It’s hard to explain how much I enjoyed the first Forza Horizon. I’ve never been a fan of the Forza games, as the simulator genre isn’t really my cup of tea. Don’t get me wrong, the Forza games are some of the most accessible racing sims out there, I just find it boring to drive around the same tracks time and time again using the same cars. Shaving seconds off lap times is not my idea of fun, but exploring a whole world that hundreds of artists and programmers created is. So imagine my surprise and glee back when Forza Horizon was announced, a entire world using some of the best graphics on the market? I got it a week before release, and played it so contagiously that I got every single achievement before Forza Horizon was even released. To learn that there was a second game incoming got me excited, but after the horrendous release of the Xbox One, I wasn’t going to buy the console just to play one game. Eventually, Microsoft came to their senses and released quite a few games that I really wanted, and so the Xbox One was mine, and with it, Forza Horizon 2.
The game starts out just the same way as the original, with you starting out driving to an unknown location just because someone on the intercom tells you to. I lacks context or story, but that’s not really the reason you’re here playing Forza Horizon 2. You drive across the beautiful french countryside, and happen across the Horizon festival, where some jerk of a boy racer sets you up with a car, money, and GPS to find your way to all the best stops across the country. It’s a typical set up for a racing game, but one where you don’t get a chance to change anything about your character. Yes, in a game all about being the biggest driving personality at a festival, you don’t have any options on how to change your appearance of the in game avatar, crazy I know, but Playground Games must have seen this as a minor point, one that I beg to differ on.
The handling of the cars in Forza Horizon 2 is superb, with every class of car feeling unique and spectacular no matter what the condition of the weather or surface. I found myself leaning more towards the AWD vehicles during my second half of the game, but this was more to overcome the challenges of the different terrains you can go across. Cars range from “Classics” all the way up to super cars, and each and everyone is rendered lovingly, with fantastic graphics showcasing what the Xbox One is capable of in the right hands. Granted the graphics don’t come close to matching the realism of Driveclub (especially since they added weather to the game), but the aesthetics are still gorgeous none-the-less, and take me back to my previous days of playing Test Drive Unlimited for hundreds of hours.
Being an open world game that takes place across two countries, Forza Horizon 2 takes you across different terrains and different landscapes, but surprisingly, they seems to be no variety between France and Italy. Cities look the same, with buildings not varying in any discernible way, and most of the countryside looking identical. Now I know that in real life, the borders of two countries so close together probably wouldn’t be so different, but in a game that takes liberties with the scales of roads or other general mechanics within the game, it seems a bit strange that the developers at playground games didn’t just chuck as much variety in as possible, like The Crew did with it’s scaled down U.S.A.
The one thing that could be said for Forza Horizon 2’s size is the amount of collectibles spread across the map. I, for one, love collecting everything in games like this, and it was no different with Forza Horizon 2. There’s 150 signs to find and smash across the world, 35 speed cameras which you must beat the speed limit on, and much much more. It was enough to keep me gaming for hours, without thinking about the races at all.
The music is a mixed bag for me, coming from Forza Horizons stunning soundtrack (seriously, I loved the originals soundtrack so much I used it constantly for my workout playlist), I can’t help but feel the Forza Horizon 2 soundtrack is lax in comparison. in the 12+ hours of playing it, I can’t settle on a radio station I like, or even specific songs I look forward to listening to when they come on the radio. It’s a shame, as the music in Forza Horizon was some of the reason I enjoyed the game so damn much.
When it comes to events, you can boil Forza Horizon 2 down to 3 distinct ways to race, there’s cross country races, where you’ll drive for 5-10 minutes against AI either on road or off-road, normal lap races across different sections of the map, and crazy one-off events where you’ll take on a different method of transport, from hot air balloons to trains, nothings too crazy for these special events. All these races will add points to your currently selected championship, which comprises of 4 events. Once 15 championships have been completed, you’ll get into the Horizon Finale, where you’ll then take the Horizon trophy for best driver on the map (Yayyyyy).
So, all in all Forza Horizon 2 delivered on being a worthwhile successor to the original, but it had it’s compromises. The lack of customisation for your player (not your car, there’s millions of customisations available for cars) was for me a silly thing considering you’re always in the spotlight, and the repeatability of the driving can get boring, but considering how chocked full of content the game is, it’s easily worth a go, if not only to experience some of the exciting events you’ll encounter or the lovely landscape and weather Playground Games have implemented. Like driving games that are simulators and give you a massive world to roam free in? Play Forza Horizon 2, you won’t regret it.