Forza Horizon 5 was released just the other week and as I wait for Halo Infinite’s campaign to drop, I thought now would be a good time to get outside my comfort zone a little bit. Besides the handful of entries in the Need for Speed series and Split/Second (fun game, I highly recommend), I don’t have a ton of experience in the racing genre. I had never played a Forza game either, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I dove into this 100 GB download.
Because of this, I’m not comfortable making a regular review for this. There is a lot of stuff I still don’t understand when it comes to car performance just because I don’t know much about cars. However, I wanted to share my thoughts and give a general idea of how I think it could be scored from a non-car person.
You Are the Star of the Show
I’m used to games like this to start you at the bottom and have you work your way up, however, Forza Horizon 5 makes it a point to say that you are already a big name. You come into the festival driving several vehicles from your personal collection that are dropped off of planes. You drive through deserts, jungles, and roads to get to the festival outpost.
It’s a great little taste of what kind of driving you can expect to see through the game. I was immediately drawn into the experience this way and it helped to expose me to different driving types and races that I might have put off again for more familiar race types.
There are road races, dirt races, and cross country races but then these can change based on their routes (whether they are circuit or sprints), environmental changes, and the class of car that you choose. Initially, I got so excited when I unlocked a car in the S tier class because I thought I was going to tear through the next couple of races. However, while lining up at the starting line, all I saw were other sports cars and when we started, they all kept up with me.
See Forza, unlike the Need for Speed games that I am used to, actually wants you to know how to race versus just making the most brokenly fast car in the game. I had to become comfortable racing with a variety of cars because there is no one-size-fits-all vehicle for all of the races.
There was a bit of trial and error and I did get a little frustrated at times but luckily Forza offers something for us dummies. It recommends vehicles from a variety of classes that you might want to try out. These aren’t necessarily the best ones, but they might be better than choosing that Ferrari for the cross country dirt race.
The best part of the single-player experience has to be the showcases for me. These are events that feature a specific car and use the environment and spectacle to deliver a setpiece for Forza. The one Showcase had me racing through the jungle against people on jetskis who were crisscrossing over my path, water splashing onto my hud and windshield. Or another had me racing a plane through the mountains in a dust storm. These were my favorite and I was a little sad when I completed the last one because from then on, it was the standard race affair.
The Online Functions Are Helpful in Single-Player
See, you can tune your car based on your preferences, but with the scaling bars and numbers, I was lost. I had no idea how to make these cars the best they could be; however, Forza lets you share your custom tunings or vehicles online, so for people like me, we can see what the smarter people are doing and download their stuff. This was a game-changer, and it made the game a lot more accessible for me.
Speaking of which, almost everything is shareable in Forza. From custom race routes, car designs, tunings, race types, etc., these elements help to bring a community aspect to Forza that I rarely see in games nowadays (to this extent). These things don’t disrupt the single-player experience, but you’ll often feel connected to the community at large.
If you are online, you might even see other people racing around working on races or challenges. Just last night, I was trying to get to my car on top of a rock for a challenge, and another person was trying to figure out how to do the same.
We took turns watching each other as we puzzled it out, and eventually, when I made it up, he used one of the game’s pre-made messages to congratulate me. It was a sweet moment, and I really appreciate how Forza just feels like one big group of friends, hanging out and enjoying the game.
There are leaderboards for a number of things like the PR stunts, which challenge you to hit certain speeds, achieve enough points in a drift route, or launch your vehicle a certain distance and some of them are really challenging. I have a few high school friends who are huge car people, and they make up the top of my leaderboard for most of these. But whenever I get a nice score and take their spot, I feel like I’m on top of the world.
These are all little things that Forza implements that make people feel connected without them having to waste their time in online lobbies or pause gameplay but still help to enhance someone’s experience. There are online races, of course, but I didn’t really participate except for The Eliminator, which is Forza’s Battle Royale, which was less than enjoyable for me.
I like the idea, but since you are at the mercy of whatever cars you can find before the final race, it feels more luck-based than other battle royales. For instance, in Warzone, you can outplay someone no matter the weapon, but in Forza, you aren’t going to outrace someone in a straight path unless they hit a tree. It can be a little frustrating, and if it wasn’t for the fact there was an achievement for winning, I wouldn’t be playing it.
On the Road to Perfection
I was on the fence about whether I was going to get all the achievements when I started, but I was enjoying everything so much that by the time I reached the end, I was close to having over half of them anyway. The only things that I have left are things like smashing all the boards, which essentially tasks you with finding experience boards or fast travel boards around the map.
Most of them are on the side of the road, but some of them are in obnoxious places like in some powerlines or on top of a tower, and you need to launch your car into the air to reach them. Thankfully, if you have the right launch point and car, you can rewind the game until you get the perfect angle. It helps make it much less tedious than if you had to drive around each time.
There are a number of photo challenges, too, but it seems like community members have prepared events that help to get all of these without any issues. These custom races help to remove a lot of the guess work and luck from some of these achievements where I might have otherwise given up.
This achievement list, for the most part, is one that enhances my experience of the game as it forces me to get outside of my comfort zone (road races and speed traps) and play everything else. I might not have done more than one drift zone or dirt race if it wasn’t for achievements that required these. I had to get good or live with seeing the incomplete score on my gamercard, and I’m glad I did because I learned to enjoy a lot of the different aspects of this game that I might not have otherwise.
I only had a couple of tiny nitpicks about the game, like how the radio often felt very samey. There are different stations, but I couldn’t distinguish whether they actually played different music or not. There is like one or two rock songs, while the rest is like pop/electronic, which is okay, but the selection could use some work. There are a couple of songs that had like a grand total of six lyrics, and every time these came up (or even worse were the tracks for a specific event), I was in tears.
Also, it seems like all the top-speed cars are locked behind a chance wheel. I wasn’t able to finish the final speed traps for quite some time just because I didn’t have a vehicle that could hit 270 mph. I had to do nearly every challenge in the game before I finally got one car that could reach those speeds, while it seems like a couple of my friends got them within their first few days. You can’t buy these vehicles in the store (at least the in-game currency store); they can only be awarded randomly, which seems like a huge misstep. They should at least be ridiculously expensive to purchase.
Forza Horizon 5 surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. Whether it was a simple road race, a cross country dirt race through several biomes, or a Showcase setpiece, I found a ton to do and enjoy here. The community all appear fairly helpful and fun to race alongside. I just wish there were a few less repetitive challenges near the end, and the music varied more so I didn’t have to hear the same songs every time I restarted a race. 9/10