Game Review: Forza Horizon 5

Release date: 2021
Version played: Xbox Series X in 2021

The fifth entry in Microsoft and Playground Games Forza Motorsport spin off series takes over Mexico in Forza Horizon 5. Continuing on as the same customisable ‘superstar’ driver from Australia and the UK (in the third and fourth games, respectively), players can race across the desert sands, through the humid rainforests and explore the ancient ruins of an expansive world map. There are hundreds of cars to collect, bonus objectives to complete, and side missions to conquer en route to a Hall of Fame worthy career. As in previous games, stunts such as drift zones (cumulative scoring), speed traps (single point high scores) and danger signs (long distance yeeting yourself off a ramp or cliff) return, some now including a few extra requirements such as specific cars or maximum car statistics. It’s a big world world out there, racers.

+ Mexico overall is a fantastic new location to explore, with deserts and beaches much more similar to the third game than the fourth. The winding streets of the (sadly, only one) city, the beach-side towns and open road highways made for exhilarating races and exploration.
+ mechanically, driving is more of the same, but that’s fine; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There are over 500 cars to pick and choose from, with near unlimited customisation options available to tune the car to be exactly as you want it to be. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably just stick to finding one of the top rated tunes online and downloading that to use – just make sure you send a ‘Like’ across to the creator
+ in terms of customisation, the game seems kind of hit and miss. I am more than happy just giving my car a custom paint job, maybe with a simple vinyl shape or two thrown in (such as my favourite ‘Goldilocks’ design I made in FH3, and have continued to import to future games). Some recent (November 2021) online copyright issues have seen some of the top livery creators banned from the game, and I’ll be keeping an eye out on how that plays out. Because driving around with a Pikachu, Thor or simply a big tiddy anime girl on my car has been fun at times as well

– every single character is hideous. I struggled to find just one avatar I could stand looking at, and was overjoyed at the option to put a Luchadore mask on them first chance I got. I have no issues with things like pronouns/prosthetic limbs to customise (thought I do question how many people were clamouring for the latter) but their inclusion at the cost of only having one single character voice, ostensibly “male” or “female” without that label, was incredibly disappointing. I opted to dress my avatar up in the piñata style chicken suit, because none of the ‘real’ clothes looked good on them anyway
– the gratuitous <español> in the writing from the characters is incredibly frustrating, and almost comes across a little patronising. Whether they characters simple insert a single Spanish word into their sentences, or bang on about <la familia> like some sort of Fast and Furious knockoff meme, it feels like the developers just want to remind you that this takes place <en Mexico> every chance they get, <amigo>. I’ve been learning Spanish for a while now, so I guess it did sort of help in that regard
– forgive a bit of a humble brag, but all of the side activities are just too easy. I got three stars on every speed zone, speed trap, drift zone, danger sign, trailblazer and side story with no more than two tries where necessary. Most of the stunts were able to be done in the one same car, too
– there is some horrendous pop-in in the world, to the point even a non-gamer friend saw and was like “Why are the trees loading like that?” At any higher speeds, it can appear like the draw distance for quality assets like is barely a few metres from your car, which is a real shame considering this was something touted as a selling point for the XSX
– even now, some few weeks after launch, there are a lot of online/connectivity issues. I can’t seem to stay in an online race for very long without at least two players disconnecting (even when they are in first, so I doubt it’s a rage quit thing) and the Horizon Life or whatever it’s called seems to only work half the time. The game feels empty without other real life players around. Perhaps related is that the ‘Rivals’ you can face are sometimes said to take 25 minutes to complete something which I could do in 3 minutes; I’m good, but I’m not that much better than the average pleb. I assume something went wrong
– similarly to the above, the ‘Accolades’ (how you move up the global leaderboards) are currently very broken now as well, with several refusing to unlock even when the conditions are met. They are known issues, sure, so this isn’t currently a huge issue, but the longer I have to wait the more annoyed I’m going to get

> due to the new accessibility options, races can be completed “AFK” (ie. by pressing down the accelerator and leaving the game running, with the tricky use of some rubber bands or hair ties). Unfortunately this means that all of the best tuning options are based on doing that, not racing yourself

Should you play this game: I realise there are more negatives above than positive, but simply put, this is more of the racing gameplay that fans of the series know, in a world that is both larger and more varied than the previous game. I loved FH3, and tolerated FH4 only so far as it was something to do, but this game is a return to form for the series. I’ve played it daily since launch, and I don’t see that stopping any time soon. Once the few connectivity/leaderboard issues are solved, this will only be even better.

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