Finally, the speedster gods have blessed us with Forza Horizon 5, a racing spin-off turned into a legitimate open-world automotive extravaganza that’s gotten better with (almost) every entry. Mainline console racers have been less plentiful in recent years, but thank the heavens that developer Playground Games’ is back to constantly deliver one of the most engaging and entertaining franchises in the genre.
Forza Horizon 5 is a celebration of arcade-style dynamics, exotic destinations, and a welcoming essence of community, whether you’re a stout enthusiast or cheerful novice. Either way, the latest Forza fires on all cylinders.
A quick disclaimer going into this review. If you read my take on the fourth Horizon title all the way back from the Xbox One X/S days, you’ll know that my reception was positive but lukewarm – the drab and rainy English countryside felt aesthetically forced compared to the wild Australian outback setting of Horizon 3. In every way that matters, Horizon 5 is a major improvement and should make those returning fans breathe a sigh of relief.
Playground Games has crafted another stellar Forza driver by again taking every mechanic that worked previously. The entire experience is par for the course at this point and doesn’t try to change what already works. The destination this time around is Mexico, and I can confidently say that it keeps my attention a hell of a lot better than Great Britain ever did, which often felt like a visceral mismatch.
Fortunately, being an amalgamated interpretation of Mexico is a fantastic pairing for a car festival thanks largely to its eleven generally distinct biomes, and again grants you a ton of stuff to do on a somewhat overwhelming degree.
The core Forza formula hasn’t changed, it’s just a lot more of what you’d expect from arid duststorms, humid subtropic jungles, and picturesque coastlines. You will see it all through numerous racing events and various missions that encourage road tour explorations. It all plays out naturally depending on your mood. Objectives are varied and plenty as you assist characters with their driving-based tasks, stunning off ramps, drifting through designated zones, or getting lost while rescuing classic cars in barn finds.
Again, this is all stuff you’ve done in previous games, but every activity is hardly ever dull and the random activity counts are in the hundreds and serve as personal challenges that pit you against online friends.
Many of these missions are done through Expeditions, which keep your attention and open up maps in dynamic fashion. This also adds the thrill of seasonal changes, only these climate alterations are largely dependent on which biomes you’re traveling through. You’ll experience stormy rainfalls, snowy mountaintops or volcanoes. It all over-the-top but also some of the most spectacular and memorable moments that Horizon 5 has to offer and help keep the game fresh if you ever get comfortable on your cinematic PR-studded adventures.
Like the rest of this game, the vehicle selection builds upon previous titles with approximately 500 cars at launch. Yes, that is a lot but almost all these will be familiar to longtime fans, and these are some new ones too such as the new Ford Bronco, Porsche Taycan, and the cover-laiden Mercedes-AMG One hypercar to name a few. If you have a favorite ride from an older game, it will most likely be included in glorious form. Horizon 5 looks expectedly beautiful, albeit in evolutionary form depending on which platform you play this on.
Playground Games really outdid themselves with the game’s presentation and the realism is further dialed in if you’re lucky enough to play on Xbox Series X/S, or on a high-end PC. 4K, HDR, and Dolby Atmos surround sound options will immerse and spoil you, but such luxuries are worth every penny if you already splurged on a next-gen home entertainment setup. Last-gen Xbox One owners should take comfort their overall experience will be relatively the same, despite graphics taking a small hit in fidelity.
Unsurprisingly, the charm of Forza Horizon 5 basically picks up where its predecessor left off by giving fans more of the same in an elevated presentation that looks and feels every bit like a next-gen presentation should. More is always a good thing as the variety and execution remains as impressive as ever, and the balanced gameplay and presentation won’t scare away newcomers enthralled by the Mexican utopia. This is a competitive, explorative and palatable experience that’s a must-play for any racing fan.