Forza Horizon 5 is one of the most anticipated games of the year, one of Microsoft’s main bets in this 2021, the first Forza developed with the new generation consoles in mind with what this implies in terms of visual and technical expectations, and of course, a driving arcade as brilliant and extensive as the installments that preceded it. Playground Games takes us this November 9 (the 5th for those who have purchased the Premium Edition) to a spectacular recreation of Mexico offered on Xbox Series X / S, Xbox One, PC and Xbox Cloud Gaming, a hilarious car game capable of trapping us for dozens and dozens of hours regardless of the type of player you are: the Horizon Festival welcomes both those who know how to change a spark plug and those who want to enjoy a great adventure in paradisiacal environments.
The most important new feature in Forza Horizon 5 is undoubtedly the new map. The British team has recreated Mexico in the most significant environment of the series to date, a very varied scenario that stands out for its beauty and verticality: no matter how many times we do it, it is still impressive to climb to the Caldera volcano, to see from its in sometimes rocky summit a vast horizon to travel, and go down to the coast at full speed through farmlands, forests, small towns, deserts, jungles with Aztec temples … Up to 11 different ecosystems, where from time to time we will have to dodge donkeys, dogs and even flamingos, full of activities in the form of different types of races and drift, jump and speed challenges.
Guanajuato’s central city is not as big or surprising as the Edinburgh of Forza Horizon 4. Still, its recreation is reliable, and its layout offers very tight street races thanks to the tunnels that run through the subsoil of the city and the sharp curves of its streets and squares. The representation of Mexican culture, its architecture, the many facets of its art and folklore, and the country’s past goes far beyond Guanajuato, permeating everything: the murals that we see in the towns, the talks in the radio stations, the crumbling churches that we found in lost plains, the stories that we completed, the exhibition events …
Without a doubt, the map of this fifth installment we liked even more than the Australia of Forza Horizon 3 (for those who write these lines, so far the best scenario of the saga) because it allows us to build fantastic tracks of the rally, off-road and mixing the asphalt with the mud and the rivers; However, for those who prefer racing on firmer ground, the closed circuits where you can drive an Aston Martin at several hundred kilometres per hour and the roads with tight curves where you can test the brakes of a high-end Mercedes will still prefer the United Kingdom of the game released in 2018, although there is a lot of all that in Mexico as well.
In that game, the weather also had more weight and impact (after all, it was Great Britain), despite the importance of marketing to extreme weather events in this title. There are races where the fog is so dense that it will be difficult for us even to see the route guide, sometimes we will find ourselves competing under a downpour that will make us fear every curve, and in exhibition events and history missions, we will see a handful of times inside spectacular sandstorms that deafen the noise of the engines and reduce visibility to a minimum.
But they are not frequent phenomena. Exploring Mexico, at least in the summer season (rainy season) active during the review, we are not going to suddenly find ourselves in a sandstorm or an area plagued by fog. The feeling remains that the weather was more important in the previous installment when the entire United Kingdom could be bathed in snow or suddenly suffer a torrential rain that left the asphalt impractical; However, in the Latin American country, seasonal changes will not affect the entire region equally, but each one of the ecosystems will change differently.
A retouched progression so that everyone lives the adventure in their way
The progression system of Forza Horizon 5 and the actual construction of the Horizon festival has changed and improved with a clear objective in mind: to adapt the experience to every player, making this open-world a vast playing field where everyone does what you enjoy the most. The primary campaign is now separated into several festivals that, after the first tests, we can tackle in any order we want: those who like more to fill their car with mud can start with the Horizon Wilds ground tests; another player may prefer the Asphalt tests of Horizon Apex and someone else will enjoy more of the street racing of horizon Street Scene. Within each category (to which we must add the cross-country events and publicity stunts and the varied events of the main stage), there are between three and five events that will take about 12 hours to complete.
Horizon’s campaigns have always been conspicuous for their spectacularity and staging, and the fifth installment is no exception. Here we will drive floats at full speed, carry out small missions in a volcano about to erupt, explore the surroundings of Aztec temples looking for lost objects from a crashed plane, compete with and against crazy vehicles and travel dream routes. However, when comparing the campaign with that of the two previous games, it is noticeable that it is one step below the scale., a sensation that is not helped by the fact that several of the categories end with an extensive career throughout Mexico (they are tense and well constructed, but in the end, the formula ends up repeating), and above all, the absence of a grand finale, of a conclusive test that ends with some credits that here, perhaps for wanting to convey the message that the Horizon festival never ends and is constantly evolving as the game as a service that it is, they never appear (unless being that you look for them in the menu).
