When I first picked up the original Forza Horizon for my Xbox 360 almost a decade ago, I had little to no expectations from it. I’ve never been a particularly big racing game fan, arcade or otherwise, and I only bought the title on a whim. I thought I would play it for a couple of hours, get bored, and then swap the disk with a friend for something else.
What I didn’t expect however was that I would put nearly a 100 hours into the game on my first playthrough, and then put another 80 on my second. I absolutely did not think I would fall in love with a racing game of all things, and yet here I was captivated by a title that I was initially hesitant to even pick up.
Now in 2021, Forza Horizon is back once more with its fifth and biggest entry. And I don’t think I’ll surprise anyone when I say that this is the best game in the series so far. So with that said, lets begin our Forza Horizon 5 Review.
Forza Horizon 5 Setting
One of the main appeals of the Forza Horizon games are the unique locations they take us to. Over the past four games we’ve been to the United States, Italy, Australia, Great Britain, and now finally we’ve arrived at beautiful Mexico.
And like all previous locations, this isn’t actually a one to one recreation of any actual area of the country. It’s a fictionalized version that heavily borrows ideas and aesthetics to give us the impression that we’re exploring the Mexican countryside. And what an absolutely gorgeous location this is.
The map features everything from an active volcano, lush jungles, deserts, beaches, temples, small towns, racing tracks and so much more. This is truly the most diverse game world the series has thrown at us so far, and I’m constantly amazed at how seamlessly all of these varied locations blend together. One of my biggest complaints about open worlds is that sometimes the different areas in them contrast way too much. And yet I never felt that that was ever the case in this game.
Additionally, this is also the largest map in the franchise to date. Forza Horizon 4’s Great Britain map was an absolutely enormous area at 71km squared, and yet Forza Horizon 5’s world is even larger than that at a staggering 107km squared. It also features the highest point in any Forza game so far, in the form of the Grande Caldera volcano. The view from on top is an absolutely stunning display of scale, as the entire map stretches out in front of you.
You can spend hours upon hours simply driving around this beautiful open world and get lost in the joy of driving. The map is so dense, with so many optional objectives like Barn Finds, Danger Signs and Bonus Boards, that it’s easy to completely forget about any of the actual events. And the game even incentivizes and rewards this behavior with constant trackers that pop up on screen to update you on your progress.
The core gameplay of Forza Horizon 5 is the same as it’s ever been. You drive around from event to event, earning money and cars that you can then use for bigger and more bombastic events. Occasionally, you take part in unique events that aren’t straightforward races, but instead more scripted sequences with their own unique twists.
However surprisingly, this game actually places a slightly greater emphasis on the story aspect of the Horizon Festival this time around through the ‘Horizon Adventure‘ missions. In these, players actually get to help in setting up the outposts of the festival, which in turn allows them to unlock the different types of races and side activities present in the game. There’s also a lot of dialogue between your own avatar and the various hosts of the event during these, as you learn more about the culture, world, etc.
Missions in the Horizon Adventure menu can only be unlock using Tickets, which themselves require you to earn Accolade points first. These can be earned by doing almost anything in the game, from participating in races, performing stunts and even exploring.
Showcase events also make a comeback in Forza Horizon 5, and they’re exactly what we all expected them to be. These over-the-top races pit you up against one-off opponents like a speeding train or stunt motorcyclists, as you make your way though some key locations on the map. The sense of accomplishment you get from completing these is diminished by the fact that unless the player is actively trying to fail, they will never actually lose. But regardless of that, they are incredibly fun to play though, and Forza Horizon simply wouldn’t feel the same without them.
The actual races themselves are divided into four different classes, each of which are radically different from one another. There are Road Races, Dirt Races, Street Races and Cross Country Races, and each of these are set on radically different types of tracks. There are dozens upon dozens of events for each of these race types, and most of them are extremely well designed and fun to play through.
Each discipline also has its own requirements when it comes to the type of vehicles you have to use. Like obviously, you can’t expect to use a Ferrari for Dirt Races, you require something with a bit more traction. And the game is generally really good at rewarding you with a constant stream of newer cars, whether that’s through completing objectives or getting lucky with Wheelspins. Still, sometimes you simply have to drop some cash and buy them for yourselves.
Speaking of cars, Forza Horizon 5 features a collection of over 500 different vehicles. This is the most diverse and extensive rosters in a Forza game so far, and players can almost always find multiple cars that are suited for a particular task or race. But if you’re a long time fan of the series like me, you might not see a lot of new additions.
