Open world racing games are a perfect way to unwind after a long day. What I usually do is that I rush through the campaign and then take my time completing all the challenges and secrets one day at a time. It’s how I got to almost 140 hours of playtime in The Crew 2. That’s what got me curious about Forza Horizon 5. This particular series has been available for PC ever since Forza Horizon 3, but the fifth installment finally branched out from Microsoft Store to Steam as well. What, I like to have all my games in one place when I can. But Forza Horizon 5 also comes with the biggest map so far, gazillion side activities, story mode, and an insane selection of cars – with more to be added along the way.
The story in Forza Horizon 5 is as basic as it gets. You are one up-and-coming racer that showed a lot of promise, now you just have to show all of your drifting, racing, and points racking skills to the world. The storyline pretty much guides you through all the big sections of Mexico, teaching you about the game mechanics, showing you different play modes, and just as you finish it, that’s when the real game starts. Yeah, the story in Forza Horizon 5 is a long and glorified tutorial and that’s not a bad thing. The campaign is easy to complete, not overly long and is a good introduction to the meaty content of the game.
So after you’re done with the campaign, what’s the real hook of the game? Unlocks. Lots and lots of unlocks. Pretty much everything you do in Forza Horizon 5 is tied to some kind of milestone (or as they’re called here – accolades). You just did 5 drift skills in under a minute? That’s an accolade. Completed 10 street races? Accolade as well. Bought 10/20/1000 cars? That’s also an accol – yeah you get it. Some of those accolades will reward you with emotes, some with clothing pieces, and some with cars. One thing that I particularly like in Forza Horizon 5 (for a casual racing player such as me) is just how much you able to fine-tune the gameplay and driving difficulty in the game. Of course, increasing the difficulty and turning on certain gameplay options will get you more credits after the race so it is entirely up to you to find that balance. Being the veteran player of The Crew 2 I expected some trick braking and nitrous to come to my rescue in tight situations but you won’t find that sort of thing in Forza Horizon 5. Mastering the standard brake/handbrake is the key as well as being smart with acceleration. I should also mention that despite the huge catalog of cars in the game, every car feels and drives differently. Some are just horrible when it comes to braking and some have trouble decelerating in general (while being absolute beasts for acceleration). My advice is to pick a few cars; one for offroad, one for street racing, and slowly try to master them.
Oh man, where do I even start? I’ll just say that if you bought your rig in the past 5-6 years, you should have no problems running this on high settings and above 30 fps. I don’t know what kind of voodoo folks at Playground Games did, but I’m glad that they pulled it off. Forza Horizon 5 is also the first game in the series to feature raytracing but even without it, everything looks unbelievably gorgeous. The extra spice in the game is different seasons that introduce weather conditions such as dust storms and tropical rain. The cars already look beautiful as it is, but if that isn’t enough for you, you’ll have a huge selection of user-created liveries (aka skins for cars). Some of them can be incredibly creative and even improve the default look of cars while others are just beyond hilarious. Passing the speed limit in a Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine van is something you just have to experience for yourself. What I’m also positively surprised with is a decent number of pedestrians in the game (obviously you won’t see them much in the desert areas) and a visible damage model on all cars.
Forza Horizon 5 also features a good number of radio stations so you don’t feel as lonely while cruising the beach or destroying cactuses for that one achievement. There are six radio stations in the game, each having a distinct genre of music. Do you like some classical music? Then Radio Eterna is your station of choice with other renditions of Swan Lake and Nocturne No. 2 in E-Flat Major by Chopin. And every once in a while, a DJ will put out a song that will be a “skill song”, meaning you get way more points doing all sorts of acrobatics with your car while the song is active. Pretty easy way to rank up the masteries.
With this being my first Forza game, I have to say the expectations were somewhat low but all of those bad thoughts went out the window after my first few hours of the game. Forza Horizon 5 is a game packed with more content than you can possibly expect at launch, challenges to find, areas and barns to discover and there’s always some new cars to unlock. A racing game that will keep you satisfied for a few months at least and that’s only taking the content right now into account. A few months down the road Forza Horizon 5 might evolve into something bigger and better than it already is and I’ll be there for it. You should too.
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