It’s really only a few weeks until Forza fans will be set loose in Forza Horizon 5 and its slice of Mexico presented in Playground Games’ typical style: a picturesque and idyllic driving paradise. But with the full game just around the corner, Playground has given us an early hands-on of roughly the first 90 minutes of Forza Horizon 5.
That’s certainly only a brief snapshot in the context of a Horizon game I’m likely to spend hundreds of hours playing, but it’s definitely enough to get an early taste of some of the campaign and a first sense of some of the other improvements Playground has been promising.
After close to three years of playing Forza Horizon 4 virtually every single week, collecting every new car and trialling every new piece of content, I guess you could suppose I might be tired of the Forza Horizon formula. The reality, however, is that I’m really not – and the prospect of diving into Mexico and doing it all over again is hugely appealing.
You might already be familiar with Forza Horizon 5’s opening drive – Playground Games itself whipped the cover off the initial minutes of Horizon 5 back at Gamescom – but playing it myself I was struck by how successfully it instantly transported me to a place a world away from Forza Horizon 4’s Britain. Horizon’s trademark opening drives are always impeccably curated experiences designed to propel players into the Horizon world at full speed, but here in Horizon 5 it does a particularly nifty job at illustrating the impressive breadth of Playground’s wonderfully varied map of Mexico. Horizon 4’s Britain remains beautiful, no doubt, but Horizon 5’s Mexico has promptly impressed me a great deal.
The big thing that stands out for me is the sense of scale, and there’s no place that’s clearer than atop Horizon 5’s colossal volcano. Playground Games has embraced significant elevation change before, with Horizon 3’s Blizzard Mountain and Horizon 4’s Fortune Island expansions for instance, but Horizon 5’s Gran Caldera volcano dwarfs both of these. It’s such an impressive vista, and it very effectively makes me feel small in a vast new space I want to explore.
After the opening drive Horizon 5 ushers us straight into a Showcase event, which longterm fans will recognise as the series’ marquee race type – a frantic point-to-point sprint, generally versus anything other than a car. In this instance it’s a plane – which we have admittedly raced plenty of times in Horizon games before – though a mid-race switch introduces new opponents and a late race twist I don’t necessarily want to spoil here makes for a more thrilling conclusion than I’d guessed.
Following the showcase Horizon 5 introduces a couple of its new Horizon stories – one geared around the photography challenges and another that begins with a barn find I think anyone with a basic knowledge of Mexican car culture will have predicted. After this, a small range of more conventional challenges and race types are revealed.
However, even as Horizon 5 begins to settle back into its typical Horizon groove, I’m already noticing a host of improvements beginning to surface. Visually, of course, it’s absolutely splendid (and the tyre smoke is so much better!) but there’s a lot more under the surface. The handling tweaks Playground has previously discussed are subtle but absolutely noticeable (for instance, I think the return torque on the steering seems to feel a bit more natural). The revamped car audio is wonderful, and I’m loving being able to preview the changes that performance customisation parts will make on the sound of my cars.
But while I’m already having a ball, there’s still so much I haven’t seen yet – and aren’t part of this slice of the game. Horizon 5’s new Expeditions, for instance, promise grand road trips across the map to expand the festival. Horizon’s Arcade minigames should be plenty of fun. Most excitingly, Horizon 5’s EventLab – a full-scale event editor with a toolkit reportedly similar to the one used by the developers at Playground Games themselves – is sounding like a drastically expanded version of Horizon 4’s Super7 mode and I can’t wait to see what I can create.
After an additional year on the hoist, Forza Horizon 5 is arriving as the first game in the Forza franchise specifically built for Xbox Series consoles from the outset – although it’s also still coming to Xbox One consoles and PCs. Playground Games is throwing players the keys starting November 5 for premium edition pre-orders.
Luke is Games Editor at IGN’s Sydney office. You can find him on Twitter every few days @MrLukeReilly.
Source: IGN Video Games All