Forza Horizon 5 was built on the solid foundations of its predecessors. We’ll be in Mexico as a special guest, in charge of expanding the car enthusiasts’ event. After only a few hours, the map is littered with hundreds of races and events, and completing one adds new ones into the globe.
It is evident that Playground Games’ purpose was not to reinvent the wheel. Not only do the major assumptions of the gameplay and the universe return, but also many particular components, need to be addressed. The UI, symbols, images utilized at various points in the game, and the GPS voice are all lifted verbatim from the last installment of the series. Even though it has been a few years since the debut of “4”, hearing the same orders from the same ANNA navigation voice produces contempt and conflicting feelings, especially if you have spent many hours in earlier editions. There was definitely space for even slight changes in the aforementioned components. After all, we’re not talking about an expansion here, but rather a new chapter in the series.
Various races, music-thumping festival stops with dancing people, and on-the-fly challenges during free-riding, such as speed or drift tests, all return. There are also collectibles, which are tablets with experience bonuses that are hidden in various, often difficult-to-reach locations. There may also be so-called forgotten automobiles, which are rusted automotive masterpieces that must first be located in a particular region and then wait for repair before entering our collection. Fans of the previous installments will feel right at home here. The most remarkable “tasks” are once again demonstration races with somewhat different regulations than typical tournaments. We’re racing against a large jet, two motocross motorcycles, or a freight train. Other times, we drive a truck with a platform adorned for the Moon Festival, simulating a massive piata or a massive monster truck. You can sense the distinct spirit of the automobile festival, the organizers of which do not spare a single peso to feed the driver eager for adrenaline. This time, the demonstration races are joined by the new exploration races in Forza Horizon 5. These are, in reality, sightseeing trips that take the user through various biomes of virtual Mexico, enabling them to explore the territory while having a good time.
And there’s a lot to discover – the world is undeniably one of the new Forza Horizon’s strongest qualities. Despite the fact that some people expected a little bolder move, such as Japan and illegal street racing, Mexico appears to be doing well. It’s a good thing the game includes a photo mode since we want to record beautiful vistas every now and then when traveling a fog-filled rainforest, a tropical beach with tourist resorts, a gorge packed with rock formations, floral meadows, wetlands, and desert places. The massive La Gran Caldera volcano towering over the horizon is one of the most important points on the map, the size of which we become aware of especially on the way to the top – climbing the winding path takes a good few minutes even behind the wheel of a sufficiently powerful machine, but it is worth visiting the interior of such a monumental element of the landscape. Guanajuato, a vast, vibrant city with great architecture, is also nearby. Of course, the graphics in Forza Horizon 5 contribute to its overall favorable impression. The automobiles look incredible, and in the Forza Vista demo mode with ray tracing enabled, they appear lifelike. More detail and improved shadow work give the landscape more depth, which is a major accomplishment in a driving game.
It’s a shame that the game suffers from the series’ trademark “mock-up world” issue, with certain areas appearing to be constructed of wood and cardboard, maybe for the sake of a movie. This is especially visible in built-up regions – the previously mentioned Guanajuato still has only a few junctions and is deserted owing to the lack of people on the streets, giving it the appearance of a ghost town. Fortunately, we don’t have time to look at it when we’re driving at 180 km/h. When it comes to speed and automobiles, 526 models are available at launch. This is a remarkable quantity, but keep in mind that the catalog of machines in Forza Horizon 4 – including all DLCs – only has 752 models. Traditionally, we obtain new modes of transportation by winning raffles, visiting showrooms, or waiting for a good deal at an auction house, where we may also sell old models. Driving is a lot of fun in Forza Horizon 5, regardless of the sort of automobile we’re driving. All races and automobiles are on the same level, making it tough to pick favorites. Sometimes we drive cross-country in a large off-road vehicle, while other times we cut curves sideways in a night street racing, hoping to pass our competitors on the inside of the corner.
The level of difficulty and assistance is once again advanced to the point where everyone will find the perfect combination for themselves – the game can be painfully arcade, but also strictly simulation-like, to the point where careless driving can destroy the engine and tires, making it very difficult to reach the finish line, and each turn requires concentration so as not to fall into an uncontrolled skid. Unfortunately, even on “hardcore” settings, the vehicle destruction mechanism falls short, and after crashing into a tree at 250 km/h, the automobile seems more like it crashed in a city parking lot than a severely damaged vehicle. Despite the excellent driving model, the game becomes monotonous after a while. It’s difficult to avoid the feeling that after 15 hours of play, you’ve seen the majority of what the game has to offer. Sure, it’s impossible to unlock all of the vehicles or finish all of the routes in such a short amount of time, but the further you go into the forest, the less unexpected Forza Horizon 5 becomes. It doesn’t help that the developers have taken away the thrill of ascending the professional ladder once more. When we arrived in Mexico, we were already dubbed “the god of the automotive industry,” and after the races, the festival organizer addressed the character almost as if she were saving the world, making us feel a little like a spoiled child who, for no apparent reason, gets the best, most expensive toys and is praised at every step. Because of the main character’s treatment, actual accomplishments lose part of their significance.
Forza Horizon 5 is a fantastic game, but it’s difficult to shake the feeling that it’s primarily thanks to the prior installments in the series. The gameplay is obvious, but the game’s vast universe and great graphics inspire you to play. Fans of the series know exactly what they will find here, and if the unique ambiance of the festival and the role of the racing “superstar” haven’t already bored them, they will spend many enjoyable hours here. Other gamers who are unfamiliar with the brand should not worry, because it is an excellent time to enter Horizon with a screech of tires.