Forza Horizon 5 takes the series to Mexico, and in doing so offers up what is arguably the best entry yet. The landscape is diverse, filled with stunning beaches, thick jungles and impossibly long stretches of road. It's only a slight improvement on the previous title however (and I have no doubt that Forza Horizon 4 might reign higher in some people's rankings), adding yet another fantastic racing game to what is fast becoming the most dependable series around.
If you're looking for a huge evolution, bolstered by the arrival of new consoles and next-gen tech, you won't find it here. Instead, you'll find an absolutely gorgeous and accessible racer that begs you to dive deeper. Regardless of what kind of racing game player you are, from casual arcade player to racing-sim aficionado, there's hundreds of hours of events to sink your teeth into. Event types range from flashy PR Stunts where you send million-dollar hyper cars off bridges, to light-hearted campaign set pieces racing freight trains and monster trucks.
All Are Welcome
Forza Horizon has always cast an impressively wide net in terms of its player base, striving to appeal to those that want to drift and smash around courses, alongside those who are prone to fiddling with tuning for hours before races. At times, this can make the game feel a little unfocused, as you jump between wildly different event types earning points to unlock the next big mission. I occasionally found that the tone of the dialogue and objectives didn't quite match what I was doing in game.
There's only so much you can do with a racing game that walks such a fine line between silly and serious as Forza Horizon 5 does. Drifting around ancient temples felt off, as did setting up huge EDM-blasting outposts across what was otherwise a beautiful and tranquil world. Oftentimes, the difference between what I was being told I was doing and what I was actually experiencing in a mission tended to vary wildly. Some events simply landed a bit flat as a result.
Small tonal clashes aside, Forza Horizon's trip to Mexico results in easily my favourite open-world map in a racing game to date. The sheer range of biomes is staggering, and that's before you factor in the complete transformation that occurs once the seasons change. The intro races you through each season at lightning pace, coming out of the gate flexing its technical prowess and graphical proficiency. I played the majority of the game on Xbox Series S, and even in Performance Mode (graphical detail takes a slight bump in this mode) I was blown away by how good it looked.
Jungles are a particular highlight, with dense foliage to race through and some genuinely jaw-dropping lighting effects. One minute I'd be carefully manoeuvring around the site of an active volcano, the next tearing up the sand on a huge stretch of beach. As much as I loved the rendition of Britain in Forza Horizon 4, Mexico takes the cake for open-world design.
Scratching the Surface
There's even more to do in Forza Horizon 5 if you plan on bringing along some friends. You can play the majority of this campaign in co-op, and new Trial events task you with teaming up to take down some truly intimidating opponents. Once you've unlocked the PR Stunts section, the map becomes filled with drift events, speed cameras and jumps that blend perfectly with cooperative play. There's XP banners to smash on your way to your next event, and Barn Finds return to lure you to harder to reach areas of the map.
At the time of writing, I haven't had much hands-on with the wide array of multiplayer modes available. Instead, I've cruised through the main chunk of the campaign, though even after 50 hours I feel like I've barely scratched the surface. More experienced players will know that Forza Horizon games tend to open up after the main campaign. It's where car tuning and upgrading really come into play, as you take on seasonal objectives and events. For me, this is where the game comes into its own, finally nailing the online integration that's more of an extra in the early hours.
Looking ahead, I can see hundreds of daily, weekly and seasonal challenges to complete. They're already making me think harder about my car collection, and forcing me to experiment with vehicles that I barely touched in the campaign. It's clear there's much more to come from Forza Horizon 5, history would certainly suggest it'll receive decent updates and reasons to return for years to come.
It's definitely less of an innovation as Forza Horizon 4 was, and I do wish there was more there that leveraged the new consoles. Truth be told however, I've been completely enamoured with Forza Horizon 5 so far. The new story structure is more successful in crafting a narrative, and the expeditions that shepherd you around really help to make the path ahead as clear as possible.
I generally play these games as a more casual player, completing the campaign and dipping back in for seasonal content that looks interesting. Forza Horizon 5 has completely got its hooks in me however. I am completely determined to get better at racing, chasing leaderboards and looking up the best tunings for each of my favourite cars. Racing games don't usually grab me like this, I'm genuinely surprised to be having so much fun tinkering with valves and axels as I play. Even if there's more refinement than revolution here, clearly the new mission structure has done its job in making me care about the side of the game that leans more towards racing-sim.
Forza Horizon 5 - Is It Worth It?
Forza Horizon 5 features a frankly intimidating breathe of activities to take on at first. Through smart progression and a narrative that feels better integrated than ever, it breaks its monstrous map into manageable chunks, guiding you between wildly different event types with finesse. It's yet another near-flawless entry into the series, and a must-play for Xbox players who have even a passing interest in racing games.
I do wonder what's next for the series, which is in danger of stagnating once we see what other next-gen racers have to offer. For now though, you absolutely can't go wrong with what is easily one of the most impressive open-worlds in gaming. Whether you plan on staying for a week, or hanging on for dear life for years to come, Forza Horizon 5 has more than enough to keep you busy and smiling across jungles, deserts and active volcanos.
Reviewed on Xbox Series S
Review code provided by publisher
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