Forza Horizon 5 (Xbox Series X)

  • Gameplay
  • Story
  • Audio
  • Visuals
  • Entertainment

Also available on Xbox One and Windows

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Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 12/12/2021 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not a car guy.  I want cars that are small and get as many miles per gallon as possible (or, ideally, an all-electric car).  Despite that, I’ve tried Forza Motorsport; I have 4 on Xbox 360 and 5 on Xbox One.  I could never get into them, though, so I never paid much mind to the series after that, and I never paid much attention to the Horizon sub-series.  All of my Forza-playing friends kept telling me that I needed to try Horizon.  “It’s not as focused on realistic simulation as Motorsport it,” they’d say.  “You can just drive in an open world,” they’d say.  Okay, I thought, that’s cool, but I’m not paying $60 for a game that I’m still not convinced I won’t hate; after all, obnoxiously realistic car stuff is still going to be as obnoxious in an open world as it is on a closed circuit.  Thanks to the incredible value of Xbox Game Pass, though, I have access to over 100 high-quality games all for one low monthly price, many of which are available on day one, and one of those high-quality games available on release day was Forza Horizon 5.  So I pulled up Game Pass, downloaded the game, and decided to see for myself if Horizon justified the hype.  In short, it does.

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Having only placed Horizon 5, I can’t say how this compares to other Forza Horizon games, but it definitely shows off the power of the Series X pretty nicely.  The game looks absolutely stunning – especially the reflections and water effects – and it runs totally smoothly.  I have yet to encounter a single instance of lag or stutter, and that’s with online connectivity enabled.  It also loads extremely fast thanks to the Series X’s internal SSD.  The game takes place in Mexico, and you’re a superstar driver – apparently the same driver who starred in at least Horizon 4 – who’s traveled to Mexico to participate in the Horizon events.  As you progress through the game and earn accolade points, you unlock different Horizon events to progress through the main game as well as side stories and loads of races, challenges, and events.  There are also a TON of cars in the game; I have nearly 80 cars unlocked so far, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface.

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My favorite part of the game is the massive amount of customization that it allows.  My driver has blue hair, two blue prosthetic legs, two blue prosthetic arms, and everyone in the game calls me by my actual name; there’s a huge list of names and nicknames that you can choose from, and one of them is “Stephen” both spelled and pronounced correctly.  That seems super minor, but it’s a VERY nice touch in my opinion.  You also have an ENORMOUS – seemingly endless, really – amount of ways to customize your cars’ appearances thanks to the liveries.  I have a Ferrari with Sunset Shimmer, my My Little Pony waifu, on it; a Porsche with Rikka from Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions; several cars with Hatsune Miku; several cars with various Pokemon; and, until I ran afoul of the game’s moderation and won myself a week in Forza jail, a boxy white Ford van that said “Cheap Candy” on the side (I knew “Free _____” was a ban, but I thought I was being cheeky and clever by saying “cheap” candy; I was just advertising discount confectionary!  Allegedly).

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The actual races can get monotonous after a while, but there’s such a variety that it’s not hard to switch up what you’re doing enough to keep things from feeling too stale.  Some races are circuits that have you race in several laps whereas others are sprints that have you race from Point A to Point B.  There are dirt races, outright off-road races, standard road races, street races (which are different from road races in that there’s other traffic to avoid), and a number of challenges that don’t involve racing against other people or AIs.  Best of all for me, you can fully customize how realistic the game is.  I turned off all of the simulation aspects and basically turned it into what almost felt like an arcade racer.  You can also adjust the difficulty of the AI opponents to fit your preference.  You get more credits from racing against harder opponents, but if you just want to relax and enjoy the driving like me, you can bump down the difficulty with no penalty aside from foregoing the credit bonus.

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I’m pretty confident in my recommendation of Forza Horizon 5.  I’m FAR from being a car guy, but it’s customizable enough that even I had a blast and easily sank probably 20 or 25 hours into the game.  Even if all you ever do is just drive around and explore the game’s version of Mexico, it’s a blast to play, collect cars, and see how fast you can drive.  You can switch between a first-person driver’s seat view, a first-person hood view, and a couple of different third-person views; and there are loads of ramps both natural and man-made that you can jump your car off of.  You can also invite Xbox Live friends to race against you which, admittedly, should be obvious for a racing game on Xbox, but I figured I’d mention it anyway.  Given that it’s on Game Pass (which every Xbox gamer and, in my opinion, PC gamer needs), it’s definitely worth giving a try.  With enough tweaking of the settings and difficulty, there’s something here for pretty much everyone.

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