Mexico, the setting for Forza Horizon 5, is both a quasi-return to the series’ origins, and the best execution of a racing open world to date. Forza Horizon was set in Colorado, and much of that state was created from what was once Mexico, after all. The arid canyons, above-the-treeline mountain roads, and rolling farmlands all feel like a reunion with what Playground Games did so brilliantly — and did with an Xbox 360 — nine years ago. Forza Horizon 5 is both the best game in the series, and a reminder of how good everything preceding it was. The key is knowing how to navigate the game’s expansive offerings, without drowning or getting distracted by the heft of them.
Yes, the graphics are amazing and are a joy to take in on a big screen. But Forza Horizon 5’s accessible gameplay and bevy of customizability options means it translates really well to something the size of a smartphone.
Multiplayer gets quite a few touches, too, with some new and reimagined modes, less friction when getting into and switching between different events, a new Forza Link quick menu to make it easier to play with strangers you encounter, and the inclusion of the Eliminator battle royale mode (a Horizon 4 post-launch addition) right out of the gate. Plus, the new EventLab toolset, which lets players build their own custom events, even with specific rule sets, should also add some longevity—though as with any user-generated content it won’t be until a few weeks after launch that we really see everything it has to offer.
A lighter approach is key when driving in Forza Horizon 5. Only when I used “arcade” steering did I feel like I was fighting against a vehicle constantly trying to re-center itself, as is typical in Need for Speed and similar series. Standard and sim steering, even with stability assist engaged, still had enough play for me to initiate and continue drifts.
The game’s core structure lends itself to pick-up-and-play sessions. Forza Horizon 5’s huge map is littered with races and activities (I don’t know if I’ll ever complete them all), but most events don’t take longer than a few minutes to complete. That means it’s easy to accomplish something even if you only have 15 minutes to play.
Forza Horizon 5 feels about as buggy—in small, insignificant, but noticeable ways—as the last game did at launch. I’m sure most of that’ll be polished out soon enough. Ultimately, though, nothing I encountered on that front threw up any long-term roadblocks to my fun, just minor detours.
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