Most of what you’ll find here has already been present in earlier games, but that list still includes some of the best vehicles in the world. And while there might not be a ton of new vehicles, the amount of customizable tools at your disposal are greater than ever. From engines to intake and exhausts, you can upgrade almost any part of your vehicle to make it truly your own. You also have access to an incredibly visual editor that lets you create some incredibly unique liveries to spice up appearances.
I would also like to mention that while playing this game for our Forza Horizon 5 Review, I barely managed to collect a little over 150 vehicles. And if you yourself want to collect every single car in the game, you’re looking at hundreds of hours of play.
Now lets move on to the part of our Forza Horizon 5 Review where we talk about the graphics of the game. And it should surprise absolutely no one to learn, that this entry has once again raised the bar for visuals in open world games.
Forza Horizon 5 is one of the most beautiful games that I have ever played in my life, and I feel like I utter that statement multiple times a year at this point. Even with the rate at which graphics are rapidly improving this generation, I’m still legitimately shocked at how phenomenal this world looks.
I’m actually upset that I cannot accurately convey how utterly realistic and stunning this game is through any of the images you’ll see in this article, because they simply cannot translate the visuals without the use of a 4K TV. The sheer level of visual fidelity and detail is so high, that you might actually believe that an out of context screenshot was taken in real life and not in-game.
The lighting, reflections, smoke and weather effects are such a massive step above any of the previous games, that I have a hard time believing that it’s only been around three years since Forza Horizon 4 came out. These game have always looked amazing, but this is still unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. I want people to pick up this game simply to see the capabilities of the next generation of Xbox hardware.
For the purposes of our Forza Horizon 5 Review, we tested this game on three different platforms. And as one of Xbox’s flagship titles, it should be said that this game is a powerhouse that runs phenomenally on almost every single platform it is available on.
On the Xbox Series X, players can opt for either a Quality or a Performance mode. In Quality mode, the game runs at 4K resolution and the level of detail is turned up to the maximum level. There are no noticeable texture issues, pop-ins or anything of the sort. The game looks absolutely phenomenal, but at a reduced 30FPS.
Performance mode also runs at 4K resolution, but the level of detail isn’t quite as high as when running on Quality mode. But unless you were actively looking for faults, you’d be hard pressed to actually find any problems. The world looks more or less the same when you’re riding past it in your fast cars, but at least in Performance mode you’re doing all that at a steady 60FPS. And as far as I’m concerned, I’ll always take the higher framerate over slightly better graphics.
On the Xbox Series S, the game runs at 1440p 30 FPS in Quality mode and at 1080p 60 FPS in Performance mode. I do not recommend that you ever go for Quality mode on this console because giving up a steady 60FPS for a 1440 resolution is simply not worth it. Stick to Performance mode, because it’s still a buttery smooth experience even on this less powerful hardware.
And finally, we come to the last-gen console. I do not think that you should willingly ruin this experience for yourself by playing on the base Xbox One, purely because it runs so incredibly on the next-gen hardware. But I understand that not everyone is able to secure a new Xbox yet, so if you absolutely must play this I have some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that at 1080p 30FPS, the game runs as well on the Xbox One as it ever possibly could. Unlike a lot of multi-generational games coming out these days, Forza Horizon 5 manages to run without any lagging or major framerate drops. The bad news is that the game looks really muddy at times and the texture pop-in can be pretty egregious and distracting. It is definitely an inferior experience compared to the newer consoles, but it is still an incredibly fun experience nonetheless.
Forza Horizon 5 Verdict
Forza Horizon 5 is the best entry into the series to date and it features the most detailed and beautiful open world we’ve seen so far. The new setting of Mexico is an incredible location for the Horizon Festival, and the sheer variety of locations in the world make it an absolute joy to explore. The new Horizon Adventure missions also add a much welcome level of interactivity into the world, and make you feel like an actual part of this festival.
From the diversity of it’s events, to the number of cars you can collect, this game is massive in ever sense of the word. It is absolutely teeming with races, stunts and collectibles, and none of them ever feel like filler content. This is truly the best arcade racing game of this generation, and it’s release sets a new standard for all racing games going forward.
- Phenomenal Open World.
- Fantastic Track Design.
- Diversity Of Events.
- Massive Roster Of Cars.
- Horizon Adventure Missions.
- Incredible Visuals.
- Slight Performance Issues On Last-Gen.
Forza Horizon 5 Rating – 4.5/5
This has been our Forza Horizon 5 Review. While you’re here, why not also check out our Riders Republic Review.
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