Playground games are back at it again, living up to their titular expectations; giving us a Mexican playground consisting of 11 biomes and plenty of new toys to race around.
Back in the early signs of Autumn 2018 we were able to get stuck into the seasonal masterpiece that was Forza Horizon 4, showcasing our home-turf and exploring the many areas of the North was a pleasure for the Britons. But only year or so after the release of FH4 the world was struck by COVID and the spell that the British biome had on us began to wear off; it was all many of us got to see. Then, just as airports began to open up, we caught the humid wind of Playground Games’ Forza Horizon 5, a charming, high octane, Mexico-angled racing fiesta coming to Xbox and PlayStation consoles on the 9th of November.
What is Forza Horizon 5?
The game’s release trailer exhibited some unbelievably majestic environments all featuring in the game’s Mexico map, gliding us through a myriad of biomes, paradisiacal beaches, the historical city of Guanajuato, chasmic desert canyons and into some sweaty swamps and diverse foliage. What’s more, each biome is distinctively affected by shifts in the seasons – some areas even become inaccessible by car during the wet season. Forza Horizon 5 is no exception to the varied and transforming landscape the series is known for, instead it develops on its esteemed reputation even further – and the result is undeniably beautiful. I’ve rarely found staying on the road so tough, but it is so principally because our surroundings can’t help but captivate us; blue skies are a rarer sight in the UK, rarer still are beach shacks gently lapped by crystal clear waves. It’s a mouth-watering prospect for most of us, going as far to make us slightly jealous of our character drivers.
'Forza Horizon 5 is no exception to the varied and transforming landscape the series is known for, instead it develops on its esteemed reputation even further – and the result is undeniably beautiful.'
How does the game look?
We had thought the views in the Forza Horizon 4 game were brilliant, but the lush excellence, the seamless transition of the proud biomes and the rolling hills of seaside Mexico are just astounding. The best part? You get to drive (fast) through it. Even the roads look the part let alone the colourful ebullience of the Mexican towns. More, the villages don’t seem void of all life as they have done in past games; I can’t put my finger on how, but there is a subtle social energy permeating the many roads and streets we screech down. We are also very glad to see Forza Horizon 5 to be free from the sepia tinge that seems to be the penchant of any Hollywood film set in Mexico – even denizens of the areas depicted voice their praises of the game’s authenticity.
I've heard a lot about the map. Are the rumours true?
Waving around the medal for both the highest point, the Gran Caldera Volcano, and the largest map in any Forza game to date, Forza Horizon 5 is a genre-topping title, and seriously – the map is colossal. The game’s veins are made of 599 roads as opposed to its predecessor who consisted of 531 – a 10% increase if you were wondering. What is more statistically impressive is that Forza Horizon 5 is 50% larger in map size than the previous game, totalling 107 square kilometres of drivable space. Get this: the map literally spans from the East to West coastline of Mexico! Yeah, we are thinking the same thing here: that is insane! Journeys from point-to-point are often short in length but can at points reach up to over 10 miles – and that’s a realistic measurement. Furnishing the map further is a series of seasonal weather events, including dynamic dust storms, a typical feature of the game, as well as a fresh collection of daring driving missions this time ostensibly revolving around the driving out of planes. The map is also peppered with notable landmarks, including Olmec/Aztec/Inca era temples, who cheekily play a game of air hockey with your attention while you zoom past at 180mph. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
'Get this: the map literally spans from the East to West coastline of Mexico! Yeah, we are thinking the same thing here: that is insane!'
How does the game play? Are there any new cars?
Unsurprisingly, the driving mechanics are as satisfying as they have always been, but the pedestrian AI drivers are now slightly more plentiful and display better responsiveness. We have a wider, updated array of cars to earn and purchase off the forecourt; the all-electric 2020 Porsche Taycan Turbo S, the Formula One hybrid car Mercedes-AMG ONE and the elusive 1992 Jaguar Sport XJR-15 all show among others what’s under their bonnets for the first time. Cars feel even more agile and properly weighted, feeling totally different as they should by make and model. The Forza Horizon series really has a knack for keeping driving as stimulating as it always was, and it does this in part by allowing you to test out a wide range of cars, liveries, and tuning set-ups. I only hope that the game exercises slightly more patience in giving you 1000HP this time around; I was driving Lamborghini’s within a few hours in FH4. Regardless, negotiating the hilly and winding roads of the buena onda villages and cities is an untiring privilege, particularly so when we do so in our favourite cars.
'The Forza Horizon series really has a knack for keeping driving as stimulating as it always was, and it does this in part by allowing you to test out a wide range of cars, liveries, and tuning set-ups.'
It's important to me that the game sounds right. Does it?
Donning the same simple yet masterful interface as it has before, Forza Horizon 5 looks and sounds crisp, especially seeing as the game implements both visual and auditory Raytracing features. Sound? Raytraced? Yeah, I know – but this is Forza we are talking about, remember? The notoriously groovy in-game radio returns with a music genre to suit any player, my personal favourite being Horizon Pulse because it featured ODESZA tracks, meaning we can zoom about accompanied by some cracking tunes. The real joy of gameplay lies not in radio, though – it lies in hearing the roar of our car engines crackle and reverberate off tunnel walls and canyon cliffs, and this pleasure is only amplified in engine upgrades achieved through attaining enough credits or skill points.
Make sure you stay in gear with your foot on the biting point for the 5th of November, the day that will leave rubbery smoke behind it as Forza Horizon 5 goes from 0-60mph in 2.6 seconds. The Forza Horizon series has been in pole position as far as open world driving games go, and Forza Horizon 5 looks to add a few seconds more onto the game’s victory lap. On paper, the Horizon concept should be becoming a bit prosaic by now, yet the truth is that Playground Games have kept the gold dust and given us a good deal more novelty in Forza Horizon 5. Almost a million players have pre-downloaded the game as of the official 9th of November release, speaking volumes about the sheer quality of both game and series. Don't miss out on the horsepower, find the Forza Horizon 5 here.