It not only progresses through the campaign malleable. To access each of these tests, it is necessary to obtain award points. The awards, a kind of achievement or trophies, are the new progression system that allows each player to advance in the game as they wish. Of course, it can be done how we are used to cleaning map icons and getting points until the next exhibition is unlocked. But the awards allow us to focus on what we like the most. What do we want in our careers? Of course, there are awards associated with each of the career categories. That what we like is exploring and discovering new places in Mexico? They will also reward us for it. What if you prefer to create challenges and maps for your enjoyment or that of the community? There is no shortage of awards, nor for players who want to get new cars and take pictures of them, or those who only play online with their friends.
And obviously, there are also them for stories, those mission chains with a small and inconsequential narrative that lead us to test new vehicles and complete somewhat crazy tests. However, they seem less inspired than in Forza Horizon 4, an installment of which we will never forget their stories of the special effects actor (which continues here, by the way), the taxi driver and that incredible chain that arrived via a free update inspired by Top Gear. Don’t get us wrong: they are still hilarious and even sad when we complete them all with three stars, but they are not varied enough, and they overuse the solo tours of going from one point to another. and skid tests.
The Playground Games team has achieved all this because their game is even more accessible and fun for any player, whether they like driving games or not. Here we delve into the many help systems so that anyone can get in control. The difficulty system, which continues to recommend raising or lowering the challenge depending on our performance in the races, now adds the Tourist difficulty, perfect for those who come to Mexico just for exploration. The ride itself is as adjustable as ever: Forza Horizon 5It can be the more straightforward arcade or a title that is close to simulation (these players will notice the minor improvements in driving the most). But whether in one setting or another, it makes each of the more than 500 vehicles to be achieved satisfying to drive. Each car has a personality and behaves uniquely, although later, we almost always go for those with the best score in each class.
A more outstanding commitment to multiplayer to bring an evolutionary experience
The commitment to multiplayer and the open world to explore with friends doing all kinds of activities that was set, especially in Forza Horizon 3, takes here several steps further. This is made clear from the game interface itself while we are driving: next to the GPS, we have the new Forza Link button, a system that allows us to quickly search for players around the world to join any flight test, to communicate with each other. A simple way with them using predetermined messages, and to propose more activities to do.
In multiplayer activities, we have several new features compared to the previous installment. The Horizon Arcade stands out, a kind of public event in which we must get points in tests together with our caravan companions and which are accessed directly when entering an area, without the need for charges of any kind: they are challenges such as reaching as a team a certain amount of drift points, destroying piñatas thrown by a plane in a specific area, hitting targets by jumping off ramps, running speed limits… We didn’t find them particularly fun. Not inspired, but they’ve come in handy enough to hang out while deciding which race to enter next or to wait for a friend to log in for a tournament.
To this must be added the Horizon Open, where style challenges are brought together, the hilarious battle royale The Eliminator and tournaments with several races of different categories that we can face competing against our caravan mates or cooperatively against artificial intelligence; here we would have liked to have the option to add AI-controlled cars when we are few in the same group or for players to join through matchmaking that, at least in these days before launch, is not as fine as it should well, we have seen how from one race to the next the game threw a player out of the group or that it took longer than necessary to load. The other great mode is the Horizon Tour, where you can explore the open world and perform various cooperative activities by competing against Drivatars.
Ultimately, the idea discussed above is replicated here: offering many ways to compete or cooperate so that there is something for each player, regardless of their skill level. Whether better or worse, we will contribute to the overall team score in the Horizon Arcade and the Horizon Tour. Whether we have more or less skill, we will be rewarded for the simple fact of competing in Horizon Open: the goal is not victory, but fun and socialization; that we can now gift cars to other players, anonymously or not, emphasizes the purpose of the game of wanting to create a united community where cooperation is above the competition.
Of course, Forza Horizon 5 will be a game in constant expansion, both with paid DLCs and seasonal tests, seasons with limited-time challenges that will allow us to get exclusive cars, stories and other content that Playground Games will add with it. Time… and also with what the players add. The Super7 challenge editor launched last year for the fourth installment. That allowed you to create challenges typical of a Trackmania that evolves with EventLabs, a relatively accessible creation tool that promises to offer very original and exciting experiences when the community gets their hands on it.
