You can choose from a wide range of names in Forza Horizon 5. I chose “Chump” because it reflects the kind of racer I am now. Forza Horizon 5 lets you cut corners with impunity and always gives you about half a meter of space with checkpoints flags, on each difficulty variable. I love that. It rewards you with points for almost everything you do, such as scraping against family sedans at high speed, or squashing cacti (they call them ‘smactus points’, 1000 per smashed cactus). If you get a little air, you’ll be rewarded for getting “great air”. I’m Chump, yes, but according to everyone I’ve met at the Horizon Festival, I’m also a motorsport champion, although I play smart Drivatar in the “medium” zone, with full racing streaks to boot.
Did not matter. Forza Horizon has always been about the wow factor and has never been shy about offering gratification – that’s how it works. He wants to make you feel good, and boy does that endeavour. Early on in this preview, a companion recaps a particularly frenetic racing event that I just participated in. There was a cargo plane, two motocross bikes and a winged suit, and I’m in a Corvette Stingray Coupe. As always, Horizon 5 has ‘boss battle’ style races that deviate significantly from the rule of simply racing against other cars.
My buddy shares the details of this race with her friends via text message, then announces to me that it’s “Foo Fighters time.” She’s a room reading genius because Forza Horizon is the Foo Fighters of video games.
It’s rock as a game, all fireworks and guts. It’s so fun and entertaining for the audience that it’s very hard to object. Forza Horizon asks for very little in return. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. If you lose, no one will say “that was below par” or “you could have done better.” You don’t have a British nose to scold you, Alaa F1 2021. There is only silence.
You don’t die and there are no enemies: the Drivatar system, which forces AI drivers to roughly perform your friends online, so it totally extracts the hard-to-get stuff if you lose. Who cares if AI Adsgar69 or AI Beefcake34 is better than me? When that happens, you race again or go smash a cactus while listening to the podcast. It’s a festival, a variety of BYO. I did. We’re all on the same treadmill, baby.
The Forza Horizon 5 promotion is a pure automotive commercial. If you’ve played previous Horizon games, you already know this. This episode is the same – in fact it can easily be confused with the previous one, except for the setting of Mexico. It is true that Mexico has proven to be more turbulent, and full of landmarks than a sandbox from England, but the “English landscape’s lack of drama or clear scenery,” in the words of Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro, was an odd choice for an arcade sand rider, let’s face it. The fact that he was a great rider anyway is just testament to how Horizon feels Hassan, Nail the essentials, and successfully iterate on the open-world racing formula.
Mexico doesn’t actually look that different from England at first, although there are jungles, cactus-infested plains, and seemingly Mexican towns of varying sizes, the kind you see in American films set in Mexico. The foliage is different (cactus) and the landscape is more brown and less tender. I live in Australia and can confirm that Australia in FH3 doesn’t look a lot like real Australia, but I don’t care and I don’t think you should either (they have installed rotors, though).
The catch is that this is a new map and there are plenty of opportunities here for sports utility vehicles, with rolling voids, treacherous soaring mountains and a huge soccer field filled with huge soccer balls. I think they want us to play Rocket League in it. England gave you a graceful vibe after a long, steady and charming climb. Mexico gives you the slopes.
Forza Horizon 5, just like the previous installments, doesn’t quite live up to digital tourism. Not that I’m in Mexico, I feel like I’m in a general computer world that I’m a little inspired by. That’s not to say it’s not fun to explore different biomes – it just means that this is a new map with some styles of Mexico, and frankly, that’s enough for me, because this game is just a previous game with some new things to do. Since this is an Xbox preview only, the graphics options were limited between “performance” and “quality”. Either way, aside from more rugged mayhem and foliage, it doesn’t seem like a huge technical advance in terms of graphics, at least at least 180kph. The FH4 is still the best looking racer on PC, so that’s okay.
