I have been a fan of racing games ever since I was a child, zipping through the streets of Chicago in Midtown Madness in my bus (remember those days?!). Okay, I admit – it wasn’t really zipping but more like cruising, but you get my drift. Over the years, the genre of racing has evolved into much more, clearly depicted by the Forza series. I’ve been playing Forza Horizon 4 since the early days and the fresh updates that keep arriving constantly have kept me hooked. I didn’t even expect that Playground Games and Xbox Game Studios could outdo what they did in the 4th installment of the series. And boy, was I wrong. In this Forza Horizon 5 review, I’ll share my impressions and experience with the game after nonstop hours of gameplay since its early release.
Forza Horizon 5 (FH5) Review
I’ll get the most obvious thing out of the way first – Forza Horizon 5 is the best open-world racer that has come out in YEARS. And no, my review is not based on an early copy, but on the final product which I played on early access for Ultimate edition players. The devs have taken everything that was good in all the previous FH games and managed to make it…even better? Is that even possible? Well, it clearly is.
Controls – A Significant Improvement
First and foremost, let’s talk about the controls. They are mind-blowingly well done. The game was developed in three years, instead of the usual two, and it clearly shows in the way the cars move. With a roster of more than 500 cars, you will experience the magnificent map of Mexico in a myriad of different ways due to the super responsive controls.
If you were a casual player of racing games before, with FH5, you will find yourself falling in love with the world of automobiles like no other. You will definitely notice that the breaking and suspension have significantly improved. If you are planning to play it on a PC, then you’ll enjoy it even more with an Xbox controller. And if are planning to take it up a notch, then now might be a good time to look into those entry-level Logitech & Thrustmaster steering wheels, where every feedback and vibration will make you forget everything else and give you max immersion. Try every terrain/biome with every car type and you will find it tough to keep the controller down.
Talking about biomes, you have 11 of them, and they look and feel different from each other. And if you enjoyed the weather system in FH4, then you might be glad to know that the seasons will affect FH5 biomes differently. This means if you encounter sandstorms in a biome, don’t expect the other biome to have it too. The devs have given attention to every minute detail to make you feel like you are racing from the east to west coast of Mexico.
The map of Mexico is huge – it’s the largest map in the series till now (50% bigger than FH4), and it shows. Everything is bigger and better than it was ever in the series. You will find the longest highway, longest bridge, longest final races, and much more here. There’s just so much to do that there will never be a dull moment. A speed trap, a danger sign, or a trailblazer – the game constantly keeps challenging you. The process of redoing the challenges and understanding exactly where you need to brake and turn is super rewarding.
My favorite cars as of now as the Aston Martin Vulcan AMR Pro, Koenigsegg Jesko, Ford Bronco R 2069, Lamborghini Sesto Elemento FE, and 2011 BMW X5 M FE. There’s no other thrill than driving the Bronco offroad through a massive sandstorm, as you feel every jump and thud in your hands. But if you’d like a break, simply explore the towns of Mulegé or Guanajuato and discover roads while you are at it. There’s something for every type of racer in FH5 and the game gets everything right. From the time you are airdropped from a plane in an AMG One, it’s simply an enthralling ride.
Breathtaking Graphics Set a New Benchmark for Games
The visuals are stellar, to say the least. You won’t realize it immediately as you load up FH5, but as you keep navigating and noticing the textures, you will understand just how much the graphics have leveled up. When you stop your car on the road (which has the most realistic bumps and cracks) and you observe how the shadows move in real-time, how the sun shines on the rims of the wheels – it is evident that this game is unparalleled in terms of visuals.
I mean, sometimes you just have to park your car and get the photo mode started because the surroundings are just that darn beautiful. Every reflection, shadow of the car, realistic global illumination, raytracing and the clarity of the environment texture is worth raving about. From the fiery volcano to the sand dunes, from the artistic murals, dense forests, ancient temples, vibrant towns, to the glistening oceans – it’s all colorful, eye-catching and frankly, jaw-dropping.
Keep exploring and you will end up on a stadium with a soccer ball placed conveniently to give you that Rocket League experience. Further ahead, there’s a huge satellite for that perfect photo opportunity. Last but not the least, the skies – the freaking skies! With high-resolution textures that were based on 12K photogrammetry photos, it’s the best-looking and most graphically stunning game till date. The game promises high quality in every rock on the mountain to the needle of the cactus – and it delivers.
A massive hat tip to the team, you have done an amazing job!
If you play the game in Dynamic 4K/60FPS (performance mode), you might see some leaves on trees, and a number of bushes loading up in the background but it wasn’t much of a hindrance for me. Racing in 60FPS is what I truly enjoyed in this game. But if you prefer to play in quality mode (4K/30FPS), the textures will be perfect.
