Forza Horizon 5 Review: Welcome to Mexico
Forza Horizon 5 has arrived with stunning visuals, detailed environments and a massive car list. This is the most ambitious game in the franchise, and one of the best racing games ever made, my full review.
Start your engines, it’s finally time to explore Mexico like never before in Forza Horizon 5. The legendary franchise returns with roaring engines, high-octane action, and a celebration of Mexican automotive culture. All these elements come together splendidly in an all-new stunning backdrop that mixes jaw droppingly beautiful environments. From scorching deserts, lush jungles, hidden ruins, pristine beaches, vast canyons, and inside volcanos, Forza Horizon 5 has it all.
"All these elements come together splendidly in an all-new stunning backdrop that mixes jaw droppingly beautiful environments."
The locations aren’t the only exotic part of Mexico, the line up 500+ cars, trucks and other incredible rides will satisfy just about any gear head’s appetite.
It’s time to join the festivities in Playground Games biggest, most ambitious outing yet. I’ve chased the Horizon for dozens of hours and I’m ready to share my thoughts on the best racing game I've ever played.
Forza Horizon 5 Details
Platform: Microsoft Windows, Xbox One and Xbox Series X | S
Become a Horizon Festival legend
Right from the start of the Horizon career experience Playground Games puts the pedal to the metal and doesn’t slow down. Depending on your history with the series the narrative either addresses you as a returning star from Horizon 4, or a plucky newcomer looking to build a name for yourself.
Drop it like it’s hot
The game opens with a Forza Horizon cargo plane dropping cars out of the sky into lush environments that you get to preview. The sense of scale, unique environments and different vehicles offer players a taste of what they can expect upfront, it's hard to put the game down the moment you boot it up. Other games in the series have opened in a similar cinematic manner, offering a sampler of adrenaline-soaked experiences that await. Forza Horizon 5 continues in this tradition offering players different off-road and supercars to test out on the way to opening the festival.
"The sense of scale, unique environments and different vehicles offer players a taste of what they can expect upfront, it's hard to put the game down the moment you boot it up."
A deeper level of customization
Once you arrive you are met with a slew of options to customize your driver and pick your first ride. The player customization has been greatly improved, your driver even has their own lines of dialogue this time around. Unfortunately, they are limited to one male and female voice, but it still injects a lot more character into the experience. One aspect that really stood out to me with character customization is the addition gender (+ gender neutral) identity options and limb prosthetics. Sadly, a very small number of games have incorporated this, and it was great to see more inclusion in Forza Horizon.
RPG racing elements
The RPG-like elements are back when it comes to building the cosmetic appearance of your character and vehicle. Through competition you’ll unlock wheelspins that will deliver prizes in the form of cash, cars and character cosmetics. You can also buy properties around the map and become a full-blown racing mogul. All these elements add up to a beautiful world that you want to continue to explore, race and unlock things in. The gameplay loop is extremely satisfying, offering plenty of variety and unique rewards to keep drivers returning again and again.
"The gameplay loop is extremely satisfying, offering plenty of variety and unique rewards to keep drivers returning again and again."
Content for miles
The career mode in Forza Horizon 5 is extremely deep offering aspiring and professional drivers an incredible amount of content. You can sink hours into the experience as you work your way to the top of the Horizon Festival. What’s more is that you can pick the style of races you wish to engage in right from the start. Looking to off-road? Establish a BAJA outpost first and get ready to sling some mud. Street racing more of your thing? Start with some Fast and Furious style showdowns in more urban environments first.
Mexico's rich biodiversity
The environments in Forza Horizon 5 are vibrant and diverse making up Forza Horizon’s largest open-world yet. There are 11 distinct biomes from living deserts to lush jungles and historic cities like Guanajuato. Along with the stunning vistas players experience Dynamic Weather and Seasons as the story progresses.
Weather events from dust storms to torrential rain impacts gameplay offering a greater challenge, which transforming the environment. In one showcase event I was blazing a trail through a jungle with lighting striking the path in front of me and debris whipping up everywhere. The weather effects and breakneck speed of the vehicle culminated into some seriously beautiful chaos.
"The weather effects and breakneck speed of the vehicle culminated into some seriously beautiful chaos."
