Forza Horizon 5 (Impressions)

Why is this game so insanely good? That’s the question I’m asking myself (again) as Playground Games show that there’s no stopping them from making us want more Forza Horizon games. And who would have thought that a game that was an open world spin off of Xbox’s spin on a Gran Turismo game (Forza Motorsport) would then go right ahead and eclipse them both?

Forza Horizon 5 takes players to a slice of Mexico that gives them a taste of the country’s various biomes and keeps them all within a short drive away. When I mean short drive though we’re talking maybe twenty minutes in a mid spec car to circumnavigate – but it’s what’s inside the map itself that’ll keep you occupied for a long time. If you’re not racing, you might be jumping off ramps, breaking speed records or busting up signs and it’s all for advancing your progress in the game. The types of racing involved are broken down into distinct categories from off-road to street racing which are introduced through their own signature show case events. That the game doesn’t force you to follow a direct path is one of the strengths of Forza Horizon 5. It can be a little intimidating at first when you see so many events open up on your map, which you can filter out, but you can take your time in choosing what to do or if you want to simply travel around the map and check out the sights you can do that too. It’s all up to you to decide.

Players who dive in quickly will also find that seasonal events (seasons exist much like Forza Horizon 4) also come up so there’ll always be something new and different to do and earn points. I’m spending a lot of time right now trying to complete the achievement for travelling along every road whilst collecting enough fast travel boards to reduce the cost of that very useful shortcut. The Forzathon Events from FH4 have been renamed to Horizon Arcade and still task players with teaming up to complete objectives and earn points to spend in the game’s shop. More objectives have been added beyond the previous speed and skills challenges too; one that involves doing smaller tasks like completing specific skills or beeping your horn are fun distractions. Also worth noting the event is now marked on the map with a tag to let you know what the theme of the next one will be (e.g. speed) so you have a chance to find an appropriate car if you decide to take part in it.

Visually the game is really something to behold with massive draw distances and enough variety in the terrain to make almost every location feel worthy of a screenshot. With the opening sequence dropping you off at the highest point in the game it really drives home how much you can see and also the verticality that’s in the environment. The roads feel like they have a lot more variety in their layout and leveling which I think makes it a more challenging environment for the offroad and trailblazer events. Occasionally I’ve seen some object pop-in when driving which can be understood considering the density of the environment but it’s more an exception to the rule and more often than not there’s little to break the immersion of you being in this big world that stretches beyond your view. With over five hundred cars to choose from there’s a good chance you’ll find a favourite or maybe even your daily drive among the selection. Some cars will be familiar to series veterans but if you’re worried that the developers cut and paste models from past games to make up the numbers I think you’ll find there’s nothing to worry about because they look better than ever.

I’ve REALLY got to say something about the audio too. As amazing as this game looks the sound really comes close to topping it. I don’t know if they’ve change the sound mix but it really feels like there’s better separation that helps on the surround end and there’s a lot more noticeable background effects too. It really hammers home that driving through a town is not the same as driving through the wilderness. Coupled with the updated radio stations I just crank the volume up and enjoy everything coming through the speakers. Worth mentioning you may want to turn the default radio sound level down a little if you want to hear any other players talking in your party… 😉

I can’t really complain about anything in the game as it is right now, even with the bugs. There are launch issues which seem due to the team not being prepared for the massive uptick in users which hammered the servers right from the start but that’s become less of an issue over time. The game does support quick resume but restarting the game does lead to disconnect messages which perhaps could be handled better. Closest I can get to being a real negative is thinking that in five years when expired licenses cause the game to be removed from marketplaces it’s going to be another tragedy because this is a series where each entry deserves to live on for both old and new players to enjoy. I really hope they figure that aspect out. That’s all in the future – right now it’s a great racing game that deserves to be on your radar if driving cars up, over and through the countryside is your thing. If it doesn’t sound like a game you’ll enjoy you might want to at least try it because it’ll do it’s best to convince you otherwise and that’s pretty cool to experience too. 🙂

Forza Horizon 5 is out now for PC and Xbox. Played on an Xbox Series X via Game Pass.

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