Forza Horizon 5 Review

Forza Horizon 5, which began its journey as an arcade spin-off of the Forza Motorsport car simulator, has long been out of the shadow of its eminent parent and attracts the attention of the public.

Forza Horizon 5 Review
Forza Horizon 5: Vacation in Mexico - review of a computer game for Xbox Series X|S.

Three years have passed since the appearance of the previous part of the series, the fourth, and this is a whole year more than the usual development cycle for the franchise. In today's review, we will tell you whether the developers from the Playground Games studio were able to spend extra time wisely and solve the problems that have accumulated a lot for Forza Horizon 4, or the series still continues to stand still, developing unsuccessful ideas.

To tell the truth, starting my acquaintance with Forza Horizon 5 for a review, I was skeptical. And the reason for this is not the most successful fourth part, which offered a very controversial career structure. It's no joke – in a series where each game easily took more than a hundred hours of my life, Forza Horizon 4 did not even reach 50. Well, in my opinion, the strange choice of location for the new release also did not inspire optimism, because Mexico, with all its national flavor, does not overlap too much with the automotive theme, unlike the UK, USA and even more so Italy, which we traveled earlier. But I hasten to dispel all doubts – Forza Horizon 5 was definitely a success.

So, it's no secret that the Horizon Festival is moving from the expanses of foggy Great Britain to Mexico, sweltering from the heat. And before going into the description of the gameplay, I would like to focus on the location chosen by the developers. The largest map in the series, twice the size of its predecessor, features several diverse biomes, starting with the slopes of a volcano, a hot desert and the ocean coast and ending with tropical and coniferous forests, steppes and meadows. Looking at the diversity of the environment, the choice of Playground Games in favor of Mexico becomes obvious.

Forza Horizon has always been famous for fascinating views, and Forza Horizon 5 is no exception. Dense forests filled with birdsong and the crunch of branches under the wheels, flocks of flamingos flying apart from a car wading through a tiny river, and, of course, ocean views accompanied by the cry of seagulls - you can look around in the new Microsoft exclusive endlessly. In addition to the size and variety of the game world, the creators have also improved the weather simulation system. Now you will be able to notice the storm raging in the distance and drive to it, watching the weather change around along the way.

The variety of locations and biomes is multiplied by the system of changing seasons, which debuted in the fourth part. Given the geographical location of Mexico, the change of seasons (as before, once a week) will not dramatically affect the environment, as it was in the UK - the changes will rather partially affect some regions. For example, winter will not cover the desert with snow, but will affect only the mountainous terrain, the rainy season will cover the jungle with tropical storms, and drought will raise sandstorms in the desert zone.

I note that in order to see the alternate change of seasons in the game, it takes a whole calendar month, so, unfortunately, we could not track how the weather simulation works within the sandbox, but only felt certain weather settings within the track constructor.

In addition to creating their own visual interpretation of Mexico, the developers do not miss the opportunity to fill in the gaps of the players in the knowledge of the culture of this country. I don't know where Playground Games got such a love for this country, but you will literally be told about local traditions, culture, and history in every dialogue (and there are noticeably more of them, and these are dialogues, since your alter ego can now speak). And in general, judging by the amount of talk that family is the main thing, sometimes you wonder if you inadvertently fell into the gamification of Dominic Toretto's adventures. What can I say if the start screen of the game does not show luxury cars in close-up, as it was in the previous games of the series, but local landscapes, which, although they look fascinating, still do not correspond a little to the spirit of the racing game.

As for the career mode, Playground Games has made the right conclusions since the release of Forza Horizon 4. The new game returns the campaign structure to the right track in several aspects at once. The fact is that the fourth part devoted too little time to the traditional single segment, trying to get rid of the player as quickly as possible, for about six hours, with the help of an armful of showcases and an indicative change of seasons, after which it threw him on public servers into the arms of network and cooperative modes, clearly making it clear why everything was being started. The fifth "Horizon", on the contrary, offers a much more measured progression. At the beginning of the game, only one central venue of the Horizon Festival will be available to you. Over time, you will earn recognition points for completing challenges, taking part in races, adding to the car collection , and other activities , you will receive special tokens for the adventure mode, in which you can both expand the geography of the festival, opening new venues in different parts of the map, and unlock various events on them. Among the latter there are traditional demonstration races with the participation of anyone but ordinary cars as rivals, and familiar from the previous game “Stories– - a series of thematic races united by a simple mini-plot, like searching for traces of an ancient civilization or performing tricks for filming a movie. And the opening of a new site is also a unique event. Each time you unlock new branches of the festival, you will go on expeditions, during which you will have to either follow the plane of a friend who makes an emergency landing in the middle of the forest, then arrive at the festival in the midst of the celebration of the full moon and on such an occasion drive around on a carnival platform hung with ornaments, or generally go around an erupting volcano, simultaneously collecting scientific data. The development of the next site is completed by a long race, which takes from 10 to 20 minutes of real time – another correct decision in comparison with Forza Horizon 4, where to access such activities you had to go through ordinary races until you were blue in the face, similar to each other like two drops of water.

