Forza Horizon 5 Review

Dan Webb

Developer Playground Games has made explosive openings something of a Forza Horizon signature. The studio arguably peaked with the blistering intro to Forza Horizon 4, but the opening to its latest open-world racing sandbox, takes that, and blows it right out of the water. From the very first few seconds of playing Forza Horizon 5, the adventure begins in typically ostentatious style.


Forza Horizon 5 looks predictably stunning.

In true Playground Games fashion, the first few minutes of Horizon 5 see you bouncing between a variety of vehicles as you speed your way to the eponymous Horizon Festival. But this isn’t merely a simple case of switching between vehicles this time around - instead you’re dropping out of planes, driving through sandstorms, racing through an active volcano. Essentially, you're experiencing the most dramatic moments that Forza Horizon 5 has to offer in a single eye-watering action sequence.

From there, Forza Horizon 5 takes you on a whistle-stop tour of everything you'd normally expect from the series, dashing from a trademark Forza Showcase in which you race a cargo plane, to seat-of-the-pants storm-chasing, and then straight into locating an iconic barn find. This is what Forza Horizon does best, and what it’s all about – and your introduction to the fifth game in the series is not only straight-up brilliant; it's the best in the series to date.

Forza Horizon 5 sees the Horizon Festival upping sticks to leave behind the rainy country lanes of good ol’ Britain, and jetting off to the far sunnier climes of Mexico. As a Brit, I was admittedly a wee bit sad to leave Horizon 4's northern UK playground behind, but it didn’t take me long to fall head-over-heels for FH5's vibrant Mexico. The diversity in its open-world just can’t be rivalled by Britain, as much as it pains me to say. The expansive deserts, the towering volcano at the centre of the map, the dense jungle, the sparkling beach resorts, the cobbled streets lined with colourful buildings, the swathes of verdant farmland, the labyrinth of underground tunnels... The list goes on; Forza Horizon 5’s Mexico has got it all.

As with previous iterations, whatever your poison, Forza Horizon 5 has you covered. There are road races; street races, which throw up varying weather effects and times of day; there are off-road races; drift zones; speed traps; barn finds to seek out; trailblazing events; and a ton of different story events, too (like the stunt driver stuff from Horizon 4), and so much more besides. Everything you’d want from a Horizon game, Forza Horizon 5 has you covered, and then some.


And if simply messing around is more your bag, you'll find all of the usual multiplayer trappings to delve into, ranging from straight-up races and the Horizon Arcade, to party-style games. And thanks to the post-launch additions made to Forza Horizon 4, Forza’s battle royale-inspired 'The Eliminator' mode also makes a triumphant return. And yes, it can all be enjoyed in co-op with friends, as well, if you like.

Should you somehow grow bored of all that, there’s a ton of user-generated content to discover, from differing takes on events, to more challenge-focused creations – like driving from A to B without taking too much damage. The truth is that Forza Horizon 5’s launch will only be the beginning for the game, and thanks to some nifty tools, there’ll be more and more content added as the community gets its mitts on it. We’re genuinely excited to jump into a Horizon Super7 (a series of community-made challenges) in a few months, when people have gotten to grips with the nuances of Horizon 5 and its editor. And yes, like previous iterations, if you’re a tuner, livery artist, or whatever, you’re covered there too. The point is, Forza Horizon 5 doesn’t scrimp on content, and there’s enough here to potentially last you months, if not years.

What Horizon 5 probably does scrimp on, however, is anything truly fresh or innovative. Sure, Forza Horizon 5 does introduce a few new things, mainly its adventurous ‘Expeditions’ which are more exploration-based events that see you storm-chasing, driving into the heart of a volcano, or exploring Aztec and Mayan ruins in beautiful Mexico, but these are sadly too few and far between. In fact, it seems that Playground Games has dialled back on the one thing that really stands out in its Horizon games: the Showcase events. Forza Horizon 5 has only four. A measly four! And that is truly a shame.


Thunderbolts of lightning, very very frightening.

Aside from completing Expeditions and setting up Horizon outposts, you won't find a significant number of new innovations here, although Playground has doubled down on the impressive story missions from Forza Horizon 4, which is great to see. That said, if it ain’t broke, then why fix it? And if there's one thing that's certain, it's that Forza Horizon 5 is not even a little broken - au contraire, it's as good as it’s ever been. In fact, it's quite easily one of the finest Forza Horizon games that Playground has ever made.

That’s the thing about Forza Horizon 5 - it’s like a Forza Horizon greatest hits album. The handling and fundamental mechanics remain unrivalled; the cars are still absolutely stunning; and as for Mexico as an environment… well, it’s honestly a bit mind-blowing – especially on new-gen consoles (although it works perfectly on the lower-end Xbox One S console, too). Ultimately, it’s hard to fault Forza Horizon 5 at all. Sure, it may not be brimming with exciting innovations, but it’s packed to the rafters with the entire franchise's most memorable, compelling content, informed by everything that Playground Games has learned over the last nine years. Forza Horizon is most definitely a jewel in Xbox's crown, and Forza Horizon 5 is quite possibly the shiniest of them all.

Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 5 is like a greatest hits compilation of the entire Forza Horizon series. From the opening seconds when you're dropped from a cargo plane, to the moment you put down the controller, you’ll become transfixed by everything that Mexico has to offer. From racing through the cobbled streets of Guanajuato to flying off the side of La Gran Caldera, Forza Horizon 5 is a slice of sheer racing brilliance. Again.

Form widget
92%
Audio
90%

I’ll be honest, the Horizon 5 soundtrack didn’t grab me from the start, but after a few hours, I was sold. Foo Fighters, Dua Lipa, the brilliant Jungle, Beastie Boys, and so on. The depth is scary! Oh, and the cars sound stunning too, obviously.

Visuals
95%

Whether you opt for performance mode on Xbox Series X or quality mode, the game is an absolute stunner. It looks great on Xbox One X and even the One S, too!

Playability
95%

There is no better racing franchise out there. It’s as simple as that. I do wish that Playground would do away with the faux-rubberbanding, though.

Delivery
90%

Not a lot of innovation this time around, but a ton of events, things to do, places to see, and all your old favourites have returned. Forza Horizon 5 is a veritable treasure trove of sensational content.

Achievements
70%

A very different list this time from Playground Games. On the surface it seems less grindy, but what is apparent is that it's definitely going to be trickier than usual. This is thanks in no small part to achievements like winning an Eliminator and winning six races against 'unbeatable' AI. For the most part we’re a fan, except for maybe smashing all 250 Bonus Boards (50 more than last time). Yikes!

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