What’s Good About Forza Horizon 5
I know video games aren’t representative of real-life experiences; but if driving in games and racing games are any indication, I’d probably be fucking terrible at driving. I usually go from 0 to 100 whenever I am behind the wheel. Whenever I try to drive, I hammer the brake pedal instead of gradually decelerating like a normal person and I can’t make turns to save my life. I feel less anxious while driving in games because there isn’t a chance I’ll get myself or other people killed, but I still suck at driving. But I ultimately want to try to get into more racing games because I loved Burnout Paradise back in the day, so much so that I came damn close to 100%’ing it. With all of that in mind, I have a feeling even after I put this up, Forza Horizon 5 is gonna occupy that same niche as Burnout Paradise in a different way.
I never really got into the other games in the Forza Motorsport or Horizon series due mostly because of the aforementioned terribleness with real and virtual driving, but the Horizon games tempted me because of all of the cool locales that they are set in. While the fourth game never really grabbed my interest because the English countryside is kind of a dull location to set a racing event, the locales and vistas of Mexico made a huge impact on my decision to give Horizon 5 a shot. Scenic mountains, lush forests, arid but still lively deserts and so much more were what immediately pulled me in and made me go “I want to go there”. I am not one to talk about a game’s graphical fidelity because I genuinely believe that it means nothing without strong art direction to make use of it; but when I say that this might be the best looking game of 2021 because of strong UI and UX design on top of the fact that cars regardless of the style they are rendered in, always look fantastic, be it realistic, cartoonish, stylized, etc.
I cannot overemphasize how much the cars are understandably the star of the show. The list of vehicles confirmed in the based game is staggering in terms of both size and the attention to detail afforded to each car; it’s a list spanning decades of automotive history going as far back as 1945 and adding up to a whopping 534 cars in total spread across 99 total brands, having all of the major players from Ford to Ferrari included as well as some more specialized brands as Formula Drift, Forsberg Racing, and Funco Motorsport, to even the more outlandish and ridiculous such as the 1969 Twin Mill and 2011 Bone Shaker from Hot Wheels and series traditional Easter Egg at this point: The 2554 M12S Warthog CST from Halo and I love that they went all in and included the in-universe manufacturer of the damn thing. This amazing attention to detail towards all of the cars on display and is easily the visual high point of the entire package.
After gushing about how this game looks and has a great list of cars to choose from, I might as well talk about the driving itself, aka the main way you interact with the game. It’s pretty good and it has a great set of difficulty and accessibility options that let you tailor your experience to your liking with the Driving Assists. On the most default of settings, the game handles like a pretty good sim racer that takes some getting used to when it comes to the handling of the overall experience, which isn’t to say that it isn’t bad, but it’s just something that I’m not used to. There’s also a series of driver assists that change a whole host of things ranging from steering and braking to getting as granular as the control on either traction and stability and even whether or not you have manual or automatic shifting. I like to engage with a game and its systems on its terms before I change specific things, but the fact that I had the option to change things as specific as what I just mentioned is awesome. And this isn’t even getting into the wide array of excellent accessibility options that the game has on offer to make sure that regardless of the kind of payer you are, you won’t be left out and that is pretty fucking great.
There is also a wealth of activities to be done. Aside from the standard road races, we have sprint challenges where you have to drive from one point on the map to another, Seasonal events, collectibles, and PR stunts because we gotta have all games on a seasonal model these days, dirt, cross country, street and drag racing events for variety and to test your various skills with different car types, showcases, and expeditions that highlight some of the more ridiculous stuff the Horizon Festival has on offer, Eventlab events to try to the new stuff that the developers have on offer, a full-on story mode that is way better than it has any right to be for a game about cars, and just a whole bunch of landmarks and collectibles to find out in the wild ranging from XP Signs to smash, Speed Zone and Speed traps to zoom past, landmarks to find, and even hidden barns that house one of the game’s 14 legendary cars and you bet your sweet bippy I’m, coming back to find all of those.
I would be remiss to talk about the multiplayer and matchmaking in Horizon 5 and this is the part that kind of kills me. The multiplayer events are great and teaming up with your friends to do silly shit is endlessly entertaining, the matchmaking is sadly not ready for primetime. What I mean by this is that the game takes an absurdly long time to load in players into convoys, the game’s version of parties, randomly disconnects you at times, and even won’t show players in your convoy at times. At the very least, when it worked playing with friends was a lot of fun, and all of the stuff I just mentioned are known issues that the developer is actively working on fixing at the moment. But MAN, it can be a bummer at times to just spend 15–20 minutes waiting for the connection to sort itself out and then one or all players in a convoy get disconnected.
All in all, I was not expecting to like Forza Horizon 5 as much as I currently do considering that it’s so thoroughly outside of my wheelhouse (pun fully intended, by the way). It’s a damn fine racing game that is bolstered by a strong variety of activities and extras to keep you behind the wheel and wishing you were in scenic Mexico for the holidays. If you don’t mind waiting a bit for the matchmaking issues to get sorted out, then you are in for a good time.