Forza Horizon 5 Review: Virtually the best road trip you can get now

Forza Horizon 5 (FH5), the highly-anticipated Xbox-exclusive racing game is finally here. Set in the vast landscape in Mexico, the game offers an open world for racers to explore and unlock events, locations, and hidden treasures.

PRICE: Free with Xbox Game Pass, or from S$79.90 (PC; Xbox One; Xbox Series X|S, version reviewed), available in Lazada and Shopee
GENRE: Racing

The standard edition of FH5 is free for subscribers of Xbox Game Pass. I think it is enticing enough for new or veteran gamers who are still on the fence to jump in.

Welcome to Forza Horizon 5! (Photo: Microsoft)

The opening introduction scene gives an idea of the sheer number of cars and crazy action you can expect from the get-go. You start off by creating an in-game character from a few disappointingly basic settings.

While you can customise your character with prosthetics and hair colour, there is no option to select an appropriate body size. Thus, you will probably end up with a slim version of yourself. I went ahead to purchase a face mask in the effort to look socially responsible in this time we live in.

You can put on a mask even for your in-game avatar. (Photo: Nizam Mohd)

After a brief introductory race, the game lets you select one vehicle from those you drove during the opening cutscene. After a short but exciting participation in a showcase event, you are left to explore on your own. In order to progress effectively, you need to complete a couple of rounds from the main story campaign.

The open world of Mexico offers a larger area to discover, compared to that of Britain in its predecessor. Playing the game on Xbox Series X paired with a 4K TV, the visuals are truly breathtaking.

The visuals are stunning. (Photo: Nizam Mohd)

One moment you could be racing on the streets, and the next you might be powering through a dense jungle. You can be exploring abandoned spots found in the vast landscape and even drive up to a volcano.

+ Realistic visuals
+ Different cars handle differently and can be tuned
+ Multiple activities to try with nice rewards
+ Plenty of locations and biomes to explore

– Limited avatar customisation
– Lack of access for artists to contribute liveries

The music accompanying your drive is vibrant. But the selection is limited in the beginning. However, once you acquire your first home, you can start unlocking more upbeat tracks.

Broken down into chapters, the main story campaign offers challenges related to the road, dirt tracks, cross country, streets and performing PR stunts. Progressively, the map will become littered with dozens of other interesting points to check out. Some events require you to navigate against bad weather to snap a good photo or complete specific objectives such as scouring for hidden items.

It is time to rock and roll! (Photo: Microsoft)

Almost every action you make is rewarded. Driving on new roads, knocking down bonus boards, drifting, racing cleanly and even crashing into structures and shrubs earn you points to rank up.

Every time you level up, the game gives you a free spin to win cars, in-game credits, exclusive attire options and special car horns. You can also use car mastery points to boost a series of perks that multiply your scores.

All completed activities will fill up the accolades bar, which is key to unlocking more rewards and races. Those feeling confident in their skills can test your endurance in Goliath, a 50-lap race that usually lasts more than 10 minutes.

There are many cars for you to drive. (Photo: Microsoft)

With over 500 cars to unlock, there will certainly be a select few that you will grow fond of, regardless of how affectionate you are about past and present models. Each car also handles differently, but you can tune it to your liking.

There are also special edition cars that might drop into your mailbox from time to time. I’m especially attracted to locating hidden barns that leads to discovering a broken-down model from the past, which can be restored to its full glory.

Got an unwanted model in your garage? You can put it up for auction and use the credits to purchase something else. If you are feeling generous, you can pay it forward and gift it away to a specific or random player. This is a great mechanic to develop and grow an inclusive community.

Most of the races you do are done offline, but you can switch to online activities easily anytime. Those looking for a challenge can take on Eliminator game mode, a battle royale version that pit your driving skills against seasoned players.

FH5 is not all about burning rubber and leaving skid marks all over the place. One thing I love about Forza is the creative community. There are many great talents that conjure great-looking vinyl and livery designs. Sharing your creation for other players to download and use will earn you credits and kudos.

Forza Horizon 5 is also a community. (Photo: Microsoft)

Passionate fans spend a great deal of time perfecting their designs and I feel an option to access their work out of the game would attract more budding artists. Perhaps this feature is challenging to work with older consoles, but I hope it can be explored for future releases.

On Xbox Series X, FH5 loads up swiftly. This is great whether you are trying to squeeze in a few minutes of high adrenaline action, perfecting your stunts or just driving around at your own pace.

Forza Horizon 5 offers a plethora of content that makes it appealing to veterans of the franchise. At the same time, it is accessible and concise to new as well as casual fans alike.


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