracing or in 60fps performance mode, Playground Games’ attention to detail and lush interpretation of Mexico is beyond outstanding.
The new location itself isn’t just for visual flair: there are hazards aplenty ranging from rough sandy courses and gravel, forest tracks and river pathways, sandstorms, and even sharp curvy mountain roads leading to a giant-as-heck volcano. Naturally, your courses and race tracks range from street races to challenging dirt rallies and offroad expeditions.
To say that there’s plenty to do in this latest Forza open-world car RPG title is underselling it. You’ll be racing, doing stunts, exploring Forza’s version of racer heaven Mexico, and grinding points to buy over 400 cars present here, as well as race other folks online when you feel like you’re up for it.
Some of the game’s later challenges are full of literal twists and turns, with a couple of them being endurance races & tests of agility all at once on the dirt/jungle track. You’ll also be helping stuntpersons with their action movie driving sequences, breaking records on speed cameras, and finding all the goshdarn signposts with the level-up points all across Mexico. And you’ll love every single minute of getting lost in all of it.
And the best part? You can tailor these races and challenges to your liking. Part 5’s newest addition is the Forza Adventure feature, where you get to allocate “Adventure” points after racing a bit here and there to open up specific challenges you like and want to tackle for the majority of your time. If you want dirt racing, just add points to Horizon Wilds and you’ll have all the rally racing you want. Rather just do tricks & ramp jumps? Just select Horizon Rush and that’s all you can focus on. You’ll still have to be a jack-of-all-trades to get the most out of the game, but at least you can carve your own path clearly and tailored to your liking.
Every Adventure here will bring you to some interesting Mexican locations, from ancient ruins to abandoned airfields ripe for exploration. Some of these parts confine you to a location where you’re given a checklist of objectives for extra points like finding crates in the area, using stunt ramps to collect hard-to-reach crates, and taking photos of specific statues and points of interest. There’s also a bit of a narrative peppered throughout all of it; it’s not trying to be Mass Effect here, but it’s nice that there’s some continuity and banter to liven things up while you’re just careening around in your Maserati or Jeep.
My only gripe is that the game’s new multiplayer challenges just feel like distractions at best. Sure, playing Forza’s version of King of the Hill and Capture the Flag is fun and all, but I’d rather just play the limited time racing events and just dick around Mexico, finding signposts to crash into, barns to unlock new rare cars, and just retrying my rally and offroad races with better A and S class cars with Hatsune Miku decals on them.
I won’t lie: Forza Horizon 5 is just reiterating what made parts 3 and 4 great. But at the end of the day, good sequels just keep the core game intact while adding way more to draw both driving veterans and newbies alike. With a gorgeous new setting and racing scenario, a ton of places to race and trash, and refined controls for both joypad and driving wheel users alongside accessibility options aplenty, Playground nails it once again and with more feeling.
Other giant studios who make racing games will need to step up their game, because Forza Horizon 5 just raised the already-high bar even further. So what are you waiting for? Floor it!
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