Forza Horizon 2 Review
I am going to start off by saying that though I absolutely love the Forza series, I have always been pretty terrible at it. I mean, if I ever thought I was doing great in the single-player section, I would quickly jump online and realize just how terrible I was in reality. It would seem that no matter how much I tried, I was always unable to reach the caliber of talent available to me online. With Forza Horizon 2 however, I believe that I have managed to become one with the car. And that is a great thing.
I should first note before I continue this review, that since the game is insanely huge, I have not completed every championship available. As a matter of fact, I have completed 15 of the 150+ available which equated to 67 different races. As you can see, Forza Horizon 2 is a huge game and will more than likely provide me with far more game time than I could have ever anticipated long after its release. So now we have that cleared up, let us discuss why, if you like racing games, then you have to own Forza Horizon 2.
For those of you that have played the demo, the opening segment to the title may be all too familiar as you race towards the Horizon festival. Throughout the whole opening your blood will pump as you speed down roads alongside Drivatars who also want in on the Horizon festival action. I will start by saying if you have not yet played the demo, then simply do not. Despite it still being an exhilarating experience, it is not half as exciting if you have already done the stretch. I truly wish I skipped on the demo for this very reason, since Forza Horizon 2 manages to perfectly capture the feeling of going to a huge festival. The scenery around you and the ferocious roars of the dozens of engines you pass do incredible justice to how the Horizon festival should make you feel. Not to mention the radio chatter which again serves to build up the intense excitement of arriving at the event. Before the festival had even started, I was already completely blown away by all that I had seen in the seat of my chosen Toyota Supra RZ.
The mechanics of Forza Horizon 2 are pretty straight forward, and they work remarkably well. The basic gist is that you enter a championship with the appropriate vehicle class, complete some events, gain CR, and you repeat the process after completing a road trip to one of 6 locations. In all, you do a massive amount of driving when not racing. For some, this may come across as a turn off, however Road Trips are one of Forza Horizon 2‘s largest features and they really can make for some fantastic, unforgettable moments that you will most certainly want a record of. Thankfully, this is made easy with the Xbox One’s recording function. You can expect to see countless friends posting clips of Forza Horizon 2 since so many ‘wow did that just happen’ moments actually take place as you smash through forests and tear up streets.
Speaking of tearing up streets, Playground Studios is well aware that smashing into things is fun, and so destruction is raised up a notch. Lamp posts, bins, benches, and so much more are all available for you to crash through as you sprint to the finish line, which adds a real layer of strategy to the title. In some cases, I knew I was going to fail to slingshot from a corner and so used the scenery to my advantage in some truly epic drifting.
Drifting is a massive part of Forza Horizon 2, and it becomes even more integral when driving in the rain. Forza Horizon 2 is the first game in the Forza series to offer weather effects, with rain being the standout attraction. Rain does not simply just look pretty, but it also changes the entire dynamics of driving. The corner I ripped around before is going to need a little more TLC the second time around in wet conditions. For me rain has made an already brilliant game considerably better since it changes so much of the basic fundamental gameplay I had already become so attached to. With the addition of rain and fog effects, the monumental world of Forza Horizon 2 becomes alive in every sense.
Forza Horizon 2 is an absolutely beautiful game. If you had any prior doubts about the game looking solid, then those can be put to rest right now as top notch graphics are definitely one of the title’s strong points. Though I did experience occasional frame rate issues when driving at high speeds (all the time), this is something that could – and hopefully will – be fixed over time. Driving through areas in rain is great and all, but for me, the fun was in dashing through the countryside at 200+ mph in my Bugatti Veyron Super Sport.
There was nothing as satisfying as watching crops rip up from the ground as I zoomed through them making circles like an alien. All this reckless driving has consequences though, and but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Forza Horizon 2 features a fantastic system where leveling up is not some useless mechanic to pass the time. Level up and you gain access to a wheelspin. Here, a bandit-type machine spins and you will gain the chance to win either a cash or car prize of either high or low value. The first time I won 100,000 CR I felt like a billionaire, but that cash soon goes, and leveling up is one of the simplest ways to acquire funds. The wheelspin is a brilliant idea and will definitely result in people pushing much harder to increase their level, in turn exponentially increasing Forza Horizon 2‘s lifespan among players.
Also working in tandem alongside the level system is the skill system. This is where those drifts and near-misses pay off. Much like leveling, skills become just as addictive to focus on. By performing said movements, perks are unlocked and with these, the game makes things just a bit easier for you. The types of perks available can range from XP boosts to discounts at the Autoshow and beyond. The prices for them also vary depending on how valuable they are, so do not go in expecting to have them all in no time at all. If you want every single perk at your disposal, you will damn well have to work for them.
