Rating : 10/10
Despite knowing absolutely nothing when it comes to cars, I have managed to invest an unhealthy amount of hours into the Forza Horizon games—and that remains unchanged with the new entry in the series. Forza Horizon 5 offers a really big upgrade from its predecessor in many aspects, and Playground Games have managed to outdo themselves once again.
After the franchise’s success in Great Britain, Forza Horizon 5 takes you to Mexico for the very first time, with its ‘story’ continuing directly from its predecessor. You are the same driver from Forza Horizon 4 (but you can customise your appearance) and the game takes you straight into the action without wasting any time, which I really appreciate. From the very beginning, the graphical leap in the game from the already visually impressive predecessor starts to show.
You can notice the lighting and texture improvements, better dust effects, and mind-blowing reflections in the game are noticeable despite there being no ray-tracing in general gameplay. The sky was recorded in real-time, so you already know that it looks absolutely phenomenal. The first mission takes you through several different biomes in four different cars and has many badass moments to get you glued to the screen right off the bat.
Forza Horizon 5 has also seen a massive improvement in terms of audio. Even without any knowledge of cars, it wasn’t hard to notice the poor car audio in the last entry. Thankfully that changes here, with Playground Games reportedly having recorded audio for over 300 vehicles and the game also now lets you listen to the engine noise when you’re upgrading the cars. Like always, the track selection for this entry is great. The music really complements the gameplay; there is a cool mechanic where the music fades out while you’re performing a danger sign jump and the beat drops right as you land, which makes the experience feel a lot more satisfying.
If you’re a car person, then it must be exciting for you to know that the game offers hundreds of new customisation options including rims, custom parts, and performance mods. I tend to keep my distance from them since I have absolutely no knowledge about it, but it is great to see these incorporated for those who value them. Forza Horizon 5 also features the biggest car lineup in the franchise to date.
Being a racing franchise, Forza has never been heavily based on narrative and that continues with this entry; however, the ‘campaign’ does feel a little more engaging this time around thanks to the voice acting which makes the characters feel memorable. The campaign isn’t linear at all. For each quest you do in the game, you will receive accolade points which are used to unlock mainline story events known as ‘Horizon Adventures.’ All Horizon Adventures are unlockable from the beginning, so you’re free to approach the campaign in any way you want to.
Another super cool highlight is that the game addresses you by the name on your Microsoft account. The fact that the system managed to pronounce my rare Arabic name was pretty impressive because I’ve never seen my name in any game before, let alone have it be pronounced correctly. The catch is that your real name has to be on the list of the available names in the game, as custom names are not available. It is worth mentioning that Playground Games have added a ton of new names since the last game, and if my Arabic name was added to the game’s list, there’s a high chance that yours might have been too!
The game rewards you for anything and everything. If you suck at handling cars like myself and go off-road occasionally, the game will give you ‘skill points’ for wrecking things, drifting, burnout, and near misses, all of which add to the game’s appeal. The skill points start chaining and you level up after you’ve earned a certain amount of XP from them. Level ups give you wheelspins with a selection of awards you can win—all of this makes the game more enjoyable.
For an open-world arcade racer that highlights the importance of freedom, Forza Horizon 5 has so much to do. Along with having a large variety of races—including dirt races, street races, and drag races—the game also offers many smaller-sized activities such as PR stunts, danger sign jumps, and speed captures. All of those will contribute to your accolade points, and in turn your story.
Mexico looks absolutely ravishing. This portrayal of the country has it all—it features most of Mexico’s culture including traditional mural art that was designed by Mexican artists themselves, and features a huge diversity of landscapes; jungles, temples, swamps, deserts, and even a volcano are all part of the game. I’ve also spotted some traditional villages and heard some local Mexican music which makes the ambience feel more authentic.
The multiplayer of the game has received an overhaul as well. There are a handful of new co-op modes in the game, but I’ve only managed to play two of them. One of them is called the Horizon Arcade where you and a group of players are challenged to do a certain task. The other mode I played is called Horizon Tour in which you are allowed to team up with up to five players to battle against other drivatars. To make sure that there are sufficient players interested in participating in games with you, the developers have said that all the players will be connected to the same ‘Horizon Life’ server.
Forza Horizon 5 offers a quality mode and performance mode; quality mode targets 4K at 30 FPS, whereas performance mode offers 4K at 60 FPS. After playing both modes for a good while, this might be the only game where I preferred the 30 FPS mode over the 60 FPS. Thanks to the amazing motion blur settings, 30 FPS does not feel as painful here as it does in other games. The 60 FPS mode also makes cuts in pop-ins, reflections, shadows, and also the LOD (level of detail) isn’t as high which means the image quality is not as good as that which the quality mode offers.
In terms of cons, there aren’t many. Forza Horizon 5 is close to flawless except for a few minor bugs. For instance the game struggled to connect to the Horizon Life server when I first launched it, I had issues with audio when using Quick Resume to get back into the game, and my loyalty rewards weren’t loading initially. These minor bugs can easily be fixed via a patch, and thankfully there weren’t any game-breaking bugs and nor did I experience any crashes.
To conclude, Forza Horizon 5 is a title you should definitely play. If not for the love of cars, you should play it just to explore this magnificent depiction of Mexico; it’s a treat for both racing fans and casual gamers. The game has a lot to offer and even after you complete the campaign, it’s far from finished. There’s so much to discover that I couldn’t possibly find it all before writing this review. With the game being available on Xbox Game Pass, it is a no-brainer.
Forza Horizon 5 looks phenomenal, plays well and is practically flawless. It is undoubtedly the best entry in the series and has the most detailed open world in any game to date.