Forza Horizon 5 – Review

Forza Horizon 5 is the latest entry in Microsoft’s popular open world racer.  The setting this time is Mexico and all of the beautiful locations that you can find in that country.  The open world is massive and throughout your journey with this game you will race through deserts, jungles, old towns, beaches, and even an active volcano.  Forza Horizon 5 features over 500 cars for you to collect as you race through Mexico, headlined by the Mercedes-AMG ONE and 2021 Ford Bronco Badlands.  If you have played a Forza Horizons title in the past you largely know what to expect here but there have been some cool changes and additions that will keep you driving through the Mexican countryside for quite a while. Forza Horizon 5 is also streamer friendly with an option to disable copyrighted music so that you (hopefully) don’t get a DMCA strike on your account.

Like the previous titles, Forza Horizon 5 has a high energy opening and immediately throws you into the action.  Your introduction to the game is fast as you drop out of a plane in your vehicle and then hit the ground racing as you are trying to get to the location of the Forza Horizon festival.  You do this with a few different cars with some nice transitions so that you are immediately introduced with not only the vehicles of Forza Horizon 5 but also the locales you will be racing through as you go through the game.  It culminates with you arriving at the Horizon Festival and getting your new adventure jump started with races, PR stunts, drifting challenges, and much more.

There is a full campaign experience in Forza Horizon 5 with Initial Drive, Expeditions, Showcase Events, Stories, and much more.  The more you do in the world the more points you will accrue to get to the next chapter of your adventure.  This is where the Accolades system comes into play.  There is a grand total of 1,876 Accolades that you can earn in the game.  I doubt very many people will get all of them but they are there for completionists who want to try and do absolutely everything.  You don’t have to do everything to go through the campaign though.  In fact, earning enough accolades to get through the different chapters is fairly easy.  All you really have to do is have fun playing the game and participate in some events.  The first category is “Welcome to Mexico” and basically serves as your introduction to the Accolades system.  You will receive some of the Accolades automatically, such as earning one when you arrive at the Horizon Festival Mexico site for the first time.  You can get another accolade by using in-game currency to purchase a car at the Autoshow.  Some other gameplay specific Accolades include discovering ten new roads, completing the Mulege Town Scramble, earning one star from the Punta Allen Speed Zone, earning one star from the Malpais Trailblazer, and much more.  As you can see you don’t need to be an expert to earn Accolades which is really appreciated for those people who just want to experience the game and not necessarily be involved in active competition.  Once you earn enough Accolade Points you will unlock the next Horizon Adventure Chapter and be prompted to make a decision.  That decision could be to set up a new Horizon Festival in a different location or expand upon a location you already have up and running.  If you choose the expansion route you will have the option to potentially unlock a Showcase event, find and restore a legendary car, unlock an “ultimate” event, become a stunt driver for a movie, and more.  You start out at Horizon Festival Mexico but if you want to expand to Horizon Apex, for example, you can choose to do that as well.  Once you do that a new icon will appear on your map and once you complete that event a brand new festival will pop up for you.  Once you get that new festival up and running more icons will pop up on the map like more races, a house that you can buy, more stunts to pull off, and more.  As you can see if you choose to go through all of the adventures it is going to take you a little while to do and I had a tremendous amount of fun seeing what this game had to offer.

In addition to what I talked about above there is also a curated Festival Playlist that you can participate in.  This playlist is broken down into seasons and will offer you daily and weekly challenges, alongside some other challenges that don’t really have a time limit attached to them other than you need to complete them at some point before the season ends.  Some of the daily challenges I came across while going through this game included “Zoomies” where I had to drive above 250mpg for five seconds in any car or “Over the Moon” where I had to jump a distance of 1,500ft in any car, or “Crowd Pleaser” where I had to complete a Showcase event and things like that.  The weekly challenge for me was owning a driving the 2017 Nissan GT-R and participating in the GT-R series.  There is a tab that keeps track of your progress during the season so you can see where you stand and where you need to be to unlock some of the rewards.  For me there was a “Legendary” car for me to unlock as well as an “Epic” car.  I can unlock those with points I earn by completing different objectives in the playlist.  These objectives could be winning a seasonal championship, teaming up with some friends and going through “The Trial”, going to a specific Drift zone with a specific car and getting a good score, and just a variety of other things.  This whole thing is certainly optional and you never have to touch it if you don’t want to but it is yet another way to keep you busy as you are racing through Mexico.

Long time fans of the Forza Horizon series will recognize some of the other things that Turn 10 put in here such as being able to change your car pretty much when you want, being able to tune your car, being able to upgrade your “Car Mastery” with experience points, trying to get pictures of different cars for the Horizon Promo, and so much more.  There is a really interesting way they decided to showcase your car collection though.  It is broken down by manufacturer and presented with a nice image and the car’s name so you always know exactly what you have.  It also tells you what you still have left to do as far as your collection is concerned.  For example, as I’m writing up this review, I currently own 10 of the 58 Ford vehicles in the games.  Some of the Ford vehicles I have include the 1956 F-100, 1967 Racing Escort MK1, 1999 Racing Puma Forza Edition, 2017 GT, 2017 Focus RS and so much more.  The way the development team at Turn 10 decided to showcase this makes it incredibly accessible both for the person who knows everything about cars as well as the person who knows next to nothing and doesn’t really care to know all of the details.  If you have a favorite manufacturer you can always jump to them as well so you don’t have to sift through hundreds of cars and, of course, you can buy other guys like I mentioned above using in-game currency that you earn as you play the game.

