A few days ago I logged in to my favourite Xbox Game Pass game. But this time was different, I knew I was there to say farewell. Forza Horizon 4 grabbed my attention better than any other game over the past year-and-a-bit, with a total of slightly over nine days spent exploring the expansive Northern Great Brittan countryside. All good things must come to an end, so I carefully selected a few of my favourite cars (from a garage of over 500) and joined in some Playground Games one last time. Why? Because Mexico was waiting…
On November 8, 2021, the world’s greatest car festival landed in a gloriously rendered Mexico desert in spectacular fashion! A cargo plane loaded with exotic cars and gloriously wreckless drivers buzzed low over cliffs, jungles, deserts and beaches, parachuting the Horizon Festival to life!
In great news for online players (and terrible news for the virtual locals and wildlife of a certain corner of Mexico), over 4.5 million drivers of ridiculously overpowered supercars landed in the hours and days that followed, eager to explore the new environment and to live the endless party that is the Forza Horizon Festival! I was one of them.
Disclosure: Microsoft provided Blog of Dad with Forza Horizon 5 Premium Edition for the purpose of review and ongoing use. Any thoughts expressed about Microsoft or other products in this article are based on my own experiences. For more information, visit my disclosure statement.
The Forza Horizon series isn’t merely an open-word racing game. It is a celebration of all things motoring – a place in which like-minded auto-enthusiasts can gather, cruise and explore. Oh, and play. The million-dollar supercars are there, of course, but so are the classics, the average and the weird. In fact, there are over 520 cars to choose from! Pleasingly, this includes some Aussie classics such as the 1973 HQ Monaro, 1977 Torana A9X, 2014 HSV GEN-F GTS and the 2015 Falcon GT F 351.
The storyline of Forza Horizon 5 is okay. At times it’s a little cringeworthy. At other times the characters seem to speak completely in cliché sentences and there is often a strong Dom Toretto vibe (the word “family” is mention A LOT). It is also a little odd to hear the playable character speak – especially in an English accent that I can’t quite relate to. But, it also does a fantastic job of unlocking the mysteries of the map and introducing players (old and new) to the wild world of Forza Horizon.
Horizon 4 was my first experience with the Horizon series and I felt right at home very quickly as the storyline introduced me to the mechanics of the game. I believe those new to the concept will feel a similar way when they pick up Horizon 5. Even for us experienced players, there are new game types and achievements to understand – Horizon 5 certainly isn’t just a rehash of the same old stuff in a shiny new world!
About that world. There is over 100 square kilometres of Mexico to explore – 50% larger than the (already impressive) Horizon 4 map. It is also wonderfully diverse, with jungles, beaches, ancient Mayan temples, towns, deserts and even an active volcano to explore. Real-world landmarks have been recreated in impressive detail and seamlessly integrated into this imagined corner of Mexico, to create a virtual world that begs to be explored.
In the early minutes of the game, you will probably be engaged in an excessive amount of cactus smashing – especially if (like me) you prefer the subtle art of not driving on roads. But the game is quick to make the entire map available to explore, should you choose to do so. The storyline too, can take you rapidly from coast to coast if you choose. There is a strong element of choose your own adventure in Horizon Games and this Mexican adventure is no different. If anything, the choice element of the game has expanded in some thoroughly enjoyable ways. This is fantastic, but it can also leave newer players feeling a little overwhelmed by the vast array of event icons that quickly smother the map! Thankfully, these icons can be toggled on and off to help you easily find what you are looking for.
One thing that I loved about Horizon 4 was that the cars came in thick and fast. The Wheelspin element is fantastic, with regular achievements granting a go at spinning the wheel to win anything from a new baseball cap to a high-powered supercar! Cars are also given away as rewards for completing missions, winning races, barn-finds and just about any other reason the developers could think of. They can now even be gifted by other players, as I recently found out when a complete stranger deposited a fresh set of wheels in a barn for me to retrieve!
This relative ease of acquiring cars may at first sound like it sucks some of the feeling of achievement from the game, but in the Horizon world it is actually a necessity. No other car game that I have ever played has done as good a job of inviting players out of their comfort zone and into experiencing all of the different shapes and sizes that motor racing takes. By ensuring that players quickly have cars on hand to move seamlessly between highway supercar drag races and delightful mud-soaked adventures is one of the genius aspects of Forza Horizon, and one that keeps its players coming back for more.
Despite the ease of securing cars early in Horizon 5, there are still ways to get going faster than others. Those who purchase the Premium Addition or Premium Add-Ons Bundle can enjoy a five (specially pre-tuned) car advantage, as well as a Player House and a one-time grant to own any car available from the game’s Autoshow. They also get the VIP Membership, which provides (amongst other things) weekly bonus wheelspins. Then, there is the Car Pass, which delivers 8 Formula Drift Cars to get started, plus one new car per week for 34 weeks. That all adds up to a pretty handy head start – especially in these early days when everyone is still trying to find their feet!