Gameplay – An Unbeatable Racing Experience
I was skeptical about how the game was going to offer something new vis-à-vis the events and the map. Since the previous installment was a triumph on its own, how in the world were they going to make it even more surprising and interesting? Well, they DID and how!
Many elements and features make a comeback in this title (including the fan-favorite wheelspins), and they are better than ever before. The undiscovered roads are clearly visible in the minimap now, the font and UI is even better, character customization has more options, and the biggest change – Horizon Adventures. There’s a proper campaign mode in the game wherein your character actually speaks, thereby adding more life to an already lively game.
As you complete more and more Horizon Adventure stories, you earn accolades, which are an interesting new addition to FH5. With more accolades, you unlock more rewards such as cars, money and phrases. Since there’s always something you are earning and unlocking in Forza Horizon 5, you end up closing the game for the day with a huge smile on your face. You don’t really lose in FH5, because the positive reinforcement that it offers is unlike any other game I’ve played in recent times.
If you ever get bored with what the game has to offer, you can try out the custom events created by fellow players. And if you feel like you aren’t in the mood for that, go ahead and spend some time tuning your cars. There are way more options to p*mp your ride in this game that will drastically transform the way you drive your cars. I have tested out all sorts of modifications and even converted my hypercars to rally beasts and it works really well. The devs were not kidding when they said things are upgraded now.
Forza Horizon 4 vs Forza Horizon 5 – What are the Upgrades?
There’s a lot that has changed and vastly improved. For example, you’ll see a passenger next to you, so your rides won’t be lonely anymore. During the campaign mode, the destinations are marked as step-by-step objectives. You will see a set of recommended cars for your race and the disk brake color can be changed now. A remarkable new change is that you will suddenly get a surprise double skill score challenge related to a song. Yes, if you show off your skills during a particular song, you get a double skill score! It’s a nice and random challenge that the game throws at you. As I said, there’s never a dull moment.
You’ll also find a few minor tweaks which make a major difference. Like, the driving line is brighter and more neon making it stand out even on the brightest of surfaces. The menu is more intuitive, the sound of the photo mode is different and there’s a dedicated button to hear the revving of the engine as soon as you change a single part of your car.
The design of the map, according to me, is also much better than FH4, with the perfect events at the perfect locations to give you the, you guessed it, perfect challenge. The changes I’ve mentioned here do not even scratch the surface – there are many more upgrades and enhancements that you will discover during your gameplay.
Sound that Breaks Barriers
Apart from gameplay and graphics, the area that FH5 has truly taken things up a notch is the audio. The difference in the way the car sounds, especially when you tune it and rev the engine, is an automobile enthusiast’s dream. I was motivated to unlock more cars, just to hear the engines roar. The team has put in the effort to add realistic sounds to the cars and that in itself breathes more life into the vehicles.
One thing that kind of disappointed me was the music. I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out. When you loaded up FH4, the theme song instantly gripped you. So did the songs on Horizon Pulse, which is undoubtedly my favorite station. Unfortunately for me, the music didn’t quite hit the mark in FH5. The theme song is awesome – there’s no denying that, and it immediately places you in the middle of Mexico right from the first strum of the guitar. But apart from two or three other songs, excluding the mainstream bops, I feel that the soundtrack is a bit of a miss. Hopefully, the music will grow on me like in the previous games.
Forza Horizon 5 Review – Final Verdict
Forza Horizon 5 takes racing to great heights. I highly recommend it for fans of the arcade racing genre as well as those who want to try out an open-world racer for the first time. The game zooms past its competitors and accelerates to victory pretty effortlessly. It’s not a sim racing game like iRacing, 0r Assetto Corsa in any way. But picking up Forza after a tiring day was much more fun than playing sim racers with high concentration.
During my playthrough, I encountered almost no bugs, just two incidents with frame drops that were impossible to recreate, and that’s a great feat for a game like this. If you are a car nerd, you will find yourself spending hours tweaking your car. And if you prefer to simply get into a car and drive off without a destination, you will enjoy this too.
It’s a visual and technical spectacle and you should not miss it. The entire plethora of cars feels, handles, and even sounds totally different from each other. And with a number of different combinations in upgrades and tons of paint and vinyl options, you can easily tune a masterpiece catered to your racing needs. I totally see myself enjoying FH5 till the next one comes out. And with two more expansions coming to us, all arcade racing players should definitely check it out.
This concludes my Forza Horizon 5 review. If you’d like to read more reviews on Gamer Tweak, be sure to do that by clicking here.