Forza Horizon 5 does not renege on the formula of its predecessor, and indeed he embraces it in all respects, simply deciding to move the great car festival he talks about from the verdant expanses of Great Britain to the breathtaking views of Mexico. After all, what reason would he have to change? The structure perfected over the years by PlayGround Games is so compelling – and above all still fresh and exciting – that to disavow it would simply be a big mistake. Once we started a new game, thanks to the code that Microsoft gave us in preview for a week, it took Forza Horizon 5 very few hours to win us over.
An adventure on four wheels
The new adventure begins, as we have already seen, with a breathtaking ride to the main location of the Horizon festival, punctuated by four different “releases”: the player alternates with the control of a poker of cars that are literally parachuted over the Mesoamerican regions. Whether it’s a jeep launched on the slopes of a volcano, or an off-road race in the middle of the jungle, the introductory part is very linear and spectacular, designed to give a first taste of the variety and light-heartedness that characterize the production.
Soon we will move on to creating the character, with an editor not exactly overflowing with options but who finally takes a few steps in the direction of inclusiveness, testifying a commitment to expand the representativeness of the avatars. Once the usual formulas have been completed, such as the choice of the initial car and the customization of the license plate, the game finally leaves us free to go around the map. Even before starting the campaign, therefore, we decide to run around aimlessly in this virtual Mexico. The work of characterizing the environments of Forza Horizon 5 is as always impressive: PlayGround Games now manages, in every iteration of the franchise, to capture and digitize a unique atmosphere, with an extremely recognizable and distinctive character. It is true that in some cases, darting along the sunny beaches or in the hinterland jungles, memories of the Australian episode resurface in the memory, but we absolutely cannot speak of déjà vu.
Indeed, whether it is small villages perched along mountain roads, or impressive Mayan pyramids that appear – majestic – just at the edge of the woods, or even endless steppes dotted with cacti, the spaces of Forza Horizon 5 have their own and eloquent identity. The darker colors of the lava rocks, the bright ones of the houses that follow one another in the overcrowded city in the center of the map, the relaxed ones of the tourist resorts that arise in the more “tame” areas: the environment is truly wonderful and properly characterized, with 11 different biomes that contribute to concretely diversify the game map. To this we must obviously add the system of seasonal variations, to have the profile of a monumental product, in terms of both visual variety and activity.
Beyond the raids without intentions, the time comes to compete with the Forza Horizon 5 campaign, whose structure does not differ from that typical of the series. We start with a couple of Stories to choose from: these are small events with a more narrative breath, which focus on the history of the place or on some mythological car to be recovered, alternating with extreme naturalness to the open world activities and competitions. various types.
As always, the latter represent the beating heart of the adventure: the game proceeds “in stages”, asking you to face some competition, to beat speed records and to shatter billboards scattered along the streets before being able to participate in one of the main phases. of the Festival. Once you pass the main event, generally very spectacular and slightly more challenging than the other road competitions, new activities will be unlocked in another region of the map, and so on.
The “magic” of Forza Horizon, which is rediscovered unchanged also in this iteration, is its innate ability to pull you into an inexhaustible vortex of events and races: whether it is laps launched on the circuit or off-road racing on stony and impervious, or even small rivalries with the Drivatars (which can be challenged on the fly at the push of a button), the PlayGround Games title manages to selectively remove downtime and keep you glued to the screen.
The rhythmic but never excessive soundtrack, exquisitely pop and so careful to select accommodating sounds, perfectly accompanies this journey that alternates moments of vibrant relaxation, disengaged “juggling” and furious competitiveness.
The driving model and the progression system
Keeping your hands tight around the pad is not only the structure, but also the driving model perfected by the development team. That in Forza Horizon’s DNA there is also a pinch of Turn 10, which lent its technology to the Leamington kids before letting them go on their own energy, you can feel it right away.
