Playground Games knocks it out of the park with its latest Mexican driving adventure.
For those who have not come across the glorious looking, fun filled sandbox, Forza Horizon is an arcade style dream for petrol heads. Packed with more cars than you can shake a stick at and near endless ways to use and customise them, there is never a dull moment. With this benchmark as their formula, it is hard for them to make a bad game, however rather than read from the Ubisoft bible this studio just can’t help but constantly improve.
Using the colourful and iconic Mexico as its tapestry Horizon 5 is arguably more fun to explore than its UK based predecessor. The sweeping landscape changes from sandy dunes to Aztec jungles which makes cross country a constant surprise. No more so than loading up some of its curated mammoth events that trace the larger spans of the map, these pick out routes that are both challenging and feature many of the landscape’s highlights. Between events the tricksy bonus boards, barn finds and danger stunts provide a seamless bump of entertainment on the fly. With little effort request and a low bar for entry results these can be a rewarding way to relax. While these features can be found in the previous games, the size of the map and instant access to it all rewards discovery rather than grind.
It is not just the landscape that looks good, the character models, customisation, menus and of course the cars are all exquisitely made. Running at a rock solid 60FPS in performance mode on the Series X the 4k game is a technical masterpiece (I am told PC might not be quite so rock solid). Sat in the driver’s seat view of my Lamborghini Miura, outside my humble beach house, radio on, rain taping off the roof and streaming down the windows, I ponder if I even need to drive anywhere just yet while I enjoy the view over the bay. It is moments like this that really set the game apart for me, where even the moments of stillness in a game about mostly speed can be as enjoyable. I might add here that it is often in the slower moments when you will really notice the spatial audio, with a full range surround sound system the soundstage and detail is mind-blowing!
For me one of the most exciting improvements has been the car handling improvements and force feedback. As a wheel user its processor was undrivable for the most part. Now the cars feel weighty and with tangible characteristics that can be learnt and predicted. It might be somewhat arcade style driving but Forza Horizon 5 is no sim and does not try to be, yet somehow manages to feel authentic and take driving seriously. The attention to detail and the broad stroke improvements to everything, in one way or another no matter how small, adds up to a game that feels truly next gen. Loading in at the snap of your fingers a quick race or rivals challenge with a work colleague or friend is blissfully effortless.
Forza Horizon 5 is a huge game with zero pressure on how, when, where or what you do, while still progressing you in a rewarding way. Just want to paint cars and take cool pictures for your desktop background? No problem, Love driving big cars up big mountains? Have at it. Want to burn your retinas watching the road pass by at 200Mph? Then crack right on. So long as you’re smiling, you’re winning.
Author: Joe, Bath store