Thus, Forza Horizon 5 is constantly trying to entertain the player, and in different ways. To be honest, there are so many different activities here that during the passage of the number of times when I participated in standard races with drive cars, you can count on the fingers of one hand. You can go into the game just to ride on the map, take pictures of hundreds of perfectly detailed wheelbarrows, draw and publish a couple of designs for cars (the design editor, by the way, got a new, more user-friendly interface), compete with friends for the highest speed recorded on a particular traffic camera, and much more. Well, if you still get bored with traditional races, then you can always create your own race in the track constructor and drive it with friends or publish it for public access.

After completing the main part of the career, which is the development of the festival, there are still many ways to spend time. This includes participation in seasonal events, including network races, challenges and participation in Horizon Arcade (the local analogue of Forzathon Live from Forza Horizon 4, where you will have to perform a series of simple tasks in the lobby together with other players to perform tricks), speed cameras, drift zones (which are now much longer to the delight of fans of sideways felling) and ski jumping. Also, minigames for finding abandoned sheds with rare cars and collecting a photo collection with pictures of all the cars in the game have not gone away.

Cars have become the next point of development. Firstly, the number of available models has traditionally increased – now there are more than 500 of them. And this time, the replenishment of new cars that were previously absent in the series is really noticeable, and we are talking about representatives of completely different time periods. Secondly, the customization of cars has grown again with new options. Of the significant innovations, it is possible to note the possibility of building a drift car or an SUV from any car. Now each car has additional configurations of suspension, tires, differential and gearbox (for which you can now also choose their number up to 10) for rally, off-road driving and for drift.

As for visual customization, in Forza Horizon 5 even more cars have the ability to install various body kits. These can be both wide-body kits and other options, such as rally body elements. And finally, convertibles can fold and unfold the roof at the touch of a separate button. By the way, the same button can now change the configuration of the body elements responsible for aerodynamics at your request. For example, the Mercedes AMG One, which is emblazoned on the cover of the game, releases a spoiler in two positions, as well as aerodynamic air ducts on the front wings, which affects its handling. But either I didn't get to other cars where this feature is implemented, although the same Bugatti Chiron and Vivo also produce plumage, or this chip is still really present only on one car. Perhaps with future updates, the situation will change.

Forza Horizon has always been the benchmark of visual performance among racing games. When launching each new part, at least one thing was always clear – the graphics in the game will definitely not let you down. And the fifth part was no exception. The release at the intersection of generations of gaming platforms did not really prevent Forza Horizon 5 from becoming one of the most beautiful games on the Xbox Series X|S, and even more so on the oldies of the Xbox One line. It demonstrates huge game spaces with a very impressive drawing range, incredibly beautiful lighting and detailed environment. On consoles of the current generation, the novelty offers a choice of two graphics modes: quality and performance. In both cases, the resolution remains unchanged. These are full-fledged 4K for Xbox Series X and Full HD for Xbox Series S. The frame rate remains stable as a rock, however, in quality mode, the game produces 30 frames per second, and in performance mode – 60. However, more frames require sacrifices. On both consoles, the choice of performance mode entails a decrease in the quality of shadows, the detail of vegetation and the distance of drawing objects. Moreover, many of these changes are very noticeable, which cannot but affect the overall impression of the visual presentation. Therefore, my recommendation is a quality mode, especially considering how smooth those 30 FPS feel, thanks to a high-quality motion blur and minimal input lag control.

The specialists from Playground Games also worked on the sound. The fact is that the sound of cars in Forza Horizon 4 became the subject of indignation of many players, because it was inexpressive, and for a number of cars it did not correspond to reality at all. The fifth part fixes (for the most part) these problems – "vroom-vroom" now sounds like it should. Well, I can't help but note a very pleasant little thing - right on the customization screen, you can gas up and listen to how a car with a certain engine, exhaust modification, supercharger, and so on will sound.

Another positive point is the sound of the environment. As I mentioned above - even if you turn off the music and stop the car, the game does not stop. In the forest, you will be surrounded by the rustle of foliage and the singing of birds, on the coast you will hear the sound of the surf and the cries of seagulls, and the sounds of cars rushing past will betray the proximity of a busy highway. The only thing I can note as a minus is the insufficiently detailed sound of the wheels' contact with the surface. Sometimes it seems that the car, if you do not take into account the sound of the engine, goes soundlessly. But this is an important element of immersion in the driving process.

The radio stations providing the musical component of the Horizon Festival have not undergone any changes. These are the same ones familiar from the previous parts of Pulse, Bass Arena, Horizon XS, Hospital Records, Horizon Block Party and Radio Eterna (formerly called Timeless FM). And to be honest, the music in the fifth part is the least impressive. Either I'm getting older, or the music is getting worse. In any case, the genre diversity still allows the ear to catch on to a few pleasant tracks.

Forza Horizon 5 is probably the best arcade race of recent years and one of the best games released this year. Developers from Playground Games competently delete unsuccessful or unfinished elements from the formula of an exciting car sandbox, and also consolidate the successes of the previous part, while not forgetting to add a pinch of new chips that will hook a new audience. In order to love Forza Horizon 5, you don't even need to love racing – the game will find something to interest you without it. This is an exciting and very beautiful car adventure that will easily drag you to sunny Mexico for several tens of hours.