Released on: November 4 2021
Available Platforms: XBOX One. XBOX Series X/S, PC
Price: $79.99 CAD ($59.99 US) (Has DLC)
When it comes to cars, I am not very knowledgeable. I impressed myself last year when I changed the headlights on my car. Yet on occasion, I like dabbling into the world of racing games, I’ve played my fair share of Mario Kart, of course, but I also like popping in the odd simulation or arcade racing games too. One racing game I enjoyed quite a bit was Forza Motorsport 3 on XBOX 360. It opted to be as realistic of a racing game as possible, which made putting the game on the easiest difficulty and just driving around the track with my favorite music relaxing. This is partially what drew me to Forza Horizon 5.
At the time of this writing, Microsoft has a special on its XBOX Game Pass service. To the uninitiated, XBOX Game Pass is a service that is like the Netflix equivalent of video games. Subscribers pay a monthly fee to access tons of games that they can install and play for free until their subscription runs out. Microsoft is giving three months of Game Pass for one dollar, which is a fantastic deal. I saw that a new Forza game was coming to Game Pass, which was the deciding factor in giving Forza Horizon 5 a shot. Does Forza Horizon 5 have enough gas to keep us going?
The stage is set for the ultimate car racing festival! The player (a racing superstar) arrives at Horizon Mexico in style: by falling out of a plane in a stylish car! Once the player gets to the festival center, they create their avatar, then head for the streets to race, drift, go off-roading, or do property damage.
I didn’t realize how simple the story to Forza Horizon 5 was before I wrote it out, but that is about all that the player needs to know to enjoy the game. Each area has its own backstory, the characters will enlighten the player about new gigs or races, and the radio DJ will occasionally hype the player up with their banter, but as for the actual plot, that’s it. I love the beginning where the player crashes the festival, and the crowd loves it.
One thing I’ve always loved about simulation racing games is the gorgeous visuals. Forza Horizon 5 lives up to that standard in spades! Playing on a decently powerful PC, I can play the game at high quality, making the environment and the cars look amazing! What impresses me is the visceral feeling of going ludicrously fast. After solving all of the technical hiccups, the game never dropped significant amounts of frames.
My initial plan when playing Forza Horizon 5 was to put on my own music playlist in the background while racing. What I didn’t plan on was Forza Horizon 5 having an excellent soundtrack. There are several radio stations the player can choose while they drive. I always listened to the drum and bass station since that one always had the best bangers, and I liked the radio DJ.
Unlike the Forza Motorsport series, where the player could decide on races from a menu and was more focused on racing, Horizon employs an open-world mechanic to explore a vast map freely. In Forza Horizon 5’s case, the player travels to Mexico to light it on fire (not literally, of course). When driving around, the player can challenge random cars to races, participate in events, go drag racing, rally racing, street racing, or go looking for legendary vehicles. As the player completes challenges, wins races, and finds secrets, they will earn credits which they can use to upgrade their existing cars, purchase new clothes for their character or even buy new cars from the auction house.
There is no shortage of things to do in Forza Horizon 5. Even if the player didn’t have access to user-generated content and online events, they still have hours of content to keep them entertained. I always liked the racing in Forza games; thus, I sought out the races more than anything else.
Earlier I talked about legendary cars. While some of the characters in Forza Horizon 5 have their definition of a “legendary car,” the game has cars that are famous in movies, video games, and even anime. What’s more, the player can tune and customize their car to their heart’s content. What I like about Horizon 5 is that each car gains experience that gives the player money and chances to spin the prize wheel. The skill-level mechanic motivates me to drive cars I otherwise would never touch.
The accessibility that I so enjoyed in the previous Forza games returns in Horizon 5. Adding more challenges will reward the player with more prize money. While the percentage does add up over time, it is more important to set the difficulty accordingly so that the game never feels unfair. There are braking arrows that help players time their braking while taking corners and whether the car has automatic or manual shifting. The game can be easy for car ignorant people (like me) or more intense for veterans of racing games.
As many people online will be ready to explain, Forza Horizon 5 is not without its faults.
For instance, the first few days with Forza Horizon 5 were spent solving various technical issues. The first major one I had was the game kept giving me errors and crashing shortly after that. I came to find out that Forza needs to be installed on a Solid State Drive (known colloquially as an SSD) for the game to run correctly. I then closed specific programs (Discord, Google Chrome, and Nahimic Companion) and ran the game in administrator mode. Only then would the game run without complaint.
I’ll be honest; while I haven’t found a way to purchase Wheelspins (the game’s gacha mechanic) using real money, I am not a fan of it being the primary way for the player to earn money and new cars. They are awarded semi-frequently, but I prefer buying new cars rather than simply winning them. Of course, the player can always use the auction house to buy cars, but sometimes the vehicle they want might not be available. It isn’t a deal-breaker, but it isn’t an ideal progression system.
Those who like DLC are going to love Forza Horizon 5. There are so many DLC packs that it makes the home screen page of Forza Horizon 5 daunting. While I do easily forget that they are there, I question why those cars weren’t in the base game if they came out so soon after launch.
Despite some technical issues and the dizzying amount of optional DLC cars, Forza Horizon 5 is a good time. Hours upon hours of content, a ton of customization options, gorgeous visuals, and a wicked soundtrack makes Forza Horizon 5 an easy recommendation for casual and hardcore car and racing fans.