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Forza Horizon 5 review (On PC): Una obra maestra

Forza Horizon 5 elevates the driving game experience despite using the same formula. Now available on Xbox and PC, but is it worth buying?
By AMRITANSHU MUKHERJEE
Updated on Nov 18 2021, 08:46 AM IST
Forza Horizon 5 is available right now for Xbox Game Pass members (starting at 489 per month), or on Steam for 3,499 for the Standard variant. Quite a tempting price but is it worth it? (Amritanshu / HT Tech)
Forza Horizon 5 is available right now for Xbox Game Pass members (starting at 489 per month), or on Steam for 3,499 for the Standard variant. Quite a tempting price but is it worth it? (Amritanshu / HT Tech)

Picture this. It’s a lovely sunny day across the sea coast, with seagulls floating across the mild winds, and the peaceful rustle of the palm leaves. A narrow coastal road alongside is paving the way for a bright yellow McLaren 720S Spyder with its top down, and lovely Mexican music on the radio. Perfect, isn’t it? That’s Forza Horizon 5 for you in brief; an experience that no other racer has managed to recreate (yet).

After redefining the arcade racer genre over the last 10 years, Playground Games is back with Forza Horizon 5 in 2021 and what a sequel it is to the mighty Forza Horizon 4 from 2018! It recycles the same old yet superhit formula of a sprawling regional car culture and marries it to updated graphics, and some necessary tweaks to make Horizon 5 the new benchmark.

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Forza Horizon 5 is available right now for Xbox Game Pass members (starting at 489 per month), or on Steam for 3,499 for the Standard variant. Quite a tempting price but is it worth it?

Forza Horizon 5 Storyline

Forza Horizon 5 (Amritanshu / HT Tech)
Forza Horizon 5 (Amritanshu / HT Tech)

No arcade racer makes you feel as special as Forza Horizon and hence, with Horizon 5, you land in Mexico as a superstar, not a newbie begging for cheap hatchbacks to race. The intro sequence involving the Ford Bronco and Mercedes AMG Project One dropping from the skies and racing across the diverse biomes of the map gives a glimpse of what the Horizon Festival is all about this time.

While I am yet to complete the career story (because we have to work too), the journey of your character in the diverse Mexico is all about exploring and racing. From swanky supercars to brawny SUVs and ferocious off-roaders, you are given the opportunity to drive everything across everywhere. The best part? You can do it at your will, and none of them are absolutely necessary to unlock the basic experience.

Forza Horizon 5 screenshot (Amritanshu / HT Tech)
Forza Horizon 5 screenshot (Amritanshu / HT Tech)

For those interested in following the story, there’s a progression system baked in, wherein you score points for, well, just driving; be it as gracefully as your Dad across the highways, or drifting your heart out on the mountain roads. Smash through trees, drift-tap cars, trade paint with others; there’s point to be scored for everything.

And, if you race in the events, there are wheelspins and Accolades to be unlocked. The wheelspin system is the same as in Forza Horizon 4 – rewarding when you get classic cars, stupid when you get a pair of socks for your character.

Moreover, the Mexican influence is infused into the characters you deal with, or with some Adventure missions. One of them literally pits you against a Mexican wrestler, but instead of using your hands, you get behind the wheel of a tastefully modified Ford Focus 2017 and participate in whacky challenges. It is here where Forza Horizon 5 manages the fine balance between fun and serious driving.

Forza Horizon 5 Gameplay

Forza Horizon 5 gameplay (Amritanshu / HT Tech)
Forza Horizon 5 gameplay (Amritanshu / HT Tech)

You don’t do sim driving in a Forza Horizon, you just drive. Horizon 5 continues to emphasize on that with its mildly improved driving style. It is easy to master for a toddler and their grandpa alike, but enthusiasts can get their share of fun by turning the assists off. It’s easier to throw the rear out in a corner, even for four-wheel drive sedans and SUVs. Some of them require you to spend time and learn the art of driving, like the Hoonigan Mustang.

What makes the experience more enjoyable is the audio treatment. Most of the popular ones sound closer to what you hear on YouTube reviews. For example, the 2018 BMW M5 now delivers the high-end throaty grunt while revving high in the cockpit view but it sounds high-pitched in the chase camera – just like the real world counterpart. Similarly, the Mercedes Benz SLS AMG sounds like a proper badass German muscle car it always has been. The same stands for the Lambos and McLarens. I wish Playground Games had left the Ferrari’s untouched; they somehow sounded better in Horizon 4.

Forza Horizon 5 gameplay (Amritanshu / HT Tech)
Forza Horizon 5 gameplay (Amritanshu / HT Tech)

Another bit that is slightly disappointing is the selection of cars. Horizon 5 arrives with a largely similar car list from Horizon 4, save for the star cars. For a game launching in late-2021, I would have liked to see the latest avatars of the Mercedes E63, the BMW M5 Competition, the new BMW M3, the latest iteration of the Lamborghini Aventador, and so on. Driving around the same 2018 versions of these models feels boring at times. At least you can take down the roof on a convertible, or activate the performance mode on the Mercedes AMG Project One, but you still cannot start your engines. Give us this next time, Playground Games?

