Forza Horizon 5 - Review
As Forza Horizon 5 crosses the finish line, the bar for open world racing has again been raised in so many different ways. A map of Mexico that's bigger, higher, and wildly more varied than any horizon game yet, yet a fresh change to the way the horizon festival itself is gradually constructed, which results in more one-off events deliberately designed to showcase Horizon 5 at its very best: new and improved tools that allow us to build completely custom events that can be more or less indistinguishable from those crafted by the developers themselves; an enormous visual upgrade.
especially to lighting, tyre smoke, and dust effects; hundreds and hundreds of new custom parts, rims, and performance mods; and cars with more character than ever before; drastic sound improvements, better handling, and more granular preferences and options More online activities. It really is incredible across the board; you just have to let go and enjoy it.
To understand just how big Forza Horizon 5 is, we have to briefly look back at Forza Horizon 4, which truly ballooned into an absolute colossus of a racing game back in 2018. Playground Games had taken the impeccable open world racing of all the horizon games to date and stuffed in simulated seasons.
A shared world multiplayer overhaul and a shift in how the team told their mini automotive stories were due, but that was day one's playground. Then we spent another three years cramming in even more things to do. The festival playlist, where new activities are available every week. The Eliminator: Horizons, a very clever and effective take on bringing the battle royale format to a racing game, the Super 7, where we could participate in custom-built racing, driving, and stunt-based challenges made by others, plus create and share our own.
What's impressive is that Forza Horizon 5 isn't just all this airlifted to a different part of the world. It's that it's all this and a remarkable amount more. The breadth of Playgrounds' wonderfully diverse map of Mexico is exceptional, and it comes as an extremely exotic and interesting array of environments to get lost in after three years in Horizon 4's beautiful but broadly more uniform Britain.
Horizon 5's tapestry of colorful locations and backdrops more closely resembles Horizon 3, but it feels noticeably more extensive than even Playground's remarkable 2016 riff on Australia. There's Baja, where the sun-baked tarmac hugs the coast as the parched sandy desert blends into the beach, and deep jungle, where muddy tracks crisscross through ancient temples, abandoned airstrips, and thickets of There's the charmingly colorful city of Guanajuato, with its maze-like network of cobblestone streets and tunnels, contrasted with a sleepy coastal town flanked by the ocean on one side and mangroves on the other.
There's rolling green farmland draped in crops and windswept grass, and also a picturesque gorge that looks like it's been plucked from a western movie. There's the semi-arid desert of the map's interior, filled with towering cacti and stubborn shrubs, and the high and rocky volcanic peak of the grand caldera.
There's even a giant stadium for soccer practice. Back to the center, hold it, hold it, hold it. It's not exactly a perfect recreation, of course, as with all horizon worlds today that pay no mind to reality, smooshing together a stylized vision of Mexico at its most interesting, but the result is a fantastic map and the biggest in the series by far, by a striking margin.
That size is best observed from atop the grand caldera volcano. The playground games team has stressed that it's the highest point in any horizon game, but you won't have to take their word for it. Just drive up there and you'll see how much it dwarfs both Horizon 3's blizzard mountain and Horizon 4's fortune island expansion.
The massive elevation change not only provides one of the best roads in the series to date, a switchback, field mountain run that I expect will become a drift mecca for the sideways squad, but it's a killer display of Horizon 5's immense draw distance. I love games that make me feel small in a vast new space, and Horizon 5 does this very effectively.
Forza Horizon's garage is just as grand as the map itself, with well over 500 vehicles, and it's a selection that still handily eclipses all of Forza Horizon's open world racing rivals. Changes to the delivery editor also see it support higher resolution designs and graphics, but you still can't place decals on glass, which remains a shame between the cars and the map.
However, Forza Horizon 5 is barnstormingly gorgeous on both fronts in the Xbox series. That's true of both the 4k 30 frames per second quality mode and the 4k 60 frames per second performance mode. I've been playing mostly on the quality mode since the frame rate never ever wavers in either mode, remaining buttery smooth at all times and in all conditions, but know that the visual concessions in performance mode are generally so small you'd need to study freeze frames to spot the difference anyhow.
It's tough to pick my favorite visual element of Horizon 5, but I think it might just be the drastically improved smoke and dust effects, and especially how light interacts with the particles in the air. It looks brilliant. Of course, while Forza Horizon 5's show-stopping graphics are sucking most of the oxygen out of the room, there have been so many other improvements to the horizon formula here that it's hard to know where to begin.
The handling tweaks are deceptively extensive, with more authentic ABS braking, a snappier steering sensation, and suspension improvements that have resulted in a more convincing feel off-road. The radically revamped audio is superb, and the number of cars that now sound blatantly different from each other has exploded.
I especially love hearing the changes my performance parts are making to my car's sound in real time, nerdy behaviour which is encouraged by the ability to rev the engine during upgrade work. Even before launch, the new event building tools are already resulting in some outstanding and creative courses, races, and activities being shared between early players with considerably more props and far more granular options than Horizon 4's building tools.
I'm expecting some of the user-generated content for Horizon 5 is going to be mind-bendingly good. A rethink on how the career mode unfolds has seen Playground adds a new point system that allows you to take charge of what event hubs and special races you want to prioritize unlocking. These points, or accolades, are awarded for achieving major and minor feats and essentially function as a dramatically expanded version of the brick challenges in Forza Horizon 2.