Despite the arcade attitude, the difference between the cars can be felt: there are vintage sports cars that “straight ahead” with decision, snappy and nervous roadsters, coupes prone to easy drift and four-wheel drive beasts that do not break down even in front of the harsher than the land. Forza Horizon 5’s fleet is not only huge (there are over 500 models to buy), it’s also well-featured. And the accessibility of the driving system (amplified by the number of options linked to the difficulty) invites the user to browse carefully, discovering with great pleasure the differences on the track between a front and a rear wheel drive. Thanks to this enchanting pleasure, every new car that is granted to us is a little surprise to try in the next event, or to launch at full speed between the desert and the chaparral.
The progression system too contributes to the soft addiction of Forza Horizon 5: every action, every race, every close collision and every curve brushed to perfection increase the count of experience points, which can be invested in the various cars to get bonuses. The accumulation of credits is calculated to make it possible to unlock new cars with reasonable consistency, and just when the pace slows down a bit there is a “wheel of fortune” that moves things a bit.
In short, Forza Horizon 5 manages to trigger a craving for collecting that pushes you to play again and again, participating in this great colorful and flamboyant celebration. Without ever wanting to propose itself as an interactive car museum, since the museum lacks the institutionality, the game certainly has an encyclopedic twist, underlined as always by the Forzavista mode, full celebration of each of the cars present in the game.
Before closing it is right to talk about technical department of Forza Horizon 5, given that this is the first episode of the saga (as well as the macro-brand Forza) to debut on the next generation platforms. We tested this chapter on the two Next-Gen hardware, while we reserve the right to make performance comparisons on Xbox One at the time of writing. Before starting a game, Forza Horizon 5 prompts the user to choose between “Graphics mode” and “Performance mode”. A decision that will have an extremely disruptive effect on the glance.
In both modes the game runs at dynamic resolution, aiming for 4K as the maximum native resolution. The framerate, on the other hand, is fixed at 60fps in performance mode, and at 30fps in Graphics mode. The default option is the latter, and frankly we do not hesitate to understand why: right from the start, the game literally leaves you speechless for the scenic impact and the complexity of the rendering. The fog and volumetric effects, combined with state-of-the-art lighting, give an unparalleled fullness to the scenarios, despite the incredible depth of the horizon. The very high resolution assets make each material credible, the reflections on the bodywork are precise and convincing, the density of the vegetation leaves you amazed. There is a bit of pop-up mainly related to shadows and level of detail: as you get closer to the trackside objects, they tend to accumulate polygonal detail. At speed, however, it is very difficult to notice these burrs. As for the fluidity, we noticed a lot of clicks in the initial sequence, but very few framedrop during the rest of our test, in which the game maintained a constant fluidity, while maintaining good responsiveness of the controls and a great sense of speed. In short, at 30fps in Graphics mode, we can say without fear of denial that we have found ourselves in front of a product in which the generational leap on a visual level it is perceived powerfully.
The situation is different for the Performance option: in this case to get 60fps you have to give up many of the features we have listed above. The abandonment of RayTracing, which is however limited only to Forzavista mode, is the least of the compromises. The point is that the lighting is much flatter, the assets and textures have a definitely lower resolution, volumetric fog and dust disappear in favor of less conspicuous effects, and the pop-up on the edge of the track increases considerably.
It would be unfair to say that Forza Horizon 5 loses its polish, but it is clear that in terms of detail – in Performance mode – the results are much closer to those of the previous episode, for an evidently cross-generational glance. Of course, the 60fps accompanied by the resolution are an element to consider, but it is good to know that the sacrifices to obtain these results are many and evident.
On Serie S the situation is substantially unchanged, with the only difference of the resolution, always dynamic but oriented to 1080p. We would have liked that PlayGround Games tried to go up to 1440p, but we must say that the level of optimization is more than good, so much so that even in Graphics mode the small shots recorded on Series X almost completely disappear. in a still preliminary phase, and that in recent weeks the development team will continue to work on product optimization.
We will take this time to decide which mode we prefer to play Forza Horizon 5: while 60fps is invaluable in a driving game, the idea of having a glance that takes a clear step forward in technical terms is very tempting. . After all, the magnetic and enveloping Mexico modeled by PlayGround Games it deserves that kind of detail and fullness. Whatever our (and your) choice, we’re sure this new installment of the series will keep us busy all winter.