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Forza Horizon 5 Review

Verdict

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Forza Horizon 5 is more of the same for the series and it makes a glorious impression. It’s a visual treat on Series X, with fun and approachable gameplay that always feel varied.

Pros

  • Absolutely stunning visually
  • The cars are a dream to drive
  • Loads of varied events

Cons

  • Lack of ray tracing in the main game

Availability

  • UKRRP: £54.99
  • USARRP: $55

Key Features

  • PlatformsAvailable on Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC, Xbox One

Introduction

Forza Horizon 5 is exactly what you expect it to be: a gorgeous open-world playground full of cars, diverse environments and plenty to do.

Set in Mexico this time around, Forza Horizon 5 doesn’t stray much from the blueprint set by the excellent previous entries in the series. It’s an open-world car game, with just as much of a focus on exploration as on racing.

After spending numerous hours lost in the gorgeous world of the game, there’s no denying this is one of the greatest racing games ever made.

Gameplay

  • Very similar gameplay to its predecessor
  • Fun to play even if you’re not into racers
  • Each vehicle features its own unique trait

There hasn’t been a huge shift in gameplay for Forza Horizon 5, and that’s no bad thing. Like Horizon 4, the focus here is on cars that feel fun to drive, rather than trying to simulate the real-life experience. You have the regular Forza Motorsport series for that.

There’s certainly an arcadey slant to the driving, but there remains a satisfying feel, with each vehicle displaying unique traits. The Land Rover Defender, for example, bounces off the dirt, while a sportier model rattles down the highway.

Braking feels tighter this time around and cars have more weight to them, which gives an added sense of realism. The balance between fun racing and Forza’s simulation roots is handled fantastically, with just enough skill required to really master every car.

At its core, Forza Horizon 5 is simply fun to play – whether you’re big into racing games, or not. It does a great job of getting you into the action fast, as you move between multiple vehicles in an exhilarating opening act that showcases the diversity both in the vehicles on offer and the various environments you’ll delve deeper into later.
Within a few minutes you’ll have already raced off-road, through a beautifully realised jungle and more, all in various vehicles.

The game’s verticality is immediately obvious, too, as you start off on the top of an active volcano. Previous Forza Horizon have felt grand in scope, but lacking in height – that issue is solved within seconds of playing Horizon 5.

Race

Graphics and Presentation

  • Most “next-gen” experience on Xbox yet
  • No ray tracing enabled in the main game

I’ve been playing Forza Horizon 5 primarily on Xbox Series X – and, visually, it’s a stunning title. It’s certainly one of the most obvious ‘next-gen’ experiences I’ve seen on the Microsoft console. 

If you’re playing on an Xbox One S or One X, the experience remains impressive. Both of the older machines handle the game very well, looking pretty darn impressive in the process. While this is a showcase for the Series X, it gets far more out of the older consoles than I was expecting.

On the Series X you have a duo of modes: Graphics and Performance. I went straight for Performance mode, which targets 60fps along with a 3840 x 2160 resolution; it plays superbly. Graphics mode targets the same resolution but enables ray tracing in the Forza Vista mode. If you’re playing on a Series S then the resolution goes down to 1080p (again, with 30 or 60fps options).

Forza Horizon 5 system requirements

Sadly, there are no ray-traced reflections in regular gameplay, in any mode you choose. Considering this a highlight feature for the consoles, it’s slightly disappointing. In reality, though, the regular reflections still look great. Sun bounces off a shiny car’s exterior as I’ve never seen in a racing game before, and I spent far too long just gawping at how fantastically well all the vehicles had been recreated – both inside and out.

The action this time takes place in Mexico, which immediately seems like a far more diverse playground than the UK was in Horizon 4. You’ll move between jungles, deserts, dusty roads and sun-soaked highways – and each feels distinct. The way the water splatters up as you speed through the water is something to behold.

Along with these biomes, of which there are 11 in total, there are also distinct seasons that affect the weather around you. In the wet summer you’ll have the bright sun beating down, and plenty of puddles around. You can drive straight into, and through, sandstorms that seem to appear from nowhere. The variety on offer here is very much welcome and it feels like there’s something different to experience all the time.

Story

  • Uses a similar story blueprint to its predecessors
  • Events do a good job of getting you into different cars

The setup of Forza Horizon 5 is very much like its predecessors. You take part in the Horizon Festival, which comprises many events scattered all over the game’s take on Mexico.

I love the variety on offer. There’s an open-world exploration aspect that’s so easy to get lost in, while there are more targeted races and photography missions too. No event type outstays its welcome, and you have a fair amount of control over the kind of events you focus on. If you like street races, for example, you can customise your festival experience to hone in on those. It’s a similar story if you’re a fan of off-road competition.

As you complete these events, more open up, and they do so very quickly. There are some slightly corny cutscenes, too, although these are mostly used at the start to set up the whole festival approach.

Like previous Horizon games, there are a number of showcase events that put you into more bombastic situations in various vehicles. They’re fun, fairly straightforward events that look great but aren’t quite as memorable as those in previous games.

Of course, you could ditch events and just drive around, building up coins in order to purchase new vehicles. I’ve spent a lot of time sitting in a Land Rover Defender, tearing up the Mexican countryside.

There’s a large multiplayer element, too, with opposing vehicles appearing in your game world.

Of course, you could ditch events and just drive around, building up coins in order to purchase new vehicles. I’ve spent a lot of time sitting in a Land Rover Defender, tearing up the Mexican countryside.

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Should you buy it?

You want a visual treat and a ridiculously fun game: This is one of the best looking games around. But it doesn’t stop there, it had depth too and is very fun to play.

You really dislike racing titles: The only reason I can think why you wouldn’t want to even give Forza Horizon 5 a try is that you can’t get on with racing games.

Final Thoughts

Forza Horizon 5 is a marvel of a game and a standout title on the Xbox Series X. It’s a near-perfect racing and exploration game that looks stunning, plays like a dream, and just begs to be played over and over again.

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How we test

We play every game we review through to the end, outside of certain exceptions where getting 100% completion, like Skyrim, is close to impossible to do. When we don’t fully finish a game before reviewing it we will always alert the reader.

Played both offline and online

Reviewed on Xbox Series X

FAQs

Where is it set?

Forza Horizon 5 will be set in Mexico.

When is it coming out?

Forza Horizon 5 will launch on 5 November 2021.

How big is the map?

The map will be the biggest in the series yet, and will be 50% larger than the map in Forza Horizon 4.

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