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Forza Horizon 5 Review [Xbox Series X|S] | Braking Bad

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I’ve always thought that Forza games were more than just cars. There is a sense of community behind it. It’s a social game. You drive with and against other players, but you also connect with them. It’s the perfect social game, with the latest entry in the series certainly providing me with a much needed escape during the Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020. So when a sequel was announced earlier this year, I was on the moon.

Forza Horizon 5 swaps the bumpy pastoral madness of Scotland and northern England for a more exotic setting in Mexico. As with previous Horizon series entries, you can explore this vast world at your leisure, finding a wide variety of different activities to participate in on your own or with other players.

If you’ve played other Horizon series entries, you should know what to expect. If you’re a newcomer, I’ll break it down.

Credit: Playground Games

“More of a driving game than a racing game”

Races can take the form of organized circuits, cross country races, and underground street races, each with their own approach to how you approach speed, handling and precision. During my time with the game, I ran into dozens of these types of races to keep me busy. The amount of variety on display here is incredible.

But the Horizon series is known for much more than that – which is why I insist more on calling it a “driving game” rather than a “racing game”. There are also “PR Stunt” activities, which are signposts in the open world that require you to achieve incredible feats. For example, a waterfall can cause you to drift to points along a winding road. Another might make you jump up a ramp to get some air. These activities add a little more flavor to the open world. You not only drive between races, but actively seek out more secrets and activities in Mexico to discover.

Then there are the Showcases, which are Forza Horizon 5’s big flashy races where you take on unique opponents. For example, a showcase event pits you against two monster trucks. Another makes you race with an airliner that drops motorcycle stuntmen from behind. Showcases aren’t the most strategic races in the game, but they are certainly the most impressive.

forza horizon 5
Credit: Playground Games

accessible to beginners of the genre

There are over 500 cars in Forza Horizon 5, the most games in the series at launch. You can get everything from modern supercars to retro sports vehicles. More esoteric vehicles can come in the form of early vintage cars and experimental models. There’s even a parade float that you can drive during an event. Overall, the attention and care put into making each car as precise and detailed as its real-life counterpart shows the love that Playground Games has for the game and the motorsport industry. As a bonus, it even puts a DeLorean in the game with its own Back to the Future credentials.

On that note, each vehicle also comes with its own set of controls. Road holding, speed, acceleration, braking; Everything is here. Considering the large number of cars in the game, it’s an incredible feat that Playground Games has managed to modify each car to be visually and mechanically unique from each other. This will make an online meta a lot harder to pin down, but in turn, it will give everyone more choices to play the way they want.

Accessibility is a key goal for all proprietary Microsoft games, and Forza Horizon 5 is no different. Standard accessibility features like closed captions, screen readers, and color blind options are all present here and give you plenty of ways to tweak your experience to make gaming more accessible. The text size can also be increased which greatly improved my experience when it came to sitting 5 feet away from my TV screen.

One feature I particularly liked was the ability to slow the game down. The sound effects remain unchanged, but you now have more control over your reaction speeds. It was a feature I didn’t expect to be included – and probably won’t use myself – but it suddenly feels like a really essential feature to have in a fast-paced game like this one.

forza horizon 5
Credit: Playground Games

welcome to Mexico

So what does Mexico look like? Granted, a big draw to Forza Horizon 4 was finally seeing a video game take place in a British location that wasn’t London. I’ve never been to Mexico, so I wasn’t sure if my unfamiliarity would make me lose interest a bit. Oh, how wrong I was.

Forza Horizon 5’s Mexico is a beautiful place with many more diverse locations than its predecessor. Not only is it the largest map in the series, it’s packed with incredible points of interest that add variety to the country. Deserts, rainforests, mountains, towns and beaches are all of these places in the game. They are complete with a large number of activities to get involved in and make driving in the Mexican countryside easy. There is a single freeway that runs straight through the middle of the map, which is the perfect place to test your speed against other racers.

Storms are a key feature of Mexico’s subtropical environment. Sandstorms can occur while driving across the world, where your vision is obscured and your vehicle becomes so much more difficult to control. So far in testing, storms haven’t been too common to find, but when they do, they can make or break an entire race.

As much as I loved my time in Forza Horizon 5, I also found its attempts to flesh out the story and narrative too distracting. Your “Drivatar” is actually talking now and having real conversations with the other characters you meet in the game. I think I liked it better when they were quiet in previous entries, it was a lot easier to use them as a substitute player than now.

However, I’m a big fan of the representation of character options. Your choices include many diverse ethnicities, as well as prosthetic and pronoun options. Forza Horizon 5 does a terrific job of representing as many people as possible, and a little feature like character customization goes a long way in showing that care.

forza horizon 5
Credit: Playground Games

creamy with butter

As a cross-gen title, there might be some doubt as to how Forza Horizon 5 takes advantage of the extra juice from the Xbox Series X | S. Besides having a photo-realistic look, the game also includes two game modes: Quality and Performance. On the X series, both modes will give you 4K. However, your frame rate will drop to 30 frames per second if you go for the quality mode due to the ray tracing effects that this mode brings.

Meanwhile, the Xbox Series S is a leap lower. Quality mode is 1440p and 30FPS, and also includes ray tracing. 60FPS is available in Performance mode, where the resolution drops to 1080p and ray tracing is disabled. Either way, if you want a smooth experience, I recommend using Performance mode. Graphics quality suffers slightly, including a dramatic pop-in issue that occurs with props and foliage in the world. But it’s otherwise a perfect performance for what you get.

In the past, steering wheel performance with Forza Horizon games has been sketchy at best. Unfortunately, we don’t have a compatible wheel on hand at the moment in GameByte’s office, so we won’t be able to provide feedback at this time. Our editor, Josh Boyles, who is currently working remotely, can give you some thoughts on how it works with a wheel at some point next week.

Overall, I am extremely happy with the outcome of Forza Horizon 5. The variety of activities along with the care and attention given to its mechanics and world make Mexico a pleasure to explore. It’s arguably the best game in the series, and just might be the best game on Xbox right now.

Tested on: Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S

The code was provided to GameByte by PR for review.

Featured Image Credit: Playground Games



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