Jump into one of the greatest open world racing games ever made.
Developer(s): Playground Games, Turn 10
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
PLAYED ON XBOX ONE
ALSO AVAILABLE ON XBOX 360
I love the sense of freedom in any game. I love driving about with the radio blasting out in a droptop with the sun setting just over the horizon. That's something you can do time and time again with Forza Horizon 2, and trust me, nothing has done it better. Feels only fitting to have such great ambience about the game because otherwise, it wouldn't be what it is. The Horizon Festival fireworks and balloons emerging in the distance as your parade of hypercars rumbles through a valley is quite the memorable gaming moment, especially when you're dodging the morning commute in a million-dollar machine from the production line of heaven itself. Excuse the petrolhead in me coming through, but Horizon 2 feels like such a perfect mix of driving simulation and sprawling exploration in the style of arcade titles like Burnout: Paradise, which, in a way, is probably the game I'd most relate this to. It doesn't feel like it's too extreme in the way of "you'll need to perfect every corner to win the race" because of the rewind feature, save the jokes you'll hear from in-game radio DJs and the people you'll get to know the most at the festival, but at the same time, caters entirely for the obsessive racing audience. Every car is replicated to sheer perfection and each new unlock (whether it be the Group D Fiat 500 esse-esse or the Group S2 Lamborghini Veneno) is a pleasure. Mind you, it's not always just cash purchases straight-up that can get you the good rides. Every level advance means you can use the Horizon Wheelspin; essentially a slot machine with a myriad of prizes ranging from a couple of thousand credits to the ultra-rare Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. In my time playing, I've only seen the Veyron appear on the wheel one time. Surprisingly rewarding, even if you do only end up getting a few thousand credits in the slots. Even the XP system is generous enough - you can find XP boards hidden around the game world that, when hit with your car, will grant you the amount corresponding to what is written on the board. You might even stumble across the occassional abandoned classic...
Boy, there sure are a lot of events to play through as well. 168 total championships across six locations that will keep you going for weeks. Each championship consists of four events, generally a mixture of classic circuit races, point to point races and cross country, as well as online-exclusive team races and 'Infected', where a selected infected player must slowly infect all players - a newly infected player also becomes a hunter. There's also a mode where players scramble to take the crown from a player; the longer a person holds it, the bigger the rewards. It's a very nice mosh pit of different modes that doesn't reinvent the wheel, but keeps it fresh nonetheless. Another key aspect that'll keep the car nuts coming back for more is the deep customization and tuning options available. Fine tune your camber and toe angle and then experiment, or change downforce and tyre pressure for each set of wheels, as well as gear ratios. Then you can give your ride a fresh coat of paint with a selection of basic colours or special, more extravagant paint options. Alternatively, you can pick and choose one of the top-rated community designs, much akin to Forza Motorsport 5.
Returning from the predecessor are showcase events. I've got a certain fondness of these because of how unique they are. To celebrate the end of a road trip in single player, you'll be matched up against a steam train, a cargo plane or even a pack of display team jets. I can't help but notice how close all of these events were, however, as I always seemed to pip my rival to the post by about half a second. It feels more like a set piece than an event that I'm supposed to go out and win with proper effort.
Seeing as the game revolves around a music festival, you might well be asking if the soundtrack is any good. No complaints on my side, as different radio stations that unlock throughout the game provide for all tastes. Horizon Pulse is the place to go for alternate/indie synthpop and electronica primarily, but does touch on pop ground from time to time. Horizon Bass Arena is pretty self explanatory, where you'll hear more bass-heavy tracks like Eric Prydz's "Liberate" (the track you'll hear at the start of the game as you drive the Lamborghini Huracán to the festival). You also pick up a station later on that plays nothing but classical music - the DJs don't speak English there either. Good for thrashing a heavier Mercedes-Benz C63 Black Series or a classic Alfa Romeo Stradale through the countryside, though. These cars and the music you'll hear were made for each other.
It can be enjoyed just as much when you hop online with friends. The "online road trip" feature lets you join an XBOX LIVE server with relative ease. A short series of races (as well as the location) is picked by a voting system and then you're away. Bonus XP is handed to those that drive to races early on, but must be achieved within an alloted time. I see it as a nice way of keeping the momentum going. But don't worry, online freeroam gets its own dedicated servers.
Touching on the vehicle handling and difficulty before the round-up, I feel as if Horizon 2 was slightly more lenient than Motorsport 5. There's almost always a way of getting out of a tight situation, even if you're sacrificing a few hundred credits in expense. Rewinding will let you play through a segment of the race again and alter previous mistakes. As well as that, you can change separate parts of the difficulty "spectrum" by going to the settings menu. You can change damage modelling and driving assists in accordance with your tastes, but being slightly more adventurous and risky will entitle you to bigger rewards for race finishes, but I personally recommend turning all damage OFF when you go online. It's not all about winning races to earn XP online, but having people crash into you constantly at the start of a race until your engine eventually dies isn't the best feeling in the world, especially when there's no easy way of resetting your car.
All in all, you can't really downplay Forza Horizon 2 for anything. It's an exuberant, atmospheric open world racing gem that I feel will be looked at with admiration in the future. Playground Games have done a lot of things brilliantly - enough to establish the game as one of the greatest XBOX ONE exclusives to launch so far.
Me Love Cars - Founder of Gameopedia Wiki 19:08, October 28, 2014 (UTC)
Huge, sprawling and atmospheric open world
Incredible attention to detail
Fun rewards system
Slightly unforgiving online races with damage turned on (other players crash into you with no repurcussions)
Quite honestly magnificent, Forza Horizon 2 falls under legendary status for how effortlessly it pulls off such a wonderful open-world racing experience.