Forza Horizon 5 Review
After an excruciatingly long wait, the first of Xbox’s 1-2 punch to close out 2021 is finally here.
Judging from gameplay videos alone, Forza Horizon 5 gives off seriously big “too good to be true” vibes, with how majestic everything in the game looks and feels. Upon seeing and playing it first hand, Forza’s Mexico left us speechless in its visual wonder of how far gaming has come.
Taking cues from Forza Horizon 4‘s intro, Forza Horizon 5 does away with the shifting seasons and goes full-on Fast and the Furious treatment by airdropping vehicles across four different terrain types through the diverse landscape of Mexico ranging the cross country jungle, city driving, and even the outskirts of the La Gran Caldera volcano.
Forza Horizon 5 is not just an exceedingly beautiful game but also boasts the festival spirit the open-world racer embodies as you bask in the driving freedom, taking part in everything that the game has to offer. This isn’t just a racing game, but an open-world experience that has been perfected through its past iterations, producing one of the best, if not the best, titles in recent memory.
Forza is for Festival
Forza Horizon is a festival of driving like no other and this latest entry is no different. For many, this will be their first taste of the long-running spin-off from 2012 but for long-time fans, another notch that cements Playground Games as one of Xbox’s premiere first-party studios.
Forza Horizon 5 will feel very familiar, especially if you’ve played its predecessor from 2018. The biggest shift takes you on a ride from the UK landscape to Mexico, providing a fresh experience for everyone.
A lot of it has to do with how progression works in the game. As you take in the first few hours to absorb everything Forza Horizon 5 has to offer, as you stamp your card opening up new chapters to experience – Mexico slowly opens itself up for exploration. The landscape becomes a driver’s paradise, allowing you to take part in its various activities – go on expeditions, discover the country’s vibrant car culture, and amass a collection of cars, costumes, and casas.
It’s not all sightseeing, as participating in races is definitely part and parcel of Forza Horizon 5, and the game highly encourages you to do so. In fact, to progress to the next chapter of your journey, you have to collect a certain number of Accolade Points which are earned from the different activities in the festival.
While one may easily dismiss these activities as just racing, Forza Horizon 5 showcases all types of racing. From road races to dirt races, street races, and even cross country races – Forza Horizon 5 has it all and then some. You can even take part in other challenges such as speed traps, stunt driving, photo ops, and even arcade challenges. Each chapter of the festival showcases a specific type of race, with a personal favorite being the cross country races because it combines multiple aspects like rally, street, and off-road.
I have a deep appreciation for how Forza Horizon 5 mixes up the activities up beyond racing. You can take part in expeditions where you can discover landmarks such as the Aztec pyramids and even an active volcano, for starters. There are story missions where you take part in the country’s car culture like restoring a classic racing vehicle such as the classic Volkwagen (a Vocho).
And finally, once you have scoured every corner of the country for every event possible, you can take part in pulse-pounding finales that take you on a cross-country race that spans the entirety of Mexico. When they said festival, they weren’t kidding.
Forza is for Freedom
One big thing to take note of is Playground Games’ commitment to diversity and inclusion by ramping up the accessibility options and diversity choices when you create your character. Many of these options including sign language support will be added soon but colorblind mode, subtitle options, and the “offline game speed” are already in play.
A diverse template of ethnicity choice is also available during character customization, along with pronoun choices as well as the addition of prosthetic limbs for better representation. I’m definitely liking the addition of these features as representation is definitely important because to see oneself being featured onscreen is empowering. I may not use them, but the simple fact that someone out there will and be happy about it is as good a reason as any to have it in the game.
The addition of these options adds to what Forza Horizon 5 represents – driving freedom and also being free to express one’s identity in and out of the car. In fact, customizing your car in the game is equally as important as racing, maybe even more so depending on who you ask.
With hundreds of cars to choose from separated by their level of rarity (from common to legendary), each car in Forza Horizon 5 can be leveled up to expand its mastery. These vehicles can be customized to your liking by tinkering with its specific controls in Tune Ups, and you can change its paint job to even the sound of its honk. Cars can be earned through different means – from straight-up purchasing them, gifted from your Accolades, and even by winning them through a gacha-like mechanic called Wheel Spins.