Those special pre-tuned cars are particularly handy, because mastering the fine art of tuning automobiles for optimum performance is a key factor in experiencing success in the world of Horizon. Some races are won or lost by the quality of a race-tune, so understanding how to squeeze the most out of any given car is worth learning.
The single player mode of Forza Horizon 5 is wonderfully enjoyable, despite the shortcomings of the storyline. There is enough to keep you engaged for hours upon hours! There is also the Seasons dynamic (which is greatly refined for Mexico), which brings a set of weekly challenges to complete such as races, jumps, speed traps and photos. But, the real pleasure of the Forza world is the online games and the passionate Forza community. This aspect of the game is not always without frustration – Horizon 4 was sometimes afflicted with drop-outs and loading times that seemed to take an eternity, but the rewards were always more than worth the occasional pain.
The Playground Games are my favourite. These won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but playing a giant game of tag in tradie-speck pickup trucks or a turbo-charged game of capture the flag is pure joy for me! Here, drivers with appropriately tuned cars are definitely at an advantage, and one of my most satisfying Forza Horizon feelings is dominating the playground with a superior tune!
In addition to the single-player mode and online multiplayer, the Premium Edition provides access to the two upcoming expansion packs when they become available. The Forza Horizon Series has had some cracking expansions in the past, with tie-ins including LEGO and How Wheels. While details of the Forza Horizon 5 expansions are scarce at the moment, I know enough about Horizon to be excited by the possible inclusions.
Forza Horizon 5 is available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC and Cloud via Game Pass Ultimate. I am playing the PC version of Forza Horizon 5 Premium Edition. Graphically, it is the most spectacular car game that I have ever played! Cars are superbly detailed and the environment is stunning – at times breathtaking! The world is vast, yet full of detail and diversity, while the new weather systems add get another graphical element that is extremely impressive.
My system spec sits somewhere between the recommended and Ideal specifications (see my full system at the end of this article), but it has little trouble taking maximum advantage of my UWQHD, 144hz monitor and all it has to offer. The only time I have noticed any graphics issues was some slight stuttering in a couple of loading screens.
Forza Horizon 5 is compatible with a range of controller inputs on the PC. The easiest of these to master is a good controller. I have been using the GameSir G4 Pro in my testing and it has delivered a wonderfully enjoyable experience! The triggers of the G4 pro allow for great throttle and brake pressure control, which helps to avoid wheel spin and lock-ups (or initiate it!) The thumbstick control makes light work of drifting through corners and generally delivering the nose of the car to the exact point on the track that I want it to be.
Horizon 5 also takes advantage of the generous rumble feedback of the GameSir G4 Pro. The different terrains and racing “incidents” deliver appropriate feedback through the controller, which really adds to the enjoyment and realism of the game.
A good controller can also be used with a mobile phone to access Forza Horizon 5 via Cloud Gaming. While the tiny screen makes this less ideal for ultra-fast racing, there is still plenty of fun to be had in this mode. I have used Cloud Gaming to work on some of the slower-paced achievements when I have a moment – finding new roads, barn finds and XP/Fast Travel boards are all great ways to pass the time!
While a controller is the easy way to victory, a force feedback steering wheel is the way to truly immerse yourself in the experience! I used the Logitech G920 Driving Force Wheel for a substantial portion of my review testing and thoroughly enjoyed it. Be warned, there is a fair amount of tweaking settings required to get the most out of the set up and, even then, the experience isn’t nearly as easy as whipping a car through hairpins with the G4 Pro. But it is so incredibly satisfying to drive from behind an actual steering wheel! For me, the extra difficulty and slight imperfections are easily compensated for by the experience of actually driving the kinds of cars that filled my best childhood fantasies!
Blog of Dad Test Setup
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 5600X
- Cooling: be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4
- Motherboard: MSI B550 TOMAHAWK
- Memory: 32GB (2x16GB) XLR8 DDR4 3200MHz
- Graphics: PNY GeForce RTX 2070 Super 8GB XLR8 Gaming Overclocked Edition
- System Drive: 250GB Samsung 980 PRO PCle 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSD
- Game Drive: Samsung 980 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD
- Case: be quiet! Silent Base 801
- Steering Wheel: Logitech G920 Driving Force Racing Wheel
- Keyboard: Logitech G915 LIGHTSPEED Mechanical
- Mouse: CORSAIR SABRE RGB PRO WIRELESS
- Optical Switch Gaming Keypad: Razer Tartarus Pro
- Gamepad: GameSir G4 Pro
- Monitor: PRISM+ XQ340 PRO 34″ UWQHD Monitor
- Touchscreen Monitor: espresso Display 15″
- Sound: EPOS SENNHEISER GSP 601 Gaming Series headset and EPOS GSX 300 External Soundcard
- Device: Samsung Galaxy A52
- Controller: GameSir G4 Pro/ GameSir X2 Bluetooth
- Sound: EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid Wireless Earbuds