Hey Mate! Welcome to the world of Forza Horizon 2, where driving on roads is as encouraged as obeying traffic laws. So, buckle up as we explore the world of Horizon — published by Playground Games with some help from Turn 10 studios.
The game starts off with you pulling into the Forza festival where the race director immediately asks you which class of vehicle you would like to race in. The game offers the ability to choose from three random beginner championships and, of course, your first car. After you have selected your first car, you’re off to the races…well, sort of. From this point, you head out on your road trip. The road trip aspect of the game is designed to give you a chance to get to know your new car all while heading to the destination of your next racing series. Each road trip is different and has a specific time limit allotted for completion. However, after the first few road trips, this part of the game becomes rather repetitive and time consuming.
Luckily, once you have completed your first Forza finale, you become the road trip director and you choose the destination for each road trip. While the road trips are designed to show off the more scenic routes of the horizon festival, when you aren’t on road trips the game becomes rather exciting as there is little limit to what you can do in between races. Some of the activities to choose from include: exploring the streets, attempting to beat your personal or crew members’ fastest times (more on crews later), or challenging one of the many drivatars cruising the streets of the horizon festival. Yes, you read that correctly, drivatars are back and better than ever.
As many players of Forza 5 know, drivatar was a system that was introduced to keep the game’s A.I. fresh and familiar. Drivatar also makes racing much more personal as you are always racing against names found in your own friends list and many players of either Forza game. What makes this system unique is the fact that it learns player tendencies.
What makes this latest entry to the Forza universe so much fun is the diversity in racing types. In previous installments of the Forza franchise, many race series would have you limited to circuit races on well-known real life tracks. However, many of the championships in Forza Horizon 2 are complied with a combination of both circuits and sprints and can be both on and off-road. This variation allows the ability to have intense off-road races with your favourite 4×4 on a track mainly comprised of large highways with room to let your hypercar hit top speed. Circuits, while the same in regards to road and off-road courses, also offer street racing modes which keeps public cars on the tracks. These races are straight forward and offer a quick way to gain some experience and increase your level as you drive your way to the Forza finale.
So how do you get to that Forza finale we spoke about earlier? Well, you have to win 15 championships. After winning these championships, you are ready to race that finale race which has a purse of one million credits. Unfortunately, this is one area in which I feel the game was rushed, as the Forza finale is nothing special. For the finale you get to pick whichever car you want and the race director instructs the other drivers to match up. After this selection you venture on a one lap, ten minute race filled with small course turns, off roading, and large straight aways — that’s it. As well, it’s the same race every time you make it to the finale.
Every race you compete in can earn you points in one of three categories: credits, experience and skill points. Credits, being the main one, is used as the game’s main currency and the only way you can get the type of car that you want. Experience comes next and is calculated based on how you race. The cleaner you race without assistance (such as using a rewind) the higher your XP bonus will be. XP is used to level up and levels in Horizon are acknowledged by what colour wristband you are wearing. The third is calculated in skill points. Skill points are earned from drifting, drafting and clean racing at high speeds. These points are awarded and can be used to unlock permanent perks to enhance your gameplay experience.
Online experience is also a key component to Forza Horizon 2, as you have the ability to switch between on and offline within seconds. Much like the single player game, you can either join a road trip or just start racing. This ability adds additional hours to overall gameplay and can really offer a great change of pace.
Lastly, in regards to gameplay, I’d like to mention my favourite part of Horizon: the crews. Now, this mode is used in both online and offline play. At an early level the game asks you to pick a crew from a list of crews established online. Once you join, you can now compete with your own crew throughout the game. When you earn XP in single player or online, you add XP to your rank in your crew and can move up the rankings. The crew option allows you to always compete and try to better times against a leaderboard of real people.
Moving onto the game’s presentation. Before I talk about the incredible library of over 200 cars and stunning graphics, I want to talk about the menus. While addressing menus may seem odd, I can’t say enough about them. Your entire game is controlled by the easy-to-navigate menu that is divided up by game mode, progress, online community, crew, progress and settings. Simply put, everything is where it should be and can be found easily.
Now onto the cars and environment, and my goodness, what a beautiful site. Forza Horizon 2 boasts a smooth 30fps, displayed at a brilliant 1080p. Going with cars first, I can admit the first time I sat down and played the game I was in awe of the extraordinary detail given to each vehicle. As always, when you purchase a car in Forza, the game offers up some of its more popular designs. These suggestions are great in theory, until you see EVERY car in the game using the same few designs. I’ve decided to just slap on a few sponsorship stickers to all my cars and enjoy them the way I like to. To me, this option really brings out the beauty of the cars as you just use regular paint as opposed to multi-coloured graphics.
These cars, no matter what you have on them, adapt to the environments well. Whether you’re cutting through a vineyard or flying down the coastline during some unfavourable weather, the visuals are always more than pleasing. Admittedly, I was afraid of playing the popular racer with wet tracks, but after some practice it rapidly became one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game. The use of water now allows you to slide around a track with much less traction and, if done right, can really increase your skill points. So, what’s better than playing this game in the rain and during the day? You guessed it! Playing at night! Night is when the game makes you take it all in. I couldn’t help but marvel at the reflections created on other cars and the streets. Not only do you see these details at night, but you also see fireworks in the sky and lights from the concerts happening around the festival.
While I can rave over the beauty of the game’s graphics, there are some flaws too, most notably in realistic damage and the displaying of shadows. With both being polar opposites, I figure I’ll start with the damage. I tried playing around with all aspects of damage and found a comfortable place with cosmetic damage (as I tend to slide all over the track and love to off-road). However, when you put on realistic damage (in my experience it’s almost impossible to stay untouched), credits will be taken away from you in every game to pay for repair. Granted, this is a simulation of real life circumstances, but it makes it much harder to build bank for that supercar you know you want. As for the shadows cast by the sun, I found the movement to be choppy and slightly pixelated.
When it came to sound engineering…it’s a Forza game. Simply put, the game’s sound is remarkable. From the multiple radio stations that range from upbeat tracks to classical scores to the ever-changing radio commentary queued by your progression in the game, this game has a healthy dose of variety. This variety, paired with the over 200 realistic sounding cars, trucks, and SUVs, makes this game a must-blast on your local surround sound system.
So is this game worth it? Every time I go to purchase a new game I constantly ask myself whether or not I can afford it, or if I will continue to play it in a month. The short answer to this question is: yes. Since beginning my review, I’ve worked hard to collect cars, win championships and, of course, climb my crews’ ranks. With that being said, I’ve also put many hours into this game and can foresee myself putting in many more. Sure, the $69.99 price tag may seem slightly high, but, again, this game comes loaded with 200 of the world’s greatest cars. Unless you really want to splurge on an expansion car added later into the game, you won’t have to spend another dime on this game and you can easily have hundreds of hours of fun.
Forza Horizon 2 busts onto the scene with one of the most entertaining and realistic racing simulations to date. Bottom line is: if you want a racing game that has hundreds of hours of content both online and off and if you want to race the computerized version of your friends, or your actual friends, then this is the game for you.
This review is based on the Xbox One version for Forza Horizon 2. The game is also available on Xbox 360.