Your avatar is also highly customizable as you collect various costumes and pieces of apparel and emotes to suit your personality. Just like the cars, you can purchase these with credits or from Wheel Spins. Participating in timed events, treasure hunts, and even discovering barns would award you new cars and costumes so even exploring Mexico is hugely rewarding in Forza Horizon 5.
Controls in Forza Horizon 5 are also well-calibrated and each car will drive in accordance with its stats. While a powerful car may be something you would choose to win races, different terrains and challenges will require you to adapt and use a more suitable vehicle.
Forza Horizon 5 opens up the game to newcomers, providing various difficulty options and even a rewind button to perfect certain areas of the race. The only downside to the novice difficulty is its really steep spike when you switch to standard mode, where many of the more coveted exotic cars are.
Forza is for Future
While there is a campaign to follow and even stick to, you don’t have to be burdened by any of that. In fact, you don’t even have to be burdened by roads. You can take your Maserati through the dirt roads of Mexico and even take your truck to a street race. You can just explore Mexico to your heart’s content and cause as much mayhem as possible without any consequences. The combinations are limitless and nothing is gated, leaving you and your imagination to run wild.
That being the case, if you’ve scoured every solo component for the game, you can attempt the season challenges and the daily quests. You can even take part in Arcade matches, Eliminator (Battle Royale), and other online options Forza Horizon 5 throws at you.
I can confidently say that you’ll spend a good 20-40 hours (dependent on skill level) just unlocking the festival chapters. There’s so much more to do in the post-game if you’re open to trying out more difficult challenges and gunning for more legendary and epic level cars for your collection. There are always arcade challenges, PVP, and even co-op/convoy activities with other players. What I’m saying is that there’s almost no end to what you can do in Forza Horizon 5.
If you aren’t the type to go online and play with the millions of other players in the game, there’s so much to do in Forza Horizon 5 on your own. You can purchase property with your hard-earned credits, search for treasure and hidden barns for rare vintage cars, or you can just keep gaming that wheel spin for all the loot you can carry. One of my favorite things to do is to customize familiar cars from real life and crash them into houses because it’s the most cost effective way to road rage without financial and criminal consequences.
I do have to point out that Forza Horizon 5 is 101 GB large from its last update so just like Microsoft Flight Simulator, it is a hog for your hard drive space, which isn’t advantageous for Xbox Series S owners who want to play this game and also keep their hard drive open for other games. Then again, with such an effort from Playground Games, this is 101 GB worth of pure bliss that will surely be a mainstay in every Xbox owner’s library.
What We Liked:
- The best looking current gen game out in the market.
- Limitless driving freedom as you race, sightsee, and free roam around Forza’s Mexico.
- Massive car collection and huge range of car skills and customization for every vehicle.
- Huge palette of accessibility options allowing everybody to experience this game at their pace.
What We Didn’t Like:
- Large download size of around 101 gigs.
- Steep difficulty spike from novice to standard.
- Online play is required to collect every car.
Verdict: Buy It!
Forza Horizon 5 is the gold standard of open-world arcade racers. I’m not particularly fond of racing games, but they’ve taken what’s worked in various other titles like Wreckfest to F1 Racing and used it to create an accessible experience that one could enjoy at their own pace.
If you’re more drawn towards digital tourism, you can go on expeditions or follow the stories. If you’re more competitive, there is literally no end to the many challenges the game throws at you. If you’re just here to have fun and cause mayhem, you can do that too. For a game focused on driving, it has something for just about everybody.
One thing for sure is that whether you picked the game up or downloaded it via Xbox Game Pass, there’s so much to do and so much to explore that makes it easily worth the monetary investment you put into it. Forza Horizon 5 is a massive open world with an ongoing live service that you don’t need to pay to win to completely enjoy. The biggest selling clause for this game is it allows you limitless freedom for whatever you want and you don’t even have to use a road to do so.
It’s a game packed with value and enjoyment wrapped in a glossy next-gen packaging that will hook you visually and then charm you with its many activities. If you have an Xbox Series console, this is THE game that you’ve been waiting for and is almost assured of a Game of the Year nomination.
Forza Horizon 5 is now available for the Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC.