I really was not a great fan of the original Forza Horizon even though it had many of the great aspects of the fantastic Forza lineage. Although I really enjoyed the segmented, long, and at times very tedious grind of all the Forza events the game as a whole felt a bit too loose and it felt like it was not enough of a serious racer. When Forza Horizon 2 launched on the Xbox One, and I started to play more of it, my jaded opinion of the series started to change. The game is utterly beautiful with gorgeous locales and the cars to match. It also feels more organized and in control, with the perfect amount of point to point freedom. When I think of it, Forza Horizon 2 reminds me of the early Need for Speed games, which remain among some of my favorite racers of all time.
The first major DLC for Forza Horizon 2, Storm Island, is now available. The core game of Forza Horizon 2 has its share of off road action, but the DLC adds extreme tracks, a new level of off road madness, new vehicles and extremely wet weather that affects your outcome; mix these all together and you’ve got some racing game goodness.
Right off the hop you’ll notice the most pronounced change, the weather. At first you may wonder how, or even if, it influences your racing, but after a few races you’ll realize that it can figure prominently. The graphical differences are immediate, with lightning snapping across the sky and wind blowing all over the island. The rain and water effects are simply amazing with its ultra-realistic look, sound and feel. If you drive through big puddles they tend to slow you down and affect your steering while the roads get pretty greasy with mud and muck which presents its own challenges. Some races may have bright and clear weather conditions but the ever blowing wind can push your car in ways you don’t want it to, especially when launching into the air. In free roam the weather changes pretty constantly. This can become annoying at times especially if you are looking for all the new discount boards. The island can be mired in fog for most of your time as well, which has its own set of challenges. Overall the add-on looks every bit as good as the rest of the game.
Storm Island has a ton of new races including 24 championships and various other challenges. It also includes a continuation of the bucket lists found in Forza Horizon 2’s core game, with one set being fairly easy and the other set being frustratingly hard. In regards to the latter I found you’ll have to deviate from the pre-set course laid out for you and find short-cuts to your destinations. Storm Island also has its own online championship, but I tend to shy away from those guys and gals as they can be incredibly tough opponents. That being said, online can also be greatly rewarding as the XP you can collect along with cash can be quite addictive.
The Forza series always has incredible control and a fairly easy learning curve from car to car. The cars found Forza Horizon 2, as well as the new ones, handle well in the new setting found on Storm Island. That being said, for the first time I’m finding that cars and trucks handle quite a bit differently on Storm Island’s wet and muddy tracks. If the weather is dry and clear then you can expect more of the same, but if the weather takes a turn for the worse then your vehicle handles accordingly. Sometimes braking and fancy steering into a tight turn is not enough and you will need to utilize the hand brake to get the desired effect. I also found that if you are behind by any great length it seems you just cannot catch up. A good start is the key for success, with one eye on the map looking for tight turns and your other eye focusing on the on-screen action as you ease your vehicle through them, you can be quite successful. The tight turns in inclimate weather can make you look silly; a wrongly timed brake or over steer can put you at the back of the pack in a heartbeat. As frustrating as this can be it is strangely addictive, making you want to conquer that particular turn or whatever else stands in your way to take you out of the running.
Fortunately Storm Island includes new discount boards (25) scattered around to help you upgrade your vehicles. The upgrades let you add parts to increase your ride height, tire sizes and ratings, along with mechanical parts like gearing and engine options. I found that about halfway through the 24 championships I only needed to upgrade my gearing once. The high horse power trucks tend take their time to get to their top speeds keeping you from making any real progress. Keep in mind the track conditions play a huge role in making changes to any vehicle; this can be a bit tricky with a bit of a learning curve.
You can expect the familiar vehicles that Horizon 2 launched with along with a few new ones just for Storm Island. One new class are the Stadium Trucks built for such adverse conditions with huge horse power and massively lifted chassis. There is also a new Mini off-road truck which looks a bit funny but is very capable. My favorite off-road vehicle is still the Bowler EXR S and it is probably the best all around off road truck available, in my humble opinion of course.
The Storm Island DLC is not included with the seasons pass, but at 20 bucks it is a pretty good value for Horizon junkies; others may want to wait for a sale or some kind of bundle. As a bonus for VIP members, the DLC comes at 50% discount. In the end there is really no excuse not to pick this content as you will enjoy many of the features found in Forza Horizon 2’s core game, but in the new Storm Island setting. Now go on, get that truck or car dirty!
***A code was provided by the Publisher for review purposes***