The Forza series has always been a standout when it comes to first party games on Microsoft’s systems. The game combines aspects of circuit racing with that of open world racing. Honestly, I believe this game is the first notable console exclusive for the Xbox One, with most of the first party games so far being lackluster efforts. The game itself, released on both the 360 and the One, is developed by Playground Studios for the Xbox One version and by Sumo Digital for the 360 version. This review, however, will be over the Xbox One version since it utilizes the most advanced hardware of the two.
Visually speaking Forza Horizon 2 is simply breathtaking; the attention to detail regarding the cars and racing environment is sure to make players pause for a few seconds to take it all in the first time the game boots up. The detailed textures run at 30FPS at 1080p resolution and couldn’t look any cleaner. The anti-aliasing (which gets ride of rough edges on polygons and models) allows this game to have a very polished and smooth look, an essential feature if you are making a racing game with exotic cars that have warped and unique angels in their body frames. The overall color palette of the game consists of bright colors, a stark contrast with the gritty, bleak nature of other games as of late; these colors truly help capture the atmosphere of the Italian countryside in which the game takes place. Driving on a coastal Mediterranean highway at 200+ mph has never looked better than in this addition to the Forza series.
Content wise, Forza Horizon 2 has about 200 cars, with many more to be released via every gamer’s worst enemy: DLC. Not lacking in variety, there is hardly any repetition in the style and models of each car that was picked to be featured in the game. Unique cars such as the Swedish Koenigsegg Agera R (which happens to be my favorite car), or the Texas-based manufacturer Hennessey’s Venom GT, which can hit speeds of 270 mph, are nice additions compared to every other racing game’s typical Lamborghini and Ferrari. The latter two are in the game, but in a breath of fresh air, are not the focus. Many other unique (and more than likely under the radar) manufacturers such as Noble, producers of the M600 supercar featured in the game, add a freshness to the stale roster that plagues other racing games.
Race-wise, players have hours of content to play through, whether it be Grand Prix, Single Circuit Races, etc. The actual “Story” of the game consists of 15 tournament style races which, when completed, only put the player at about 15% overall completion of the game. (Beating those 15 tournaments alone took me about 2 weekends of on and off playing). The tournaments range from open world point to point racing, rally car racing through the Italian countryside, and classic, closed-circuit racing. The choice to have all three allows nearly any racer to find their favorite form of racing in Forza. Online play with various clubs (which are similar to clans in FPS games) also add high replayability to the game.
Actual gameplay in Forza Horizon 2 can be either incredibly easy or incredibly difficult depending upon the preference of the player. People who are new to less arcade-style racers will more than likely enjoy the ability to rewind after a bad turn or crash in hopes of improving the second time around. (However, the amount of times you use it affects how much money you get at the end of the event.) Braking and handling assist, traction control, and ABS also help newcomers slowly enter the world of Forza. These features may seem boring and unnecessary to veterans of the series who enjoy a more pure racing experience. Luckily, if you are up to the challenge, the HUD (which shifts your position to only inside your car) and assistance measures (brakes, handling and even rewind) can be turned off to rake in larger rewards at the end of events. If you really want a challenge, I also suggest turning on realistic damage and tire burn, which makes every high-speed nudge or tight turn a risk to your car’s performance and, therefore, your finishing slot. But as I mentioned earlier, by turning all of these elements to make the game more difficult, you will receive and incredible raise in rewards won in game. (If you think that you have what it takes to challenge me in a time trial feel free to ask, but it will be a pure race as stated above.)
Lastly, the sounds of each car in the game were separately recorded by the developers in order to capture the feel and intensity of each unique engine. Playing Forza with stereo headphones or a high quality home theater setup will get you as close to the real thing as possible from your couch.
Forza Horizon 2 provides everything a true racing aficionado would want. New exotic cars combine with nice retro ones to fill in the roster, a dynamic and stunning environment, and a large sandbox world to race in. In my opinion this is the first game that makes getting an Xbox One really worth it since it is a previous and current-gen Xbox exclusive. From longtime racers to newcomers, I highly recommend this intense racing simulator that finally provides Microsoft with a new exclusive game. (Look for reviews of the Master Chief Collection and Sunset Overdrive in the coming future.)
Verdict: 9/10 * Easily the newest and best looking racing game on the market. Provides an easy to lean yet hard to master experience, but lacks in number of cars when compared to games like Gran Tourismo, which have over 1000 cars to pick from. Despite that, this game is as good as it gets overall when it comes to a racing game. Ditch your generic racing games and buy a copy of Forza Horizon 2.
Note: If anyone feels like setting up a Forza Tournament for Ranger Day, feel free to send me a message on Moodle.