Overall - 85%
Forza Horizon 5 is still an incredible racing game, one only overshadowed by the brilliance of its predecessor. Those with a lot of time behind the wheel in Forza Horizon 4 may feel this is one step forward for two steps back, but there's still a ton of fun to be had in this high-octane adventure.
The Forza Horizon franchise returns in its first foray into the next-generation with Playground Games’ Forza Horizon 5. Looking to build on the brilliance of Forza Horizon 4, this latest adventure throws players into the heart of Mexico as they race across gorgeous landscapes in some of the industries’ most realistic looking cars.
Forza Horizon 4 is, in my opinion, one of the greatest racing games of all time. It was the perfect blend of the extravagance of open-world and the adrenaline fueled life on the track, bridging social aspects with a structured narrative to deliver an experience near perfection. It set the bar very high and my expectations of Forza Horizon 5 with it, but unfortunately this latest effort doesn’t reach the same heights as its predecessor.
Forza Horizon 5 Review
Forza Horizon 5 begins in spectacular fashion as the player is dropped out of an airplane in a variety of vehicles as they race across deserts, jungles, open roads, and even an active volcano. It sets an exciting tone as the landscape of Mexico unfolds under the front tires, and once the cheering and fanfares of the introduction come to a close, the game really gets started.
Mexico is rife with petrol heads, as each of the six regions is begging for someone to setup one of the Horizon Festival headquarters. Each region specializes in a specific racing and event types including road, dirt, cross country, and an exciting mix of explosive jumps and speedy chases in the PR Stunts of Horizon Rush. Each areas races and challenges are initially locked until the player earns enough points to setup the Horizon Headquarters within each region. Once a region has been unlocked, the map gets flooded with more and more events. Put simply, there is always a ton of stuff to do.
There is an overarching narrative supporting the more individual stories of each of the regions but honestly, I struggled to get invested. The environments and vehicles are breathtaking, but the character models feel dated and stiff, the lip sync is near non existent, and some of the voiceover work feels bland and lacking character. The Forza franchise has always been about putting the driving first and that’s very evident here but when the driving and visuals are so fantastic, it really outshines every tool used to create the story. In one story arc, you’re working alongside a Luchador that’s teaching you some new tricks, whilst in another you’re racing down tracks filled with jumps and obstacles for a Hollywood movie .The racing never stops being fun, but the story feels flat from the start.
If I had to choose a single aspect of Forza Horizon 4 that made it such an incredible game, it was the socially connected design. Joining with friends was quick, easy, and flawless. Forza Horizon 5 attempts to do the same, but despite access to better hardware it really struggled to deliver. I was playing on PC alongside an editor playing on Xbox Series X and trying to keep a convoy going was just a huge headache.
There’s quite a bit of content that is single player only, automatically kicking anyone in the convoy as the party leader attempts to complete the mission solo. However, in the content that does support multiplayer, the loading times are far too long. When joining a race against the AI with just two players, we waited over a minute on just the loading screens. That doesn’t include the time to get to the location, start the race, and choose the cars. Unfortunately, that’s not the only issue plaguing the multiplayer experience.
Driving around with friends looking for the iconic Barn Finds was a lot of fun in Forza Horizon 4 but even that, a feature that was already great, has suffered with Forza Horizon 5. Firstly, my companion was invisible for a lot of it. Despite being in the same world, he would often disappear off my map or suddenly appear miles away. The convoy would randomly disperse, kicking all players and forcing the hassle of reforming. During one of the Expedition missions, small exploration areas where you need to complete a few objectives, I was kicked for being AFK for about 90 seconds and was forced to restart. In a completely non-competitive and co-operative environment.
The Barn Finds themselves have also changed. They are no longer discovered simply by exploring. You need to unlock clues for the location before they can be found. It’s a minor change, but it makes the previously rewarding aspect of simply exploring the map far less exciting, which is strange in a game that is absolutely fantastic at rewarding the player at an alarming rate.
Whatever you’re doing in Forza Horizon 5, you’re getting rewarded. Nailing that perfect drift on the first corner of the race. Hitting top speed down a straight on the way to the next race. Hitting massive air on a jump that takes you over a crater on an active volcano, you get points for everything. Every vehicle has a Car Mastery level, earning experience points for simply using the vehicle, unlocking more bonuses and buffs as you progress.
The game is flooded with Accolades, a massive selection of objectives and challenges that you can track down and beat for rewards that include everything from emotes to brand new legendary vehicles. The driving in Forza Horizon 5 is incredible and whatever your style, you will be spoiled for choice on the range of activities and rewards on offer. Seriously, this game will keep you going for months if you wait to reach for every prize.
The staple elements that have long made the Forza games some of the best in the industry return with a careful combination of features and mechanics that cater to both casual car fans and complete car nuts. Every vehicle can be upgraded, both visuals and performance, with the latter supporting both an automatic mode and a manual mode. Body kits, paint jobs, decals, there’s a huge roster of vehicles and near limitless potential customization options, all intertwined with community features that let you download and share designs with other members of the community.
Forza Horizon 5 is still an incredible racing game, one only overshadowed by the brilliance of its predecessor. Those with a lot of time behind the wheel in Forza Horizon 4 may feel this is one step forward for two steps back, but there’s still a ton of fun to be had in this high-octane adventure.
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