As you tackle all these unique challenges, you’ll meet new characters forge your own racing path via Horizon Story missions. and take on awe-inspiring weather events such as towering dust storms and intense tropical storms as Mexico’s unique, dynamic seasons change the world every week.
Horizon is for everyone
From the outset with a more inclusive character creation tool, the message is clear from Playground Games: Horizon is for everyone. Full disclosure, I am no means an “accessibility expert” but the options available to include a broader audience of differently abled gamers is truly inspiring. There are modes that reduce the game speed, accommodate color blindness, high contrast modes to help with menu legibility and more. It’s great to see that Playground Games carefully crafted an experience to include as many gamers as possible.
The cars and environments have seen some incredible upgrades thanks to the power of the Xbox Series X. Players are given a choice in which Graphics Mode they wish to experience Horizon 5 in. You can pick either Quality Mode (higher graphics fidelity, 30 fps) and Performance Mode (lower graphics fidelity, 60 fps).
I opted to go with Quality Mode, I am a huge photo mode buff and wanted to get every detail in my shots. The game never disappointed when it comes to visuals. It’s astonishing how massive the open world environment is, and everything from the framerate and visual effects are so polished and rock solid.
"The game never disappoints when it comes to visuals. It’s astonishing how massive the open world environment is, and everything from the frame rate and visual effects are so polished and rock solid."
This is also the first time the series has implemented ray tracing, the results are stunning adding incredible reflections on vehicles. Ray tracing effects are only available in the ForzaVista gallery mode, but if you are a photo mode fanatic like me, get ready for some gems:
ForzaTech: The engine that drives Horizon 5
In FH5, everything looks picture perfect, coming closer than ever to their real-life counterparts. This is thanks to the ForzaTech engine. The graphics engine stands and delivers amazing visuals every time, no matter what biome you are adventuring through there is always incredible details to behold. Whether going 200 MPH or pulling over and counting the needles on a cactus, the game always looks stunning, it’s just that much painstaking detail included at every turn.
""Whether going 200 MPH or pulling over and counting the needles on a cactus, the game always looks stunning, it’s just that much painstaking detail included at every turn."
This is especially apparent with weather effects and night racing; the light reflections look great. Jungle environments are also densely packed with vegetation and volumetric fog, you can just feel the heat and humidity of certain spots.
In terms of sound design, the cars, environments and soundtrack are all spectacular. All the vehicles have their own very distinct sound along with ambient noise of each biome. The environmental sound effects are so rich that if you stop your car and close your eyes and listen, you’ll be able to pick out which environment you are in.
Forza Horizon 5 offers a few different new online to face off against human opponents. This installment introduces the brand-new Horizon Arcade delivering mini-games strewn across the map. One example is the extremely fun "Piñata pop" where the Horizon cargo plane drops Piñatas to bust open with your vehicle.
"One example is the extremely fun "Piñata pop" where the Horizon cargo plane drops Piñatas to bust open with your vehicle.
The goal is to crack open more than your opponents in a race again the clock, it’s fun and immensely satisfying. “EventLab” has also been introduced allowing players to mix and match elements to create their very own multiplayer experience.
Playground Games has done it again with Forza Horizon 5 delivering an incredible, thrilling racing experience. This latest entry in the series takes lessons of the past and culminates into the best racing game I have ever played.
"This latest entry in the series takes lessons of the past and culminates into the best racing game I have ever played."
The presentation is stunning from incredible graphics to inspired art direction that pays homage to a lot of Mexican culture and automotive traditions. Forza Horizon 5 really shines with its excellent gameplay and challenging driver AI. The racing is fun and addictive, the open world formula still keeps Forza Horizon 5 in the winner’s circle and one of the top contenders for Game of the Year.
Chase that Horizon, you won’t regret a moment of the experience!
Forza Horizon 5 Pros
+ Stunning Graphics
+ Superb, high intensity gameplay
+ Incredibly detailed environments
+ Online play adds excellent longevity to an already content rich game
Forza Horizon 5 Cons
-Certain races can get repetitive especially in contrast to incredible showcase events
Overall Game Score
A copy of the game was provided by Xbox for the purpose of this review.