With generational changes hitting genres of all types, the fastest to adapt on many occasions is racing. Seeing many console launches and ever more racing games, it’s a genre that never fails to not only keep up, but top itself in terms of realism and offered features. Forza Horizon 5 hit a sweet spot that blew away my expectations, offering a new non-linear experience that truthfully puts the controls in the hands of the player. With a slew of beautiful environments and cars, Forza Horizon 5 has presented a bright future for gamers from all walks of life.
I have never been much of a racing game player, quite frankly even skipping racing side quests when they’ve popped up in other titles I’ve completed. It’s never been a total disdain, but generally they feel a bit intrusive when mixed into other genres. Having a proper foray into a title like Forza Horizon 5 has quite honestly changed my view almost entirely. The best way I can describe the opening sequence is plain FUN. It’s a bunch of wild stunts featuring different environments and driving cool cars to music that syncs up with your drive. Falling out of an airplane and driving by a volcano, then switching perspectives and driving through the jungle? All of that was nonsensical, but a mess of fun. The ending to the tutorial sequence had me stuck with a massive grin on my face, all because it was plain enjoyable. There isn’t much of a tutorial because the game is self explanatory. Triggers for gas and break with some light steering. Before the game starts, the player is presented with accessibility settings in order to tweak the experience. While there are overall difficulty settings, there are also settings for tutorial lines, drive assistance and so on. There is enough to tailor the game to exactly how you want to play it, from ultra competitive racer to Sunday driver. While difficulty settings can change how many points you earn at the end of a race, generally the accessibility settings are more for comfort. This level of customization is incredibly important not just for a younger audience, but for those who generally need assistance playing. The level of detail that went into the customization and thought in how it would be implemented is awesome, and honestly other games can take a note from Forza Horizon 5.
While the intro sequence was crazy and fun, it only scratches the surface on what the game has to offer. Character customization was a point that really stuck out to me, as normally I’ve never seen a character in racing games. While a very general editor, the options for customization touched on some areas you don’t see in many games. With a new setting for pronoun identification and even customizable prosthetics, Forza Horizon 5 makes sure everyone can not only feel welcome, but encourages diversity. The human models were actually much better than I expected as well, considering the game has such a heavy focus on cars. And for certain the cars are the highlight. The sheer amount of detail in each car, from interior to exterior is astounding. The minimalistic UI keeps a heavy feature on the vehicle during gameplay as well, regardless of the type of camera you’re using. From first person to third person, every car feels unique and real, especially when you damage it. As something of a nightmare driver in driving games I’m all too familiar with damaging cars, but even the dents and cracks feel visceral. This is before even touching on the environments as well, which are just stunning. I’ve been sidetracked just driving around the beaches and towns at my own pace just because it’s genuinely relaxing. While it defeats the purpose of a “racing” game, it’s not discouraged. With the heavy emphasis placed on the game being open world, Forza Horizon 5 takes a massive amount of pride in its meticulously crafted cars and environments, allowing players to have fun in any environment they want to experience.
Forza Horizon 5 shattered my expectations for a racing game in all honesty. The level of inclusivity towards all audiences and levels of play as well as different methods of play were something I was absolutely not expecting, and found an incredibly positive experience with. As a novice racer, I was able to thoroughly experience the game at my own pace, and still have fun. Winning the races was fun on its own, but even a relaxing beachside drive in beautifully crafted environments was enough to keep me playing for way longer than I had expected. I fully expect to pick Forza Horizon 5 up in the future for some midnight drives in the wide open world, and maybe look to set some personal records while I’m at it.
Score: 9 out of 10
Reviewed on Windows PC