It has been developed over several installments, but Forza Horizon is really Far Cry at its core. From Ubisofts Ubisoft. Sure, racing is your bread and butter – whether it’s circuit or point-to-point – but there are trivial side quests you can do as well, like taking pictures or spotting vintage cars. These come with some pretty light exhibits, like Find Vocho, a Volkswagen beetle that has been ubiquitous in Mexico. “It’s not just a car, it’s a lifestyle,” advises the Mexican mission-grantor as we embark on our search (we drive the car to a clearly marked point on the map). Then we take the old vehicle to a truck shop for repair. You made me drive this slow truck myself for some annoying reason, but that’s okay. Maybe I’ll get Vocho’s talent in the end, because I’m a car racing champion and who’s better than me to destroy the Mexican wilderness?
On a mission other than racing to take a great photo in a dust storm, my job is to use the Forza camera mode to photograph a half-buried Aztec-like monument. The woman who gave me this task warns that there are legends about people getting lost in these dust storms, but this does not concern me: I got a magical thumbnail map for the GPU, and besides, the visibility is not that bad.
It’s a nice effect, though, a dust storm. Its a wonderful factor. This preview didn’t clearly show me how it could add a challenge to the races. In this construction, the weather events seem too illogical to justify their existence – they translate as a brown patina obscuring the horizon.
Honestly, I don’t like these non-racing ones, just like I’ve never liked them in previous games (who cares about accumulating English mansions?!). At least it appears to be optional after the usual early preparation period. Fortunately, the main serve is promising: During my little race against a cargo plane and a man in a winged suit, I got a 1994 Hoonigan Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC, which showed off some of the advances Playground Games and Turn 10 have made in the audio department. This dirt bashing machine has a totally awful exhaust, and playing with an Xbox controller, I can really feel its back wood whenever I take a turn too tightly.
Forza Horizon games dominate open-world racing due to its motorsport heritage; Handling between vehicles varies markedly even in this arcade context, and I feel that is why The Crew, for example, can’t carry the torch of this series. Even Dirt 5, which I played to death, feels less heavy in comparison. This Hoonigan unit is tow like nothing else.
The way Forza balances arcade pleasing with sim depth is great as always. If you want to tinker with your tires, gears, alignment, springs, brakes, and differential—among other things—you absolutely can. If you prefer not to get your hands dirty but can’t handle the vanilla settings, you can choose from other online gamer’s optimizations. This feature was not available in my preview build but it is in the list. Rest assured that you can ignore all that pedantry, just like I always did.
I have objections to Forza Horizon 5, just as I do Foo Fighters. I hate the aesthetics of gambling. Sure, there’s an in-game economy for buying cars, but the Spinwheel is back and still up, with the poker machine format and the fact that you can either win big (silly car you might not be able to afford) or be full of a “purple striped casual shirt” (ugly) and useless) or some credits. it’s not cute – goodAnd I don’t feel good about this exhilarating racing game, which I would have had if I had let my four-year-old play unsupervised. Horizon’s feel-good aura is transformed into somewhat sarcastic with the gambling (albeit non-cash) elements present.
Also, there are probably quite a few progression systems out there: credits for cars, experience points for Spinwheels, Accolade points to boost the campaign, perks that unlock upgrades for individual cars, rather than negative upgrades for many of them. Given the amount of cars promised for the final—426 and counting—These perks will likely spread out so little that they become meaningless, unless you’re the type of player who “runs” a selection of cars.
When my mission-grantor said, “It’s not just a car, it’s a lifestyle,” it seemed real to me, even though it might not have been what he meant. Because I’ve played all the Horizon games, but as a way to almost not play. It’s a great distraction, a game that you can play when you’re not playing it. But it’s big enough to become obsessed with if you so choose; There is real heft available for people who love a challenge and most importantly, a truly car-loving approach that fans can relate to.
The responsible studios obviously realize this balance, because if you want anything remotely new in this installment, you won’t get it. They came up with an amazing formula. They know how to make computer game cars. They know how to build landscapes that feel good about racing. They figured out how to make the rider satisfying but mostly resistance-free. They got rid of the annoyance of crashing at high speed simply by making cars like tanks and trees like thorns. And they’ll keep doing that until a lot of people decide that style is bad.
And since it’s not naive – since he’s still really ruling – we might as well keep getting Forzas like this for a long time, which is actually a good thing, even though a part of me was hoping for something with a whiff of novelty. I’ll drown in it 50 hours anyway.