Boasting one of the most gorgeous open world environments, unparalleled arcade/sim driving mechanics and a fantastic online mode, Forza Horizon 2 still remains one of the most impressive next-gen racers. With their latest Storm Island DLC, developer Playground Games expands its already vast universe by delivering a stark contrast to the sunny Mediterranean setting. Heavy winds, thick rain showers and bumpy roads introduce new dangers and challenges to the new races. With five new action-packed event types and more emphasis on pure off-road racing, Storm Island serves as a fantastic evolution of Horizon’s diverse championships.
Once purchased, the Storm Island becomes accessible via the Horizon 2 map, taking players to an entirely new location filled with hazardous weather and rugged terrain. Those who haven’t participated in many off-road races in the base game should immediately acquire a few 4WD vehicles in order to get the edge in the new event types. Championships are divided into Gauntlet, Brawl, Extreme Cross Country, Cross Country Circuit and Gauntlet events. Each event type introduces some new challenges, like smashable objects or extreme weather conditions that limit visibility. Ultimately, they are relatively similar, but the added weather effects and tougher handling make each race substantially different from the road racing in the base game.
"With five new action-packed event types and more emphasis on pure off-road racing, Storm Island serves as a fantastic evolution of Horizon’s diverse championships."
Storm Island isn’t as massive as the original Horizon 2 map, but it’s packed with new collectibles and impressive environmental effects. There are several new hidden barn cars to discover, new discount boards to smash, new speed records to set and of course new off-road AI drivers to challenge. When using garage cars, players can install the new Storm Island parts that modify each vehicle for the new terrain. With off-road suspension, tire and transmission upgrades, the cars handle looser and are tougher to keep under control, but are essential for keeping each ride drivable on the bumpy and wet surfaces. All 200+ cars from the base game can be upgrades with the off-road parts, and there are even several rally-style body kit upgrades for certain legendary cars.
"Visually, Storm Island shares similar visual elements to Horizon 2, like it’s architecture and vegetation, but it’s the weather effects that make the new setting feel like an entirely different place."
Gauntlet races, which are championship highlights, let gamers race in the new Storm Island cars. These are bulky, powerful, off-road monsters designed for the toughest roads and most treacherous weather conditions. Their bouncy handling takes some getting used to, but once mastered, they’re a blast to race with. Storm Island is structured identically to Horizon 2. Pick a championship, select the appropriate car and off to the races. There are no long road trips from one end of the map to the other, but each final championship is a lengthy endurance race that takes racers across most of the new landscape.
"As a $20 expansion, Storm Island offers a ton of new content that’ll keep Horizon 2 fans busy for another dozens of hours."
Visually, Storm Island shares similar visual elements to Horizon 2, like it’s architecture and vegetation, but it’s the weather effects that make the new setting feel like an entirely different place. Thunderstorms cover the scenery in a muted color palette, with a constant camera shake when winds and heavy rain set it. When racing through a thick storm, it’s impossible to see more than a few yards ahead, giving many races a sense of tension and horror. Storm Island boasts some impressive effects, even if the island design differs little from the base game.
As a $20 expansion, Storm Island offers a ton of new content that’ll keep Horizon 2 fans busy for another dozens of hours. It’s a welcome extension to an already fantastic racer that just keep getting better and better. And for anyone else that hasn’t picked up Horizon 2 yet...What are you waiting for?
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Xbox One