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What is Forza Horizon 2?Forza Horizon 2 is the latest Xbox One-exclusive racing game from Playground Games and one which takes the Forza series into a vast new direction.
Yes, there are the usual fast cars, screeching tyres and bass-shaking engine roar like the original Forza Horizon but this about more than just circuit racing. Forza Horizon 2 is a completely open world driving game, with all manner of races, challenges and mini games linked together by a more relaxed, entertainment-based style. During our early hands-on time with the game, it looked absolutely stunning too.
Built around the same racing sim engine as last year’s Forza Motorsport 5, Horizon 2 takes the intricately accurate driving options of its predecessor and throws in a good dollop of arcade goodness.
Based on the same premise of the original, driving is set around the Horizon Festival. The party has been relocated though. Gone is the sprawl of Colorado mountains, moving on to the beautiful coastline and rolling hills of Southern Europe. This vastly detailed open world is also three times bigger than any past Forza setting.
Taking in the French Riviera, Italian vineyards and mountain roads, Horizon 2 is driver’s paradise, with the open nature of the game letting you explore these stunningly detailed settings at will.
Race through the streets and gameplay is a physics-based joy with loose steering and tetchy brakes stopping you from just holding the gas button no matter what corner, car or obstacle is in your way. Take a little detour off-road though – through a field or dirt-track shortcut say and things become a little looser and much more forgiving.
The car is harder to control than when on the tarmac, but there is far more give in the gameplay. Drifting through mud and jumping over rock formations is now standard rather than a massive wreck. You can even earn ‘Skill Points’ for such shenanigans.
This ability to mess around in the cars isn’t just about having fun either, it’s now a fundamental part of the game. Skill Points can be used to buy ‘Perks’ – much like a mobile game’s in-app purchase options which will improve your driving ability.
This is still a racing game, and is still quite samey in that respect, but it is different enough to stand out from the crowd, even from just an early play. The need to test the fun side of your driving style, as well as the mass of hidden races and challenges, means Forza Horizon 2 should be kept fresh and fun well beyond the usual lifespan of such a title.
From our E3 2014 hands-on, we found Horizon 2 to have struck a happy middle ground between the likes of Gran Turismo and Need for Speed.
Visually, Forza Horizon 2 is a thing of beauty. The game’s graphics are simply stunning, with the expansive open world as finely detailed as the 200-odd cars which will populate the game at launch on September 30. Featuring the now customary next-gen console light and shadow improvements, the Horizon 2 graphics are further enhanced by a first for the series.
We still can’t get our heads around why it has taken so long to bring dynamic weather and a day-night cycle to the Forza world but it is here now and looks amazing. From beads of rain glistening on the gloss bodywork of a speeding Lamborghini to the moody skies and light reflecting puddles, Playground Games has added a whole new visual dimension to the game with its impressive weather system.
As an added bonus – especially given the Xbox One’s recent history – Forza Horizon 2 will be rendered in 1080p at 60 frames-per-second.
As well as being an expansive open-world single player title, Horizon 2 has some impressive looking multiplayer options too.
Although we weren’t able to test it first hand during our early play, the game benefits from the Drivertar features introduced in Forza Motorsport 5. Storing your fastest race laps to the cloud, the Horizon 2 world is populated with ‘ghost’ drivers, letting you race against a world of players – be they currently online or not.
First ImpressionsForza Horizon 2 strikes a good balance between a true-to-life car sim and arcade racer. Driving is fast-paced and exciting and there seems to be enough side missions and mini-game styles to keep the game interesting after early use. Visually this is one of the best games we have seen and Forza Horizon 2 could mark the racing genre’s true next-gen arrival.
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