Michael Leparc On September 25, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Forza Horizon 2 logoForza Horizon 2 - Screenshot 10As a huge Forza Motorsport fan, I was highly skeptical when we were first introduced to the concept of its more casual-oriented cousin, Forza Horizon, back in 2012. Could a series that prided itself on realism really appeal to the lowest common denominator without losing it soul? Playground Games answered that with a resounding yes for the most part. Now they’re back again for a next-generation release, and it is here that the Horizon series really comes into full bloom.

Once again you’ll be participating in the titular, fictional “Horizon festival”, essentially the mecca of car enthusiasts the world over. Sports cars ranging from the sort you’ll actually see on the road to the rarest million dollar supercars or track toys have all congregated and are readily available here. Here this time being the towns, cities, and country sides of southern Europe (specifically France and Italy), a nice contrast to the miniaturized version of Colorado we were given to play around with in the first Horizon. The ultimate goal of the game is to drive through and win over a dozen championships focusing on different classes of cars in order to qualify for the Horizon finale, but there are upwards of 700 events and 200 cars to play with along the way, so there’s really no rush!

The meat of the game starts with acquiring a new car (either given to you or purchased), and then taking a road trip to the town or city where the next championship is being hosted, based on the car you’re now driving. Once you have arrived at your destination, you can tackle each event of the championship until you claim it and move on to the next one (often after one of the game’s showcase events, which are just as epic and insane as last edition’s). The road trip addition to the campaign is actually quite welcome, as it’s a chance to let your hair down and really get familiar with your new car and the surroundings without the pressure of having to win a race. Instead, you’ll want to work on earning XP by driving in exciting ways, like pulling off near misses, drifts, hitting ramps or hills for air, or wrecking signs and plants as you go off-road. Why earn XP? Well when you level up you’ll unlock a Wheelspin, basically a slot machine that can win you more credits or even a new car! But besides that, you’ll also earn skill points you can use to unlock perks which can earn you even more credits for specific stunts, winning head to head races, or drivatar performance.

Yes, this means drivatars make a return from their introduction in Forza 5. There’s plusses and negatives to that, depending on your skill level, but I have to say their execution in Horizon 2 is far less annoying. Maybe it’s because there’s less emphasis on realism, but it could also be the fact that there’s a lot more leeway to go off-road in Horizon’s courses, making collisions with aggressive drivatars less frequent and far less catastrophic as a result. As a result, the drivatar system succeeds in supplying a more human like challenge to your racing without ruining your game. At least so far. It could change when the masses are unleashed into the game!

If asynchronous multiplayer isn’t social enough for you, there’s also a couple of live multiplayer options at your disposal. The first is the Online Road Trip, where much like the main game, players vote on a destination, take treks from city to city out there in their car of choice, and then once they arrive, compete in a series of events, which besides the standard circuit and sprint races, includes “playground games” like Infected and King, which should be familiar to Forza veterans but basically consist of contrasting games of tag. If all that sounds too constricting, you can also join up with friends or randoms for the Online Free Roam experience, where just as it says, everyone can decide what they want to do. If someone starts a specific race event, you can decide to join them by either driving up to it or fast traveling, but if you’re not feeling it, you can keep on exploring the area just as you would offline: unlocking barn find cars, beating your friends speed trap records, or taking on the new Bucket List challenges (events you can attempt in the open world with specific cars, either beating a specific time or pulling off a specific number of tricks). Just like Horizon 1, you and your buddies can form car clubs where you can earn bonus credits and XP for racing together or competing for the best driver within your club. Also new to the experience is car meets, special places on the map where you can stop by to see everyone else’s vinyl designs, configurations (which can be just as detailed and esoteric as in Forza 5), and upgrades and even purchase them for yourself.

No doubt, part of the enthusiasm you’ll have for playing Forza Horizon 2 is the absolutely stunning graphics on display (on Xbox One at least, I can’t speak for the 360 version). The game runs at 1080p and a smooth, solid 30 fps, a step down from Forza 5 but for good reason as the effects, draw distance and number of cars on the screen more than make up for it. Of course the other big thing about this Forza is the introduction of dynamic weather, including rain! The way rain droplets accumulate on your car, pool up and ripple on the road, and collect on your windshield is quite impressive, and the effect it has on your car’s handling really changes things up in the middle of a race or road trip. The sounds are authentic to the featured machines as usual, and I quite enjoyed the multiple radio stations full of licensed music included in the game, so kudos for that as well.

In conclusion, Forza Horizon 2 is exactly the follow up we’ve wanted to see from the promising franchise that started just two years ago. Microsoft has added a great exclusive to its hand just in time for the holiday season, one that should appeal to much a wider audience than Forza Motorsport 5 did as a limited and somewhat disappointing launch title last year. Horizon is the premiere open sandbox racing game at this point, and it’s a must buy for Xbox One owners in my opinion.


Whether it’s single or multiplayer, the game gives you so much to do and excels at all of it.


Eye candy galore. Proves the Xbox One can hold its own in this generation.


Great variety of music to pick from, authentic sounding vehicles, and even some solid voice acting to push things along.


Unless you absolutely abhor racing games, there’s no reason to miss this one.

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