Forza Horizon 5
Developer: Playground Games
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Platform: Xbox Series S|X (also available on PC and Xbox One)
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 09/11/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Forza Horizon 5 drops players into the beautiful setting of Mexico where the sun will shine, but where it can also be treacherous as players will also have to navigate through thunder and sandstorms. As they progress through various events, players will be called upon to drive around various areas of Mexico expanding the Forza Horizon festival across the country and opening new types of events; races, off-roading, sprints; just to name a few.
If you’re familiar with the Forza Horizon series, you’ll know exactly what to expect here: ride around a giant open-world playground completing events in various racing styles and hunt down billboards that give you additional XP and in-game currency. Once you level up, you can spin the wheel (or amass your spins) in order to earn new goodies such as clothing (?!) for your in-game character, or new rides. You can also win money with the spins, which is a favourable option because you can then go on a shopping spree. As you gain experience, levels and win events, you can unlock additional Forza Festivals across Mexico, each of which has its own racing style mentioned above.
Like previous entries in the Forza Horizon series, players can earn experience points (XP) in a myriad of ways. While there’s the obvious one where you need to finish as high as possible in a race, you can earn XP by pretty much any other way except banging into other cars – driving without hitting anything, Kangaroo-ing (where you drive on bumpy terrain and bounce around), destroying things such as fences, small trees – just to name a few. This ensures a seamless and natural progression as players of all skill levels climb up the levels. To get a quick XP bonus, you’ll sometimes have songs on your in-game radio dubbed ‘Skill Songs’ where pulling off skills will reward players with double the points.
‘Roads? Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads’
One of the strengths of the Forza Horizon franchise is its open-world setting. Unlike most racers where you simply go from event to event, Forza Horizon 5 lets you tackle events in any order you shall see fit, and whilst Anna, you’re GPS buddy, will recommend a route to reach a selected event or waypoint, you can simply just drive through any terrain, with any rides. Sure, sports cars don’t do well when off-road, but they’ll still get you there. It’s also just fun riding around the open-world setting, pedal to the metal bashing into (reasonable) obstacles (yes, big trees will bring you to a dead stop) and bouncing around.
While the game doesn’t have any game-breaking issues, there are a few nuisances or baffling things that can be overlooked. First up, given that this is a racing game, being able to use houses and customize your character feels weird. I’d always be disappointed when my reward after spinning a wheel was clothing. I’d rather get money or new cars. And while the game looks stunning (more on that below), if you happen to flip your car around, you’ll notice that under your ride is the lack of… well… everything. It looks like the bottom of a cardboard box. I understand it’s not the most important part of the ride, but it’s a surprising omission. Also, while the car variety is through the roof, car aficionados aside, who will actually try all 500+ rides? Much like the unlockable clothing, the amount of unlockable rides feels like filler.
When unlocking a new Festival area, you’ll be prompted to drive to a specific area to establish things, but you’ll also be tasked to complete a primary objective and a handful of secondary ones. Also, each event has its own mode choices: you can either do a race solo, co-op (a.k.a. convoy with friends), PVP, rivals or create your own route giving players the option to replay favourite tracks with a new twist. We also have to applaud Playground Games as the game features deep accessibility features such as the obvious (subtitles, gameplay settings) to things like individual color blind filters, changing the color of maps and icons to compensate for color blindness. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Pedal to the Metal!
Forza Horizon 5 looks jaw-droppingly gorgeous. The environments, the roads, the rides – the overall presentation looks insanely beautiful – I thought DiRT 5 couldn’t be topped and yet here we are. It’s hard to explain as it’s better to experience it yourself, but everything is just solid; it’s basically the closest you’ll get to the real in these weird times. Cars are also highly detailed (aside from the aforementioned oopsie design above) and there’s a massive amount of rides (520 out the gate; before the inevitable DLC). How Playground Games manage to top themselves with every new entry in the Horizon sub-series is beyond me. As with previous entries, the soundtrack is a banger mixing EDM, classical and rock while combining old and new tracks. While Forza Horizon 3 will remain my favorite soundtrack, this one is a close second.
This is a no-brainer – Forza Horizon 5 is the best, most flexible and approachable racing experience of the year. Whether it be newcomers looking to dip their toes in the sometimes overwhelming genre, or hardcore fans, Forza Horizon 5 can be adapted to all skill levels and features seemingly never-ending waves of gameplay. Whether it be hunting boards all across Mexico, finding new rides hidden in barns or just tackling event after event, this game is a gift that keeps on giving. Game Pass or not, Forza Horizon 5 is a must-play.
Rapid Reviews Rating
5 out of 5
Forza Horizon 5 can be purchased on the Xbox Marketplace.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.