Even in these early days when only the press, content creators and developers have had access to the game, we have encountered creations such as a battle against a final boss based on breaking targets to lower their percentage of life or a phase inspired by Jurassic Park in which we had to break boxes in the middle of the jungle before fleeing the area, full of dinosaur statues. Nothing exceptionally brilliant beyond the initial curiosity, but indeed the most creative players are capable of offering creations that not only turn the driving game into something else but into something else fun.
Racing in a buggy through the dense Mexican jungle while the river water splashes on the screen and the mud fills the sides of our car. We drive the impressive Mercedes AMG One through the desert roads with the cacti blurring as we pass while we see the dense forests and the Caldera on the horizon. Explore the coastline, with its incredibly detailed rock constructions, drifting with our Subaru Impreza. Climb the expensive side of the volcano, taking those curves at the edge of the ravine at full speed with the Ford Escort Hoonigan.
Forza Horizon 5 is undoubtedly spectacular, capable of leaving us moments that, on a technical level, have remained etched in our retina. However, it is not a leap in quality that will leave us speechless, especially if we have played the adaptation of the fourth installment in the Xbox series, which already had a very high level. It is not as impressive a change as Forza Horizon 3 in its day, although the improvements over the 2018 game are apparent. The density of the vegetation stands out (we continue to be surprised every time we enter the jungle); the detail of the terrain, rocks and surfaces of the stage in general thanks to photogrammetry; and lighting, which together with the realistic sky and the most reliable reflections in the cars, creates stunning scenes.
But it does not reach that hard-to-believe photorealism that was glimpsed with the first videos. We are facing an intergenerational game of 2021, with all that that implies. The popping of both the vegetation and the shadows themselves is more than evident. The animations of the characters (now our avatar speaks, by the way) seem from several generations ago, and there are some visual errors here and there that spoil the whole on certain occasions.
These visual errors, especially popping, are intensified when playing in performance mode at a rock-steady 60 fps on both Xbox Series X (4K) and Xbox Series S (1080p); When using this mode, the quality of certain textures and some effects are reduced, ray tracing is lost (only available in Forza Vista, that is, when inspecting a car in the garage) and the adaptive resolution is noticeable in some aspects From stage. In the end, each one will decide according to their tastes if they prefer to play at 60 or 30 frames per second, but having tried both, we have been struck by how fluid the game is perceived at 30 fps (on Xbox Series S, it will work at 1440p on November 9; in Series X works at 4K).
In terms of sound, it is also a spectacle, both for the recreation of the vehicle’s engine and the ambient sound: the waterfalls in the jungle, the loud noise when entering a sandstorm, the echo when passing through a tunnel … musical, the radio stations are already known with rock, pop, hip-hop, electronic, classical, etc. are back. That comes well served by well-known groups such as Royal Blood, Bring Me the Horizon, Foo Fighters, Lil Nas X, Bomba Estéreo, deadmau5 and many more, along with other Latin artists who may not sound so familiar to us and that we already tell you that they will end on your Spotify lists. Like the previous installment.
Forza Horizon 5 is one of the best driving arcades you can find. In certain aspects, such as its incredible and diverse open world, its much-improved progression system, the adaptability to the tastes of each player of the overall experience, the variety of options for online play, the deep content creation tool EventLabs, and its spectacular audiovisual section, is the best title that the British Playground Games have cooked up. In others, as a less bombastic campaign than in the previous installments, some stories that are not especially inspired, a visual leap less forceful than it seemed at first and a more minor impact of the weather than in the game set in the United Kingdom, could be considered almost a step backwards.
Those who play the saga for the first time with this installment, whether they are fans of driving games or want an adventure to explore a diverse and exciting world, will be surprised and probably fall in love with the series. There will be many others for whom the Mexico Horizon Festival is not the first, and for them, it will seem like more of the same with news and improvements that do not revolutionize what is already known. You can see symptoms of exhaustion after three similar games. Still, of course, it is one more of the same that has been the benchmark of the genre for several years, trapping us for tens or hundreds of hours on its roads and staying permanently installed on our consoles or PC because there is always an excuse to return (in the form of events, new content or to explore a dream scenario again) alone or with friends.
We prepared this review with a digital review key for the Xbox/Windows version of the titles provided by Xbox.