Review: Forza Horizon 2 (Xbox One)

Unlike most years, we’ve got a whole heap of racing games to choose from this year. DriveClub is coming to the PS4 very soon, Ubisoft’s The Crew is also coming out as is Project Cars which is only going to be available on PS4, Xbox One and PC. Then we have Forza Horizon 2, the sequel that’s been long-awaited by those who got stuck into Forza Horizon on the Xbox 360. But how does the next-gen racer fare? Pretty damn well.

Racing games are a dime a dozen, but only a few ever stand out as noteworthy, Forza Horizon 2 will definitely be joining that elite club of racers that every motor-head gamer will be talking about for years. It borrows some of its strongest points from others in the genre as well as building on the foundations set in Forza Horizon.

There’s over 200 cars for you to choose from as you cruise around the border between Italy and France, a setting that offers players long stretches of spiralling roads, tight corners and steep inclines to test your horsepower. The game’s setting is perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing aspect of the game, not that the cars are anything to sniff at, but the game’s map is packed with detail and just screams next-gen. You’re free to take your ride of choice just about anywhere you can see, so long as your vehicle has the power under the hood, you can travel wherever you fancy. It’s the kind of freedom we’ve always longed for in racing game, the ability to not just race, but to chill out and enjoy the drive with some tunes. Speaking of, the in-game radio stations are a wonder to behold, with a varied track listing and a serviceable faux radio announcement system, it immerses you into the European setting.

So what is there to do in Forza Horizon 2? Plenty! There’s more than 700 events for you to take part in, each offering different playstyles but all with the same reward; those valuable in-game credits. You’ll use the credits to buy new cars for your collection as well as furthering your progress through the main campaign. There’s no shortage of credits either as they’re more or less thrown at you for every action you do, with the spoils being dished out when you complete an event, bumping up your credits rather nicely.

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Unlike other racers, it never feels like you’re on a predetermined path that you must grind through to progress. You’re free to take on any and all challenges posed to you, drive whichever car you fancy and do just about whatever you please. It’s satisfying and is one of the best design choices of the title, something other developers could take a few notes from. Instead of being forced to race a car you don’t particularly like, or just can’t handle very well, your choices are accepted as final; it’s your game and you’re the boss.

That said, it’d be a shame to only stick to a handful of cars that you prefer as there’s so many options it’d take you longer than you would care to admit to get a decent test drive from all of them, each with their own characteristics. Heavier cars feel heavier, you’ll struggle to weave between traffic and gracefully take on the hairpin corners, but you’ll excel at gaining high-speed and keeping traction on the road whilst being an unstoppable force, barely even acknowledging the nudges from competitors trying to ram you off the track. Obviously lighter vehicles will act in pretty much the opposite; you’ll be a demon, fluttering past your rivals with ease, but beware of the heavy muscle car creeping on your blind side, one decent hit and you’re loosing control and smashing your £200k car into a brick wall.

The handling of vehicles is accurate for the most part, but there are some complaints. Taking a 4×4 off-road makes sense as they’re designed to be a viable option for off-road ventures and they handle accordingly. Take a shiny convertible sports car off-road and you’d expect to be flying all over the place due to the vehicles differing center of gravity and desinged-for-roads tyres, not to mention the poor suspension in comparison to a beastly 4×4. This isn’t the case, you’ll have very little resistance if you take your sporty racer off-road, you’ll find it handles more or less as well as it does on its optimal surface. It’s not the end of the world and the reason behind it is (probably) to keep it fun for everyone. Why dissuade people from venturing into the unknown when it’s so much fun?!

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Forza Horizon 2 is never far away from being connected to the online world, it’s simply a matter of seconds. It’s good fun to get a few mates online and challenge each other to races, or make your own mini games using the games expansive world. I’m telling you now, get a few buddies, nominate one as the prey and give them a few minutes head start before rallying your petrol-fuelled posse and chasing him/her down. Seriously good fun.

Lets talk about the graphics of Forza Horizon 2. They’re bloody brilliant. Seriously. For an arcade racer this has got to be the standard going forwards. Obviously the likes of Project Cars, DriveClub and Gran Turismo strive for ultra realism, but Forza Horizon 2 can safely sit among them, solely on the sheer amount of detail within the game. Cars look fantastic, though the interiors are somewhat lacking in comparison to its predecessor. Real time lighting just bounces off of cars exteriors, literally showing them in their best light. Without going off on a mad one throwing superlatives around, Forza Horizon 2 looks stunning. It’s the first proper next-gen racer to really harness the power within the Xbox One, in fact, I may even go as far as saying it’s the most graphically stunning game for the console right now.

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In short, I personally enjoyed Forza Horizon 2. The vast array of events to take part in, not to mention the special one-off events that occur (they really are special, think Top Gear with ten-times their budget,) the hefty selection of cars and the beautiful European setting make for a fantastic racer that can’t really do any wrong. Apart from Ben, your in-game buddy. I’m not going to ruin a review by speaking of him, just be prepared for the cheesy dialogue and annoying reminders from him.

If racing games are your thing, then you’ll surely find a lot to enjoy in Forza Horizon 2. Even if racing games aren’t your favourite genre, you might still find yourself surprised by its generous learning curve and accessibility. Still, don’t let this review nor others be the deciding factor as to whether you buy the game or not. If you’re really on the fence, grab the demo or have a go on a friends copy to get a feel for it first. We can only give you our honest opinion and in this case we recommend Forza Horizon 2.

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Forza Horizon 2 is available for the Xbox One (the version we tested) and the Xbox 360.

Have you played Forza Horzion 2 yet? What do you think of it? Let us know down in the comments section below.

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