"Forza Horizon 2 not only recaptures everything that made previous entries so immersive and thrilling, it sets new standards for open-world racing."
Developers Playground Games and Turn 10 Studios have become well-respected collaborators among car connoisseurs. The developers' unprecedented attention never fails to impress, and while Forza 5 was somewhat of a step backwards for the series, Forza Horizon 2 not only recaptures everything that made previous entries so immersive and thrilling, it sets new standards for open-world racing. For anyone who’s been on the edge about getting an Xbox One, Turn 10’s latest arcade racer serves as the ultimate testament of the system’s capabilities. Forza Horizon 2 boasts a massive, beautiful Mediterranean setting that’s brimming with content and life, and is undoubtedly the best next-gen racer on the market today.
Forza Horizon 2 once again revolves around the Horizon festival, a gathering place for car aficionados and badly dressed hipsters. The whole dance-party vibe can be irritating, but luckily the focus remains on the exotic rides and gorgeous vistas. The premise is simple: Earn new wristbands and become the ultimate Horizon championship. The stupendously large map is packed with diverse championships and collectibles. Much like its predecessor, Horizon 2 isn’t just about racing, but exploration. You can spend hours cruising through the breathtaking Mediterranean countryside without ever entering a single competition. Of course, the spectacular sensation of speed is too much of a tease for just cruising.
"One of Forza 5’s biggest drawbacks was its lack of track variety and Horizon 2 remedies that problem tenfold."
Forza Horizon 2 is all about variety. There’s Street Racing, Rally Racing, SUV Racing…players can even compete against a speeding train and stunt airplanes. There’s never a dull moment. Before each championship, you’re asked to choose a discipline. Every discipline determines a specific series of races, but if you change your mind mid-championship you can easily switch to something else. One of Forza 5’s biggest drawbacks was its lack of track variety and Horizon 2 remedies that problem tenfold. No race is the same and each competition brings a sense of mystery and excitement. Players can once again join clubs (or make their own), which is a great way of establishing a personalized gaming community. Horizon’s seamless solo/online world allows players to quickly jump between team mode races and single player without having to wait in lobbies. Up to a thousand members can join a single club and it’s fun trying to compete for the highest score and catapult your team onto the leaderboards.
"Car handling is notably more precise, striking a perfect balance between arcade and simulation."
Horizon 2 is the first Forza game to feature weather effects. Much like the dynamic day and night cycles, the sudden onset of rain has a big impact on driving conditions. The slippery roads require careful maneuvering and it’s easy to spin out when taking turns at high speeds. The addition of weather gives races a sense of unpredictability and challenge (especially when driving via the cockpit-cam) but it’s a shame that the volume of rain never varies. Having to race through thick, heavy rain and wind would have been more interesting…but it’s still nice to see Forza finally adding more climatic diversity.
Car handling is notably more precise, striking a perfect balance between arcade and simulation. Every vehicle controls differently and there’s a distinct difference between street and off-road racing. The original Horizon featured a vast open world environment, but there wasn’t as much off-track driving. Horizon 2, on the other hand, encourages and enforces taking shortcuts between checkpoints. Much like the popular Metropolis Street Racer series, stylish driving is awarded with XP points. Points are not only used for leveling, but acquiring driving perks. These can range from earning extra money to getting shop discounts and skill multipliers. This gives Horizon 2 an impressive sense of progression and growth. Forza 5’s Driveatars are back and they feel more sophisticated than ever. The enclosed circuits of Forza 5 didn’t give the AI much to play with, but the open-world structure of Horizon 2 allows AI drivers to race more intelligently. The whole idea of AI drivers behaving like their real life counterparts is finally fully realized and gives Horizon 2 a whole new level of realism.
"Horizon 2 is beautiful, plays like a dream and offers more replayability an most racers in recent memory."
Forza has always set new standards for presentation and Horizon 2 once again reaffirms the developers' unparalleled skill. The Mediterranean landscape is absolutely stunning. Every area on the map is filled with dense vegetation and gorgeous architecture. Each one of the 200 vehicles is superbly crafted, although the interiors aren’t as detailed as Forza 5. There’s some noticeable pop in when driving at high speeds, but it doesn’t distract from the game in any way. A lot of gamers were concerned with the developers' decision to cap the game at 30 fps, but I’m happy to report that the lower framerate isn’t detrimental to the handling. The 30 fps stays solid no matter how much is happening on screen. While there’s the occasional 30 fps judder when the camera pans, it never truly interferes with the gameplay.
It’s no secret that the Xbox One had a rough launch…and an even tougher past few months. Despite some solid titles, there hasn’t really been a system seller, until now. Forza Horizon 2 is Microsoft’s finest exclusive yet. It’s a massive step up from the already strong predecessor and it proves that Microsoft’s struggling console still has what it takes to deliver quality content. Horizon 2 is beautiful, plays like a dream and offers more replayability an most racers in recent memory. Forza Horizon 2 is an absolute must for genre fans and anyone looking for a memorable thrill.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Xbox One