Forza Horizon 5: Hands-on Preview
Forza Horizon is fantastic. There I said it. In fact, it is the only series I can think of where each sequel has somehow been inarguably better than the last. This is absolutely astounding considering the quality of each release. I would go so far as saying that the rest of the competition hasn’t even caught up to Forza Horizon 2, let alone number 4. So with this in mind, it is fair to say I am a little excited about diving into the fifth entry. When Xbox Australia reached out about previewing the game, it was all I could do to not jump with joy, which is a rare thing for this jaded veteran of the Aus games journo scene and is a real indication of how highly I respect Playground’s driving franchise.
Let me get this out of the way straight up. This is the best looking game (almost) available. Ratchet is a looker and Flight Sim is an amazing technical achievement, but Horizon 5 is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. On the Series X, there is a clear and immediate upgrade over the already stunning Horizon 4. The implementation of features like HDR and ray-tracing is also leading the pack. It will look stunning on a bog-standard screen, but if you have a set with all the bells and whistles, this is the game to get to show off both your expensive tele and your Series X to your friends.
Improvements aren’t just limited to looks. One of the most notable things I noticed as I played was the character creation tool. While not in the same league as an RPG, it offers one thing that even the most deeply detail character creator doesn’t and that is representation. For the first time in my memory, a triple-A character creator features prosthetic options. As someone with a family deeply involved in Wheelchair Rugby League this struck me as an amazing inclusion. Imagine being an amputee and loading up the game and being able to make an accurate carbon copy of yourself, prothesis included. The game also includes prefered pronouns, which while more common than prosthetics, still isn’t seen enough.
Another new feature I got to experience is the dynamic weather systems, aka big freaking storms. In the demo I only got to drive through a giant dust storm but that was more than enough to give me an idea of what to expect. It is white knuckle stuff let me tell you. The dust obscures everything and losing your sense of direction and where the road is heading is easy to do, especially at 250+ Kmph. These systems are going to add some serious chaos to open-world events and I can’t wait to see the different variations, including a tropical cyclone, in the full game.
The racing is as strong as it always has been and the same basic formula that the series has followed is present and correct. Race around, complete events, level up, open more events. It is a simple structure that lets players tackle the events that they want to and in the order they want to. Love the off-road stuff more than road races? Go for it then, you progress through the game no matter what events or cars are your favourites. I only had a small selection of events to participate in, but each one of them was a blast so I expect that to carry through to the full game.
There really isn’t much more that needs to be said about my time with Forza Horizon 5. I have completed the 90-minute demo I was given four times now and each time I am just astounded at how good it looks and how good the racing is. I have no doubt that Playground has once again knocked it out of the park and I expect to be talking about Forza Horizon 5 at Game-of-the-year time once again. November can’t come soon enough.