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November 9, 2021
Xbox One, PC
Since the spin-off series’ inception, Forza Horizon’s approachable and exciting racing action has appealed to a broad audience. Forza Horizon 5 continues this tradition of delivering stellar driving mechanics within a gorgeous destination, this time taking players to Mexico for one of the best, most expansive racing games I’ve ever played.
Driving through Mexico in Forza Horizon 5 is an utter delight thanks to superb, dynamic driving mechanics that consider the terrain, weather, and handling of the more than 500 vehicles you drive. Forza Horizon 5 aptly demonstrates this through an incredible opening sequence, where different cars drop from planes and land in disparate biomes with sandstorms, snaking rivers, and wide-open straightaways, all set to music. However, Horizon further hammers home both the differences in the handling and the outstanding mechanics the longer you spend cruising around the world.
Forza Horizon 5’s sense of speed is incredible. Whether you’re tactfully navigating an off-road course in the lush rainforests or screaming down a desert highway, the difference between staying on the road and spinning off into the brush is razor thin. Forza Horizon 5 excels in delivering diverse courses that throw unique challenges your way, ranging from traditional races to courses with objectives. The Drivatar system – which replicates your friends’ tendencies using A.I. racers – is a series mainstay now, but I loved developing rivalries with specific friends, even though I wasn’t racing against them in real-time.
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Playground Games’ lovingly crafted interpretation of Mexico and its 11 distinct biomes deliver some of the most stunning visuals I’ve ever witnessed in a video game. This open world houses a venerable cornucopia of activities available to players, which is astounding – if not a little overwhelming. It’s sometimes challenging to find some of the events I wanted, given the number of activity icons on the map. Thankfully you can apply map filters or ask your car’s A.I. to set your navigation to nearby events of your liking. Still, that didn’t stop me from getting distracted by the many events on offer along my route.
If you grow tired of competing in standard racing activities, you can participate in barn finds, where you search for and rescue classic cars rotting in countryside barns. Meanwhile, stories have you helping characters through driving-based missions. I loved hunting down and completing those mission types, but the open world also offers a ton of quick, fun activities such as seeing how fast you can drive through a speed trap, how far you can launch off a ramp, or how much you can slide through marked drift zones. These are fun ways to gain experience and accolades to level up your driver and vehicles with new perks, but my favorite part of these random world activities is how they instantly compare to your friends. More times than I could count, I noticed my friend hit a higher top speed, causing me to turn around and try the challenge again.
While exploring Mexico, you may also stumble upon online events. These public activities let you seamlessly join with other players to complete a common goal, such as accruing a set amount of distance off a jump or drifting and destroying piñatas in an area. You can even participate in a battle royale-style Eliminator mode where you’re challenging other players in the session, knocking them out of the competition, taking their cars, and trying to be the last player remaining. These are fun diversions, but my favorite online activities involve creating a convoy of players, driving around the world, and entering events with one another.
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All these activities culminate in Expeditions, unique setpiece-driven campaign sequences that provide some of the most memorable events in the game. From driving up a rocky volcano as raucous music blares over the stereo to storming through an off-road course against a pair of monster trucks, the Expeditions and subsequent story missions are the moments that stuck with me the longest.
If Forza’s many developer-created events aren’t enough, players can also create and share activities using EventLab. This tool makes it as easy as driving the route you want to create, placing checkpoints with a press of a button, and drafting a name, description, and ruleset. I loved sharing these creations because they appear alongside developer-created activities in other players’ games, giving them the option to test their skills in your designs.
At every turn, Forza Horizon 5 impresses in ways few games have. From the first mile, I was on the edge of my seat. With so much to do in such a relentlessly gorgeous world, I suspect it won’t be long before I get the itch to jump back into the driver’s seat of my favorite car. Even amidst a competitive racing field, Forza Horizon 5 is a finely tuned supercar.
Summary: Forza Horizon 5 delivers a well-rounded, exciting, and approachable experience, and in doing so, elevates its status to the elite of the racing genre.
Concept: Speed your way through Mexico in the fifth installment of Forza’s arcade-leaning spin-off series
Graphics: Racing games are often hardware showcases, but even through that lens, Forza Horizon 5’s visuals are impressive. The vehicles may be the focus, but the jaw-dropping interpretation of Mexico steals the show
Sound: A high-octane soundtrack perfectly complements the screaming engines and skidding tires
Playability: Terrific racing mechanics and a diverse array of events make this one of the more approachable and enjoyable games in the genre
Entertainment: With fine-tuned gameplay, an undeniably gorgeous world brimming with fun activities, and some fun content creation tools, Forza Horizon 5 elevates the series’ already-sterling reputation
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