Forza Horizon 2 has a massive amount of tracks for you to drive through, and all of them require a great deal of skill and patience. If you have played a Forza game before, you will be aware of the difficulty sliders which can greatly alter your experience with the game. Here you can tweak settings to your heart’s content and make the game as easy, or as painstakingly difficult as you like. With a few clicks, you can go from a fully automated, mostly invulnerable machine, to a fully manual car with realistic simulation effects. These changes can indeed make the game very challenging, but you will be rewarded for the pain. Each change to the difficulty results in your CR bonus going up or down depending on what has changed. As I previously mentioned, I am not the greatest Forza player, but I do have some dignity and always made sure my CR bonus was never below 20%. For you masochists however, you can ramp that bonus all the way to 131%. It will be your funeral, so proceed with caution and plenty of lube.
Customization has always been a huge part of the Forza legacy, and Forza Horizon 2 offers no change there. I put some serious time in the garage and tried my hand at the infamous decal system. Not much has been altered on this front, but since the entire location is different to that of Forza 5, decals and paints look better than ever against the gorgeous sunsets featured in Forza Horizon 2.
Making a valiant comeback, however, is the ability to tweak your cars as much as you like, meaning you grease monkeys will be having a whale of a time under the hood. If you do not know the ins and outs of a car, the option to auto-upgrade is available for the class most suited to your desires. It is nice to know that Playground Studios has catered to the casual crowd whilst still keeping hardcore features intact. With this attention to detail however, your car can go from beast to beasty-beast in a matter of seconds.
So how about everything outside of the main race tracks? Forza Horizon 2 excels with flying colors on this front. In terms of being in a car, I struggle to think of what Forza Horizon 2 is missing from the package, it feels that complete. When you are speeding across the landscape in free-roam, the sheer amount of optional activities available to you blows the mind. Progression unlocks barn finds, for example, which those of you who played the first Forza Horizon will know are pretty nifty. With these, players will circle a small section of a map looking for a barn with a rare car inside it, which when found, becomes yours for the taking. Having found three, words cannot express how good it feels to finally stumble across a barn. You may be thinking “a barn? Really? Doesn’t sound too hard.”, but it really is. You spend so long driving around the same lot of trees that you realize that yes, this is pretty hard. You will give up, and you will return, but that my friends is the beauty of the barn.
Also on offer are speed cameras, bonus boards, car meets and so much more. You will be spending a lot of time at Horizon festival, and you should get yourself comfortable. A couple of other features are Bucket List challenges and Showcase Events. Without detailing too much, Bucket List challenges are small events which have you completing a set challenge in a specific car. I have personally found myself scouring the world for these since they are almost too fun to do. These challenges vary in difficulty, but always offer a challenge to even the most hardcore car fanatic.
Showcase Events, however, are different, but a cardinal part of Forza Horizon 2. They act as a ‘boss level’ of sorts, and boy are they stimulating to the core. Each Showcase Event resulted in nail biting moments where I was unsure whether I would survive the distance. Again, this cannot be explained without spoiling, so I will leave it as a wonderful surprise for you to discover. If you absolutely must know what one is however, then go make your way over to the Forza Horizon 2 demo for a taster.
Forza Horizon 2 is a magnificent game and sets the bar high for open world racers, but it had one little part to it that I could not get out of my head no matter how much fun I was having. Throughout my time with the game, I could not help but ponder “who am I?” I am referred to as “you” all the time by the cast, yet I play as generic gaming dude #12445556 complete with short haircut. I would have simply preferred cut-scenes to always play out in first person and never see this random chap’s face. It really managed to pull me out of the game and it almost felt like the game was telling me not to forget I was controlling this guy, not actually being him. For a game so strongly built on creating your own experience, it just felt strange to live out another person’s existence.
But even this managed to be countered when you take into account the excellent Drivatar system which takes your real world friends and more, and places them into the game as a quasi A.I. opponent. The idea is not new and was used in Forza 5, but it is still revolutionary and results in completely unpredictable opponents. An example from my end would be when I was racing against a friend, his Drivatar smashed into me like he would have in Forza 5. Unless you know your friends play-style, a Drivatar can be a very uncertain thing to toy with indeed. This enables for events to play out differently every time and offers up some truly limitless driving. If playing against your friends’ Drivatars is not good enough for you then go ahead and play with them for real online in online free-roam or online road trip, the world is your oyster.
Forza Horizon 2 has far surpassed the game I hoped it would be when it was initially announced, and I will certainly continue to play it for many months to come. If you love racing and open-world driving, and have a penchant for high speeds, then Forza Horizon 2 is worth every penny and you should be racing to the store right now to buy it.
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Review Statement: The author of this review received a code for the game on the Xbox One for the purposes of this review.