Its been a long time coming, but today everyone can finally get their hands on Forza Horizon 2! First announced a short while before E3 this year, Forza fans have been waiting to sink their teeth into a brand new open world and full of bright shiny tasty cars! So, is it everything we hoped it would be? Is it worth the wait? More importantly, is it worth $60? Here is my take…
DISCLAIMER: Microsoft provided an early full copy of Forza Horizon 2 as well as a loaner Xbox One console for the purposes of this review. Since I needed a console to play the game I have had significantly less time with the game than most of the other outlets who reviewed the game. This is why I am doing a written review rather than my typical video review. This review will also be a bit leaner since I did not have as much time with the game. That being said, lets dive in!
What is Forza Horizon 2?
Just in case you haven’t been paying attention to this website or various others for the last 6 months or so let me fill you in on what Forza Horizon is all about. “Horizon” is a virtual music and automotive festival that usually takes place in a sprawling, scenic local, and is essentially a free-for-all to any gear head to drive their dream car in an open world in anyway they see fit. Forza Horizon 2 greatly expands on what the first Horizon game did, specifically by moving the location from Utah to southern Europe with locations like Nice, and Sisteron. All in all the area in which players can explore in Forza Horizon 2 is double what it was in the first Horizon game.
How does it look?
As stated in the disclaimer I played the Xbox One version of Forza Horizon 2 and like its cousin Forza Motorsport 5, Horizon 2 seems to take full advantage of the Xbox One’s power. The visuals are stunning. The cars look very realistic and sharp inside and out. I was half expecting the visual quality to be lower than that of Forza 5 but the standards were still set the same. In some ways Forza Horizon 2 actually looks better than Forza 5 but more on that later. Anyway, its more than just the cars that look good the environments are amazing. Whenever I plow through a vineyard in first person view its almost like I can smell the soil and the grapes being stirred up and smashed by the car. To make things even better visually Forza Horizon 2 has dynamic weather. This is the first and only Forza game so far with weather effects and it looks awesome! The way the water beads on the car’s paint surface and windshield looks incredible. The weather also realistically affects how the environments look as well. Reflections of the car and its surroundings can be seen on wet asphalt. Random puddles form, differences in the terrain create pools of standing water. Once the rain stops the moisture doesn’t just magically disappear, it actually takes a while to dry off! Because of the extra visual detail that the weather adds it actually makes the game look even better than Forza Motorsport 5 in a way. For their first time doing weather the team really knocked it out of the park!
How do the cars drive?
When the first Forza Horizon game came out many were skeptical as to how the car physics would play out. At first glance Forza Horizon seems very much like an “arcade” style racer, which typically means very floaty loose physics meant more for forgiveness than accuracy. The first Horizon game eased fears by using the same physics system used in Forza Motorsport. Horizon 2 follows the tradition by keeping its physics firmly based on the simulator side although things are tweaked just a little bit to make things a little more accessible for less experienced players. However, just like in Forza Motorsport assists can be turned off for increased realism in handling (as well as difficulty). Additionally tuning has been expanded so that parameters can be more finely adjusted that previously allowed in the first Horizon game. The only thing that would have made this better is if they allowed for a tune to be exported from Forza Motorsport 5 to Horizon 2. Maybe in the next version? Also, as I mentioned earlier the new weather system adds a whole new layer to the game’s physics. When it starts the pour everything changes and players will have to take real care to make sure they stay in control. This isn’t to say that as soon as it rains handling goes out the window but it does get more difficult. Combine that with the fact that players will never know when the rain will come and you have the makings of challenging gameplay.
How many cars are there?
I wont spend too much time here since this info is pretty easy to find but there are over 210 cars available at launch with more coming via DLC in the future. As far as the curation of the cars available trust me when I tell you all your bases are covered. There are plenty of exotics, supercars, sports cars, classics, and cult classics to choose from. Anyone will be hard pressed to find a car that should be in the roster but isn’t. Its all there!
How much is there to do?
I am just going to flat out say it now. It will be a very long time before any player does all there is to do “officially” in Forza Horizon 2. There are hundreds of roads and over 700 (yes 700!) events to do. Depending on how casually one games they may not even finish it all before the next Horizon game comes out. The possibilities are expanded even further when considering other events such as “bucket lists” (one-off events that encourage major hoonage), the return of “barn finds”, and the fact that you can challenge just about any car on the road to an impromptu street race. That last part is even more special in Horizon 2 since this time around players deal with “drivatars” just like in Forza Motorsport 5. Each “AI” car is literally based off the “driving personality” of another real player. This adds a whole new dimension to not just every random street race but all the races in the game because you are always racing against drivatars.
The seamless multiplayer mode adds even more to do with open world roaming lobbies in which players can explore the world as a group and decide what they want to do and literally just do it. The experience is much smoother, easier, and more fun. There really is no place where single player ends and multiplayer begins, and that’s a good thing. Everything about the events and other experiences of this game are really meant to pull players in. Some people may even find themselves having to reserve time to go back to Forza Motorsport 5 because they will be so involved in Horizon 2.
What’s not to like?
No game is perfect and Forza Horizon 2 is no exception. While there is a lot to love about this game there are some things I didn’t quite like. The first is how the driveatars look. Now that might seem like an odd statement considering drivatars use the same cars that everyone else uses but there is one key difference. For some reason driveatars are given graphics schemes and those schemes tend to be on the tacky side. I know this is kind of a knit pick but its just weird to see a Lamborghini Aventador with a 1992 Hot Import Nights-style checkered flag theme. In Forza Motorsport 5 this treatment can be turned off but as far as I can tell, that option isn’t available in Forza Horizon 2.
Another thing that took some points off is the music. Now, I am not saying the music is bad. In fact, music is a big part of what makes the “Horizon” series what it is. Just like in the first Horizon game there are radio stations with different genres of music that the player can choose on the fly. The choices of music are even greater now with over 150 stations to choose from. The problem is unlike the first Horizon game in which all the stations are available at the start, in Forza Horizon 2 only three are available and more stations are unlocked as you progress in the game. This lead to me getting tired of the music real fast in the early hours of playing and I found myself just keeping the radio off for the most part until I unlocked more stations.
Back when Forza Horizon 2 was first announced many of the hardcore fans had a lot of specific and technical questions like “how many cars will there be?”, “how much bigger is the open world?”, “can we turn on the headlights and windshield wipers?”. I will admit that I had some of those questions myself as I waited for this game to arrive. Yet, I can honestly say that within the first 10 minutes of playing the game none of that stuff matters anymore. All that mattered to me was “OMG I am driving a Ferrari through a random field plowing through giant hay bales on a southern European country side and its awesome!” I think in the end it was that feeling that Playground Games was really going for when they began to work on Forza Horizon 2. They really did create this virtual theme park of automotive pleasures with seemingly limitless possibilities for having obnoxious fun. That, my friends is well worth 60 bucks. I would easily give this game a 9.5 out of 10 and recommend you go out and buy it immediately if you haven’t done so already!