Forza Horizon 5: On the Road to Excellence


Microsoft’s official cover art for Forza Horizon 5.

A lush, tropical forest, cut through by raging rivers and muddy dirt tracks. Vast beaches covered in pristine white sand. A fiery active volcano, spewing lava into the icy mountain air. These are the places you, as a player, can explore in Forza Horizon 5, the newest entry in the well-acclaimed open world racing series. And it may just be the best.

Released on November 11, Forza Horizon 5 (FH5) became an immediate commercial success, selling over 10 million copies in its first week. And it can safely be said that it’s not just hype. Though it does have some weak points, notably its story and online events, FH5 is really a groundbreaking game; its fantastic graphics, incredible focus on detail and customization, and diversity of events make playing it a consistently enjoyable experience. 

FH5’s greatest asset is its map. Unlike previous Horizon games, which primarily stuck to a single biome, FH5’s Mexico-themed world features eleven – from jungle to pine forest to desert. It also includes numerous Mexican landmarks, including Teotihuacan’s Pyramid of the Sun and the Mayan ruins of Uxmal and Tulum. The vastness and variety of the map make exploring a lot of fun; as a player, you want to see all of the unique hidden gems the game has to offer. Additionally, the map’s inclusion of large changes in elevation, including roads up and down an active volcano, provide the opportunity for players to reach absurd speeds and air times. There’s nothing more satisfying in life than to send your car flying down a 45 degree mountainside at full speed, watching it bounce off rocks and turn into a hunk of crumpled metal right in front of your eyes.

While FH5’s map is excellent, what makes that such a strong selling point is the graphics. The incredible amount of detail visible in the game’s textures makes the world look hyper-realistic to a degree that is hard to describe. On higher graphics settings, game photos can appear indistinguishable from real world photos. This adds greatly to the immersiveness of the game.

FH5’s attentiveness to detail is also reflected in its fleet of over 500 drivable vehicles. Each is unique, with its own stats, look, feel, and even engine noise. All cars are highly customizable, down to things that negligibly affect gameplay. If you want to change the gear shift so it switches 0.2 seconds faster, or slightly increase the wheel size, or modify the shape of the bumper, you can do it. If you’re a car expert, this is your bread and butter; if, like me, you’re not, then it’s still fun to mess around with various builds.

While simply driving around is fun, it can get old quickly. This is where the game’s enormous variety of events come in. Scattered across the map, these include races on every kind of surface (road, dirt, sand, grass), stunt events, speed traps, jumps, and expeditions. The diversity of these events and their locations mean that they don’t become repetitive, and remain enjoyable after weeks of gameplay. And their sheer number ensures that there will always be an event you haven’t done recently.

All of this is not to say the game is perfect. Its mini-stories, including one where you chase down an old car and another where you drive into various storms, are repetitive and forgettable. The dialogue in the game sometimes randomly includes individual Spanish words thrown in the middle of English sentences, something I found odd and that Reddit users say is not representative of how Mexicans actually talk. Online events are sometimes filled with lag, and there are a number of bugs that still need to be ironed out. Of course, the game is very new, and there is plenty of time for updates and DLC releases, so many of these problems may eventually be resolved.

Taken as a whole, Forza Horizon 5 is a game that sets the standard for open-world racing. Polished, replayable, and dependably fun, it is a game that nearly everyone will enjoy, regardless of their past experience with the genre. 

My verdict: 9.5/10.