Despite the minor shortcomings, Horizon 5 makes up for all that with its stunningly detailed Mexico. This is the most beautiful virtual world I have seen in a video game yet. Every part of it is detailed to the core, and the variation in topology is simply breathtaking. You have to play this game in 4K; the gravel textures in off-road sections, the overflowing wildlife in the jungle sections, and the beautiful city of Guanajuato – they all have been created with love. I have literally ended up spending weekend hours simply roaming around the streets and marveling at the biomes.

Forza Horizon 5 gameplay (Amritanshu / HT Tech)
Forza Horizon 5 gameplay (Amritanshu / HT Tech)

And how can I not mention the weather effects? There are dust storms and torrential rains trying to strike your cute little Supra with lightning. The dust effects in the desert sections look awesome and the same can be said for the mud and water effects in the jungles. Oh yes, the smoke effect is closer to real! Doing a burnout or a donut feel visually satisfying.

The biggest part? The map is so huge that even after spending 16 hours in the last two weeks, I have not been able to cover all parts and tracks of the game.

Modification is also a big deal in Horizon 5. You can create your custom race events in any part of the world, and even participate in someone else’s challenge. I am not a fan of the feature but for most of you, this should keep it exciting. Car mods are present as well and this time, your performance tweaks can also affect the transmission experience as well as exhaust note. This is all we car nerds had asked for from Forza.

Forza Horizon 5 Performance

ForzaVista supports ray tracing now (Amritanshu / HT Tech)
ForzaVista supports ray tracing now (Amritanshu / HT Tech)

Microsoft recommends playing Forza Horizon 5 on the Xbox Series X for the most “optimum” experience, i.e., 4K at high graphics. I tested the game on a couple of gaming laptops running on AMD Ryzen 7 5900H processor and Intel 11th Gen Core i7 H45, with GPU options including the NVIDIA RTX 3060 and RTX 3070, and FHD+ displays I was able to max out the game on these systems but at the cost of the frame rate dropping to 40 fps on an average. Dropping the resolution helped but you lose the sharpness slightly. Ray tracing is available in the ForzaVista mode only and it does spice up the experience of checking out your highly detailed ride.

Forza Horizon 5 (Amritanshu / HT Tech)
Forza Horizon 5 (Amritanshu / HT Tech)

Microsoft recommends playing Forza Horizon 5 on the Xbox Series X for the most “optimum” experience, i.e., 4K at high graphics. I tested the game on a couple of gaming laptops running on AMD Ryzen 7 5900H processor and Intel 11th Gen Core i7 H45, with GPU options including the NVIDIA RTX 3060 and RTX 3070, and FHD+ displays I was able to max out the game on these systems but at the cost of the frame rate dropping to 40 fps on an average. Dropping the resolution helped but you lose the sharpness slightly. Ray tracing is available in the ForzaVista mode only and it does spice up the experience of checking out your highly detailed ride.

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However, as with most titles at launch, Horizon 5 is buggy to the B right now. Online sessions seldom hold stable while the game itself loses its composure after 40 minutes on PC. The Windows Store version refused to work on my systems; the Steam version did but I often lost control over certain functions and encountered some glitches too. My friends on Xbox Series X and Series S consoles did not experience such issues, which makes a PC gamer like me sad and jealous. Microsoft says that most of these will be fixed in future updated and I hope they arrive fast.

Verdict

Forza Horizon 5 (Amritanshu / HT Tech)
Forza Horizon 5 (Amritanshu / HT Tech)

Never have I experienced a racing game as lively and as involving as Forza Horizon 5. Countless racing titles are released every year but none of them can make you gasp at like Horizon 5. The game looks breathtakingly beautiful; this recreation of Mexico’s greatest hits coupled to a gorgeous weather system is a combo that puts Horizon 5 above everything in its class. And once you start blasting down the highways in your Ford Mustang at full chat, I guarantee that you will find a massive smile pasted on your face. Just hope the only bugs you encounter are on your windscreen, not in the gameplay; they need to be squashed ASAP.

Starting at 3,499, Forza Horizon 5 earns our top recommendation, especially if you love cars and exploration. Buen trabajo, Playground Games, gracias por esta obra maestra.

Rating
4.5 out of 5
Price
INR 3,499/-
Product Name
Forza Horizon 5
Brand Name
Forza Horizon
Pros
  • Beautiful map
  • Relaxed gameplay pace
  • Never ending activities
Cons
  • Buggy at launch
  • Same old cars to drive
Specifications
  • Ray Tracing
    Present on PC, Xbox Series X|S
  • Supported OS
    Windows 10, Windows 11

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First Published Date: 18 Nov, 08:46 AM IST
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