Let’s get one thing out of the way first:
Forza Horizon 5 is a fantastic game. It’s actually so fantastic, it had me reminiscing about the last racing game that had me feeling this way. After much thought, I remembered back to the year 2005 when I first played Need for Speed: Most Wanted. That game, at the time, was so unique and had SO much to offer. Free roam, police chases, customization – even a challenge series to hone in your skills. Forza Horizon 5 has hit the same nerve that Need for Speed did so many years ago for me. Now, like anything man made, there are flaws – but they are few and far between. After playing the game for a solid week now, I feel confident in writing this review and overview. Here is my take on the newest addition in the Forza franchise:
Like previous Forza titles, the “Driveatars” are improved over its predecessor. On road racing feels tighter in most circumstances, although you’ll get the occasional race where first place just flies into the sunset, unable to be caught. Off-road racing is far more improved with more offerings overall. Cross country, scramble & tail events are showing to be my favorite events in the game. With such a diverse offering of off-road vehicles, I find myself re-visiting the same race over and over again with different cars just to see how they handle. Overall, it’s definitely a classic Forza title from the driving aspect.
Drifting & Physics
One specific area that the Forza team takes pride in is in the physics. Forza Horizon 5 absolutely nails the “happy medium” when it comes to physics. Not too arcade-racer feeling and at the same time, not too sterile & critical. Every car has a certain feel to it that makes the game feel more unique than its predecessor. Some off-road cars have a much easier time climbing hills, while other street cars struggle to do the same thing. At the same time, the road cars tend to have better on-road feel than bigger and more bulky off-road cars. The tire smoke is also FAR improved over the previous title, making for a more realistic feel. Kudos to the Forza Horizon 5 team for listening to the fans, it has definitely paid off.
Over the past few Horizon titles, Forza has steadily been adding new customization options. This time around, we have the option of painting brake calipers which is LONG overdue. It does not seem like much, but trust me, it matters. That’s not the only new addition. There are dozens of new wheel offerings thanks in most part to Rotiform & Work Wheels. Having such renown wheel companies offer up their best wheels for this game just adds to a more genuine experience.
The Forza Horizon 5 team did not stop at just cosmetics, they took things to the next level. In the engine customization tab, you can now modify the way the car sounds in ways not previously possible. New exhaust notes have been added to the game which can be tuned by adding a different intake, turbos or exhaust. I often find myself just modifying a car to make it sound the best possible, regardless of overall stats.
Building on the offerings from Forza Horizon 4, the list of cars and character customizations are more diverse than ever. On the car side of things, it’s not all race cars and sports coupes. Rather, its an eclectic mix of crossovers, hypercars and off-roaders – along with the race cars and sports coupes. The traffic in game feels more unique as well. Horizon 4 felt like you were passing the same 5 cars in traffic over and over again. However, Forza Horizon 5 does a great job of spreading out the cars for a more realistic feel.
On the character customization side of things, just about everything can be changed about your character. From your hair, your shoes & even your voice, most everything can be modified to some extent. Horizon 5 now brings in things like prosthetics to be more inclusive to players, which is an amazing and welcome addition to the franchise.
As of this writing (11/18/21) the Forza team has implemented a hotfix. This fix has helped various issues in the game, specifically some correlated with online connectivity. Not all issues have been fixed, but most have. There are still some minor, lingering issues, for example: When you go to take a photo of your car online, the game lags about .5 seconds. In that amount of time, the game resets your steering position – meaning your wheels will ALWAYS be straight on. This is problematic if you are wanting a certain angle of a car drifting, for example. However, this problem does not exist in “Horizon Solo” play offline.
Another glitch I have encountered with online play was when I was gifted my first car by a friend of mine. The way you receive cars from other players is through discovered “barn find” locations in-game. I had not done any barn finds at this point, and so, the car was unable to be collected. Even after discovering all barn finds, the car still no longer exists. It’s fine, but annoying. It’s very apparent that the game was not 100% finished once released, which is common for play tested games of this generation.
New events have been added to Forza Horizon 5. One of the new events, Forza Arcade, is a spin on Horizon 4’s Forzathon LIVE. These events feature multiple objectives for players to complete in a certain amount of time. These objectives pay out Forzathon points that can be redeemed in game for exclusive prizes. Prizes include things like hard to find cars, clothing or even horn sounds. Unlike the previous title which only had this event happen once per hour, this series can be continuous. After one event ends, you are given the option to start another one with the same players online. This makes racking up Forzathon points easier if you have a competent group of players participating multiple times in a row.
Forza Horizon 5 features multiple festival locations like previous title, Horizon 3. These festivals are built once you progress through certain parts of the main story. In total there are 6 individual festival locations. Each festival is built around a specific theme like street racing, off-roading or stunts. These festivals cannot be physically expanded. Instead, you can unlock new events by progressing through the main story. The festivals are fully expanded one you unlock & complete all events.
Realism & Game Setting
Forza Horizon 5 takes place in Mexico. The storyline, characters & scenery is all themed around Mexican culture. The world feels much more unique and lovable than the previous entry. While Horizon 4 offered thousands of hours of playtime, after a while, it became the same feeling over and over again. Horizon 5 is proving to be playable for hours on end, while still offering new & exciting activities. Time will tell, of course, and I fully intend on doing a long term review at around 6 months and one year later.
On the topic of realism, graphically speaking, this game is simply gorgeous. Stunning from every angle. I have often found myself just getting lost in game and taking photo after photo. Matter of fact, all photos in this article are ones I have personally taken in-game. Forza Horizon 5 features a camera feature that has been tweaked and optimized. Couple that with the fact that the photos take well to editing… you have yourself one beautiful game to just drool over.
Conclusion & Score
Before I finish this article, I want everyone to know I am a long time Forza veteran. I have played every title thoroughly since Motorsport 2 back on the Xbox 360. Personally, I do not want to come off as biased in any way, so I want to be fair in my assessments. With this said, the game is phenomenal. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, this game made me FEEL something. Something I have not felt since I was a kid playing Most Wanted on my Nintendo Gamecube.
Keep in mind, it’s not without its flaws, as the game is still in its infancy. However, it’s unique, fun and charming all around. If you are on the fence, let me be the one to push you over. Are you into automotive photography? -You NEED this game. If you just want to have fun with your friends online for hours, this is an amazing option.
All things considered, my rating for Forza Horizon 5 is 9.3/10 – Genuinely, this game has serious “Game of the Year” potential. Very few publications have given a racing game the title of GotY. Only a couple of times throughout history, games like Gran Turismo 2 & 4 have been given this award by critics. Forza Horizon 5 just might be the one to break the norm, but it’s still too early to tell. Overall though, it is a solid offering and one that will have gamers coming back over and over again.
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Text & Photos by Ben Battles