Forza Horizon 5 Review – DOES BIGGER = BETTER?
Forza Horizon 5’s balance of catering for both casual and pro players is one of this game’s biggest strengths. Not just in the controls and customisation, like tuning cars exactly the way you want, turning off assist options, or even being able to change the colour of your brake calipers, but in the several different approaches the player can take in regards to gameplay.
Injecting Some Mario Maker Vibes Into Forza Horizon 5
One of the new features that best exemplifies this is the Events Lab. Events Lab is arguably the biggest addition to Forza Horizon 5, and I absolutely love it. Any player can plan out and construct some outrageously silly race maps and game modes with an extensive, easy-to-use toolkit including launch pads, ramps, piñatas, bowling pins, signage and more for hours upon hours of entertainment. Plus, you can even share and invite people straight from the pause menu to engage with your unique Events Lab Blueprints.
Other players can also like or dislike your setups, which means your creation might end up on the trending pages for larger audiences to discover. Social media at its finest, ladies and gentlemen!… Look, I’m not the best when it comes to designing this stuff by any stretch, but I honestly had so much fun playing through some of these custom game modes.
One event had me racing through a collection of soccer goalposts, because – why not? Whilst another called Bowling in The Deep (clever!) was a score-attack game where players would try to knock down as many giant bowling pins as possible. As you could imagine, eight drivers all trying to hit the same pins at the same time makes for some pretty hilarious scenes. But all in all, Events Lab is easily the most exciting new addition to the Forza series and Bowling in The Deep is definitely my favourite event thus far. So it’ll be very exciting to see what you all come up with in the future. The more ridiculous, the better folks.
Great Campaign Missions, Frustrating Story & Characters
Another new feature I enjoyed was the campaign missions. These unlockable story-based objectives often pit the player against something wild like a plane or a train driver that’s probably had a little too much to drink. But on the other hand, sometimes you’ll go on a short scavenger hunt for equipment or just straight-up drive a humungous piñata float into a festival. There’s a whole range of things to see and do and they’re usually all filled with big ramp jumps and Hollywood-inspired setpieces. Including some fun little obstacle courses for the scavenger hunts alongside heaps of dynamic visual changes to the racetracks during the head-to-head encounters. However, at the same time, when it comes to the overarching narrative of Forza Horizon 5, the story segments for these missions are just kinda meh…
If you’ve ever played the Volta Story mode in FIFA 21, you’ll know exactly what I’m getting at.
“Wow! Look at that car! It’s so amazing! You’re such a legend! Did you see how awesome and epic and unreal that was?!” It’s that kind of thing. The majority of the story is purely hype for hype’s sake, while not really offering anything substantial or meaningful for the player to latch onto. And far out, the character voices are so cringe at times, it’s kind of hard to take seriously. Yes, I know this is a motorsport game at the end of the day, so it probably is too big of an ask to request a grand story. Although all things considered, I am happy Playground Games tried out something new, even if it started to get on my nerves very early on.
Also, I don’t know why this kept happening… But for whatever reason, my avatar’s subtitle name would keep matching up with whomever he was talking to. So if you couldn’t hear the audio, it’d look like the NPCs were having a conversation entirely by themselves. That being the case, I’m sure Playground Games will get this glitch fixed soon enough. Since one of the devs told me they’d be ironing out as many bugs as they could before launch, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt here. Sometimes you just gotta laugh at stuff like this.
Exploring Forza Horizon 5’s Gorgeous Mexican Locales
But back onto the positives, let’s talk about the open-world aspects of Forza Horizon 5. Driving around Mexico with the game’s eclectic selection of tunes is an absolute dream. Not only are the controls as smooth as butter, but the environments in this game are outright stunning! I can’t tell you the amount of times I’d just press down on the accelerator, with one hand on the controller whilst I casually took in the view – right before hard crashing into a tree mere moments later. But I couldn’t care less about my car wreck, because the visuals honestly look that great!
Did you know the map size of Forza 5’s Mexico is actually 50% bigger than Forza 4’s UK? That means it’s the biggest map in the series yet. And as a whole, the country contains 11 distinct biomes to visit, each with its own seasonal weather patterns like dust storms and blizzards. Plus, there are a total of 6 Horizon Festivals that are playable in the fifth edition, so there’s a huge variety of different race scenarios and even more lush environments to soak in than before.
Like the headline of this article suggests, does bigger equal better in this case? Absolutely, simply because there are more races to complete, more locations to mess around in and more XP Boards to smash. Need I say more? Actually, I won’t say too much else about the map for spoiler’s sake, but one thing I love about Forza 5’s Mexico is how freeing it can feel. Since the main highway is quite literally straighter in the fifth edition, this means that there’s extra room for longer stretches at top speed. And it seems like drag strips have also been a major priority for Playground Games too, with dedicated straightaways and wide amounts of space for several racers where you don’t necessarily need to hard brake at the end.
Less Waiting, More Action
If there’s one aspect that really stands out in Forza Horizon 5, it’d have to be how easy it is to jump into any type of game mode. If you want to instantly head towards a race without opening the map, it only takes two quick D-pad presses with the virtual ANNA navigator to be sent on your way. Want to talk smack to your mates during an event or link everyone up to the newly added Horizon Arcade? The aptly-named LINK feature lets you do just that, along with a handful of preset messages the player can customise. Although, I’m gonna be honest – I just used a headset like I normal person. That being said, the LINK system definitely can be a bit finicky at times, but it does get the job done regardless.
The good thing is that the multiplayer’s super easy to set up, since pretty much everything can be managed directly from the pause menu. In a convoy, the leader can select any game mode they like and each driver will be promptly transported exactly where they need to go. From my experience, after an event’s conclusion players didn’t get disbanded from their convoy or anything like that, and the convoy leader can even pass on the reigns to another member, allowing them to choose the next activity. Good luck getting it back though…
Unfortunately, there are no private lobbies like in Forza Horizon 3, where you could free roam exclusively with your friends. Although the developers did mention that they may include this feature sometime after release day. Also, as I was playing with a few of the developers before launch, a couple of us ran into some issues joining certain game modes, which did lead me to restart my PC at one point. But rest assured, that was the only crash I experienced throughout my 25 hours of gameplay.
How Does Forza Horizon 5 Perform on PC?
Outside of those issues however, the general performance of Forza Horizon 5 is rock solid. I was sitting at a comfortable 60FPS on 1080p Ultra settings both online and off. And like I said before, it looks so good! Even better is that there’s an optimal graphics option, which does take a couple of minutes to set up whilst scanning your PC. But if you are the type of person who doesn’t want to waste time tinkering with graphics sliders every couple of minutes, then this feature is perfect for you.
If you’re into any type of racing game – whether simulation or arcade – Forza Horizon 5 is more than worth checking out. This series has so many good things going for it and the latest entry further fuels its position as one of the best racing games out there. An incredibly annoying cast of characters and shallow story is overshadowed by an excellent variety of game modes, pick up n’ play online features, great music, slick driving controls and a bunch of accessibility options that make cruising through Forza 5’s Mexico a tonne of fun.
Forza Horizon 5 easily cements itself as one of the premier racing titles of 2021. Playground Games have implemented a multitude of fantastic features and quality of life improvements that make this game so hard to put down. The story and characters are largely forgettable, but practically everything else about this open-world racer is top class.
This game was reviewed using a download code provided by Microsoft. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.
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