For most of the history of gaming, there have been two extremes when it comes to racing games. On one, you find the nitty-gritty detailed car porn of the Gran Turismo-esque games. On the other, are the more arcade racers like Burnout Paradise or the Need For Speed series. Since its debut on the Xbox 360 in 2012, the Forza Horizon series has been a marvelous melding of both. Itself being an offshoot of the more simulation style series Forza, the Horizon series throws you into an open world and lets you have all the fun you want, and how you want it – while still maintaining the love for cars and the tweaking and tuning that gearheads come to love.
FH2 ties itself around a fake music festival in fake southern Europe – specifically fake France and fake Italy. (The first game had the same idea – a fake music festival, but it took place in fake Colorado.) This allows you to explore at your will as you drive through beautiful European towns and over some gorgeously rendered countrysides.
That’s the first thing you’ll notice, too. This game is really damn beautiful. From the individualized interiors of every car, to the stunning and subtle lighting, all the way down to the dings and dents, FH2 is one of the best looking games I’ve ever seen. For example, and it’s a dumb small detail, but I have to mention the wet roads. I literally “wow’d” in awe. They look absolutely real – but better than that is how they look after the rain stops and the roads start to dry out. You can see the differences where the sunlight hits or where there is more mud; it just blew me away. I know, I know, I’m going on about wet pavement in a racing game.
But it’s those little details that really bring the world of fake Europe to life. Every car has its own weight and sound and feel. Not to mention the way you can customize not only the look of the car using the skin creator standard to all Forza games, but also how you can swap out every part in every car to your performance needs. And then tune it even deeper after that – down to the PSI in your front and back tires. That’s the best part about it, too. You don’t have to touch any of that greasemonkey stuff to have a great time. The game lets you just dive in and have fun racing if that’s your thing.
The only thing I’m disappointed about with this sequel is how they laid out the racing progression. In the original Forza Horizon, the map was bespeckled with race indicators. You’d drive up to one you found, race it, then move on. In FH2, there are five or so main hubs spread over the map. At the hubs, you pick a championship series based on a car type (sports car, off-road, hot rod, etc.) and start a four-race series within that type. Starting another series cancels out any progress you’ve made in a previous championship.So, instead of it feeling more organic, and stumbling upon races, you have to first drive to the closest hub, choose a series, then drive to each individual race. It makes the overall progression and festival wristband (a mechanic carried over from the first game, in which you could only do certain races based on the color, or level, of your wristband) feel wholly unnecessary. Because of this, you find yourself driving through large patches of countryside, which are mostly barren. This makes sense, since a lot of the areas are used for unmarked off-road races, but it makes the traversal from race to race much less interesting than it was driving through the majestic mountainsides of fake Colorado.
Here’s a quick look at me running through a few races and things in FH2 to give you an idea of what the game looks like in motion.
All that being said though, what Forza Horizon 2 does right, which is the driving, it does really, really right. That’s what’s most important about a racing game, anyway. The sense and feeling of speed is spot-on, as is your sense of control over every vehicle. Especially fun are the returning exhibition races, which pit you against a train or a hot-air balloon, for example. These unique races are exceptionally fun and thrilling. A few minor gripes aside, with all types of cars to drive, in all types of terrain, Forza Horizon 2 is a dream for any car lover, and great racing game for any fan of the genre.
I give Forza Horizon 4 Stars out of 5
By Patrick Fedo