Forza Horizon 5 features an online component that can be as passive or competitive as you want.  As you are racing through the open world you might often see the Drivatars of people on your friends driving around as well.  For those who aren’t familiar with Drivatars, they are basically the “digital ghost” of your friend driving in the world.  The more you play the game the more it learns how you play and it can use your profile to populate someone else’s world.  So for example, a friend of mine might come across a car in the world that has my name attached to it but I’m not necessarily playing at that time.  It is just the game populating your world with my Drivatar.  Of course I absolutely could be playing the game as well.  While I was playing this game for review I had a colleague ask if I wanted to join a convoy in the world so we could do some of the multiplayer events.  These multiplayer events can be competitive but there are also cooperative events as well.  You really can choose the type of experience that you want to have in Forza Horizon 5.  If you are someone that just likes to play games by yourself you can absolutely do that here and have an amazing time.  If you are someone who prefers to compete against others, you can do that as well.  There is also a Club aspect to the game where you can create or own a club and invite your friends to join or you could join an already existing club.  When you are in a club you pool together what you have done with other club members.  Your Accolade points are combined into one number so if you have one person with 5,000 points, another with 10,000 points, and a third with 1,000 points, your club will have 16,000 Accolade points.  There are club rankings as well so you can always see where your club is ranked among everyone else.  The Forza Horizon series has always been known for its accessibility and that continues to hold true for Forza Horizon 5.

Earlier in the review I talked about all of the events that you can participate in and how you can either play the game by yourself or with others but all of those events I was talking about are made by the development team.  What if you are a creative person and you want to create your own events and cars?  You can absolutely do that in Forza Horizon 5.  This is where the “EventLab” comes into play.  This is where you can play community made events.  There is also “The Horizon Super7” that you can create and play as well.  All you do is simply go into your creative hub and then you are presented with a number of different options.  You have Blueprint Events, Photos, Community Challenges, Designs, Tunes, and Vinyl Groups.  It also tells you how many followers you have, how many “kudos” you have received from other players, and your overall level in the game.  If you want to design something you can go into “Livery Designs” or “Vinyl Groups” or “Tunes”.  There is also a photo mode here as well as a drone mode.  The photo mode should be pretty self-explanatory as it allows you to take pictures of the environments and pretty much whatever you want.  The Drone mode however is fascinating because you can simply use a drone to explore the Mexican landscape.  This is fantastic for getting different viewpoints of the area you are in.  If you are participating in a Barn Find, for example, you can use the drone to scout the area to try and see if you can find it instead of simply driving up and down the area trying to look for it.  The drone gives you an aerial view as well which makes it much easier to see your surroundings when you know something is close but you can’t quite seem to find it.

As I mentioned above, the more Festival locations you unlock, the more icons are going to pop up on your map.  I know there are some people who don’t like to have a lot of icons on their map in a game.  For those people you can use the filters to get rid of the noise.  If, for example, you only want to do Road Racing Events for the time being, you can turn those icons on and turn everything off so the only thing you see on your map is the blue Road Racing icon.  Being able to filter the map like this is extremely helpful later on if you are trying to find the next landmark but you can’t quite see it because of the overall clutter on the map.  You can also turn on and off whether you see online friends or whether you see any online player at all.  I do appreciate this level of customization and I know others will as well so that you can have the experience that you want and forget about everything else.

It should be obvious at this point but Forza Horizon 5 is a breathtaking game. It is one of the most beautiful games to ever be released and the 11 distinct biomes in the game from deserts to jungles to cities, beaches, and more offer some great variety. There were many times when I would want to hit the brakes to stop and take a picture of the vista to my side or the horizon (no pun intended) in the distance. The different weather patterns were handled well and definitely gave me a challenge whether I was racing on wet pavement that was slick because of the rain or on a sand dune. The audio for this game is also fantastic, just like the previous Forza Horizon titles. There are a number of different radio stations for you to choose from to give you the proper vibe as you race across Mexico. You can also use the Spotify app on Xbox to use your own playlist as you explore the Mexican countryside. Using the game’s soundtrack comes with certain advantages such as when they play a “skill song” that will double the experience that you earn while that song is playing. Also keep in mind that if you do go the Spotify route, you really shouldn’t stream that or there is a high risk of a copyright claim and/or a DMCA strike.

Forza Horizon 5 is another fantastic effort by the team at Turn 10.  They seem to keep hitting it out of the park with these games and this one is no different.  There is a lot to keep you busy whether you want to try and do everything or just have fun racing through the different environments to get a great picture or see how much you can push your favorite car.  I’m trying to think if I really have any complaints and I don’t.  Everything works the way it should and I enjoyed the additions to the game.  Everything is laid out nicely and is welcoming for both fans and newcomers alike.  The cars drive differently depending on a number of different factors whether it is raining thanks to the dynamic weather system, or you are racing through some sand vs. a normal road or whatever the case may be.  A Ford 1956 F-100 will obviously handle differently than a 1989 F40 Competizione Ferrari and be capable of different things as well.  If you are a Forza Horizon fan you absolutely need to play Forza Horizon 5.  Microsoft makes it really easy to do this with it being available on Game Pass on day one.  If you really aren’t much of a racing fan I still urge you to give this game a try.  You don’t have to do any racing if you don’t want to and you can simply have a lot of fun exploring the massive open world and perhaps participate in some other events that don’t come with as much pressure as a race.  Forza Horizon 5 is a lot of fun to play regardless of your experience level and, in my opinion, it is definitely a must-play title for gamers, especially if you are a Game Pass member.

Score: 10/10

Originally posted oGaming Target

Note: Microsoft provided us with a code for Forza Horizon 5 for review purposes.

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