Mexico has hosted the fifth Horizon Festival, bringing together professional and motorhead drivers from all over the world. Infomercials from radio stations cite the many pop-up races, and other challenges that were scattered across Mexico. Empty streets – save for the occasional family van or commercial truck – are indicative of nationwide fervor. But where are all the tourists and locals? You, as the “superstar”, are expected to appear and kick off the festivities.
Forza Horizon revolves around player agency. This design philosophy is maintained in the fifth installment with an impressively wide car catalogue, countless activities and extensive customization options to your avatar and vehicle. The opening cinematic is just as spectacular to play as it was to watch during the Gamescom showcase with roaring engines and gorgeous visuals enhanced by the game’s solid performance/quality modes. Horizon 5 was a preview build that I played for about 90 minutes. While I only got the chance to enjoy a small serving of its many features, I was left stunned by the sheer immensity of the sandbox, the high-caliber graphics that the franchise is known for, and the overall playability/accessibility of the controls. Forza is unlike any other game.
After getting airdropped into Baja California, I selected my nickname, created my character (the prosthetics were an excellent addition, although I would’ve liked to see more options for disabled gamers), and hopped into my Stingray Coupe. You’ll feel as fluid and responsive as possible while driving. Vibration patterns and varying degrees of “car feel” instill each roadster with personality. While the Ford Bronco is heavier than the Jeep Gladiator, and Ford Bronco, there are many features that make your vehicle feel like it’s alive, such as traction control. While this level of detail is not new in Forza’s Forza Series, it’s much more impressive with Horizon’s latest entry. The list of vehicles available has grown ever larger.
Even though I only had a few to choose from by the time of the preview ended, every set was suitable for different circumstances. My Toyota GR Supra swept me into first in paved circuit racing, while my Ford Escort was more suited to off-road events. AI competitors, on the other hand, won’t accept losses. You’ll have to learn your vehicle’s tendencies – how early you should brake on sharp turns to avoid catastrophic crashes when you’re better off flooring it to create distance, etc. – to remain consistent in competitions. You might even decide to swing by the shop to tune your favorite cars for that extra edge. Manually upgrade various parts – what’s more important: your engine or handling? – or have the festival team select the tweaks for you based on a specified build.
Mexico’s other attractions include racing. To get accolades and challenges, as well as unlock Horizon Adventure Chapters chapters, I raced across the open globe, taking on a multitude of minigames. PR stunts, such as Speed Zone, Speed Trap and Trailblazer required me at incredible speeds to fly high above the clouds after racing towards made ramps. Your proficiency is labeled with stars, three being the highest and earning you a bevy of XP and SP (Skill Points) that you use to purchase perks for each vehicle. Perks are usually experience modifiers. I found that activating the “Horizon Spinwheel”, which can win rare and currency, was the most rewarding part of leveling up.
Mexico is a beautiful country and it was fun to travel there. Weather effects such as raging storms and sandstorms gave Mexico a dynamic feel that added an extra level of excitement to exploring. Every location offered something different with its own secrets. Horizon Stories are narrative beats that take you to interesting points and characterize the cast. Alejandra was escorted to a garage on top of a hilltop by a narrative beat. It chronicles her family’s love affair with the Volkswagen Beetle (Vocho) and the cultural revolution in Mexico that this iconic car caused during the 50s. As we drove, we noticed the multi-colored, cactus-strewn deserts left behind.
Forza Horizon 5 has a lot of content, even with what little I did read. While much of the map is empty, the preview was still a good way to explore the remote jungles or mountain ranges. It also allowed me to imagine the PR Stunts, Horizon Stories and races that will be available on launch day. The Festival Playlist, Auction House, and other modes aren’t yet available, but knowing the game will include a variety of content including campaign progression and in-game seasons makes the trip to Mexico all the more appealing.
Forza Horizon 5 is available on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and PC on November 9.
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