Forza Horizon 5 Preview
Over the past week, I’ve had the pleasure of taking Forza Horizon 5 for a test drive. I’ve been a fan of the Forza Horizon series since the second game and even had the pleasure of reviewing both Forza Horizon 3 and Forza Horizon 4, both of which earned impressive scores when they were released. For me, getting the opportunity to play Forza Horizon 5 ahead of launch was such a thrill. It’s worth noting that this preview event had some limitations.
We were limited on just how far we could progress and there were a variety of features that will be adjusted or tweaked before launch. With that said, what I did get to play gave me a pretty clear understanding of what to expect when the full game launches later this year. And I couldn’t be more hyped about it.
Forza Horizon 5 takes place in a fictional version of Mexico. You’ll find lush coastlines, beautiful jungles, ancient ruins, rustic towns, and so much more. Like previous Forza Horizon games, the narrative revolves around delivering an entertaining Forza Horizon festival by competing in a variety of events. For fans of previous Forza Horizon games, most of the events will be immediately recognizable, with a few new additions. However, there was absolutely no learning curve for me to jump in and enjoy. New players might feel a bit overwhelmed when they’re first given full access to the map, but seasoned players will have no trouble at all finding events and driving the narrative forward.
This preview build gave me the opportunity to experience the first Showcase Event, two Horizon Stories, and a variety of different races. I also had access to the full world, but races were limited to the initial area. Like Showcase Events in Horizon games before, this one provided plenty of amazing spectacles. One of the Horizon Stories had me drive a photographer into a massive dust storm to find an ancient statue. The dust storms are impressive in scope and you really get the sense of limited visibility. The second Horizon Story had me searching for an old Volkswagon Beetle – much like the garage finds of past games. However, this time around, I actually had to drive a massive truck with the Beetle on a flatbed back to the garage. From this, I gather there will no longer be random garage finds in Forza Horizon 5, but rather they’ll be included as events you complete.
In my first playthrough, I opted for the performance option, which provided no ray-tracing effects and 60 frames-per-second gameplay. The gameplay was smooth with no signs of slowing down at all. In my second playthrough, I opted for the graphics option, which caps the frame rate to 30 fps but boosts the visual fidelity. Honestly, the game is a visual masterpiece in either mode. The vehicles look incredible and the racing is slick and fast. However, what impressed me more was the small details I saw along my journey. Every single flower, tree, bush, etc., I came across looked realistic.
While I was parked, I could see just how textured and authentic the worn roads looked. The draw distance was incredible, you could literally see for miles. In the distance, hot air balloons hovered in the sky. Along the coastline, boats floated along in the ocean. Even driving by buildings, you could see there was actually detail and design inside the buildings – not just empty spaces or skinned textures on the windows. Almost every visual detail in Forza Horizon 5 has been addressed and it creates this beautiful world that I can’t wait to explore more of. During some of the cinematics, I did notice a slight blurring effect – but hopefully, that’s just a visual hiccup still yet to be ironed out. I also found that some of the lip-sync work during cutscenes didn’t really gel well, but again, I assume they’ll add another coat of polish to fix minor issues like that.
Customization is King
While exploring the world is definitely a highlight, the root of all arcade racers, including Forza Horizon, is the races. In Forza Horizon 5, the racing is still as frantic as ever. However, the game, like previous Forza Horizon games, is fully customizable to ensure every player is given a fair opportunity to succeed. There are all sorts of driver assists to take advantage of. For me, I just left all the default options as is, including the handy driving line that is blue when I’m driving at a safe speed for the upcoming road and turns to red when braking might be required. As you play, you’ll earn XP, and after you earn enough XP, you’ll perks that allow you to unlock certain car-specific attributes such as boosting XP for accomplishing specific tricks, drifts, or driving styles. None of this is new to the franchise. I am happy to see its return as it’s a great way to encourage players to try all sorts of different cars. Another aspect worth mentioning is the sheer number of driver customization options players will get. There is a vast assortment of player names and looks to pick from. I imagine most people will be able to quite easily customize a driver to their liking.
I’ve played the Forza Horizon 5 preview a few times and I’m still enjoying it, but I’m itching to dive deeper into the game and I can’t wait until the full version becomes available. I truly had a ton of fun. If the full game continues to provide the same level of detail, impressive Showcase Events, diverse Horizon Stories, and a vast assortment of cars to drive – which I’m sure it will – then Forza Horizon 5 will easily take the crown as the premier arcade racing experience in gaming today. Stay tuned to COGconnected for more Forza Horizon 5 coverage.
***Forza Horizon 5 preview build provided by the publisher***