Forza Horizon 2 Review

Forza Motorsport’s club-hopping cousin hits the open road.

Forza Horizon 2 on Xbox One at GAME

Forza Horizon is the answer to some of the criticism leveled at the Forza Motorsport series for being too buttoned up, handling racing as an ethereal, almost religious experience replete with swelling orchestras, loving camera pans and the occasional Jeremy Clarkson baritone. Forza Horizon 2 eschews those dramatic flourishes to focus on two things: speed and fun. In doing so, it may be the best racing game for Xbox One.

Open road fun

The main difference between the Motorsport and Horizon series is the former sets you on a very clear path, figuratively and literally, as you travel the world from race track to race track. Horizon 2 doesn’t bother with taking you to Nurburgring or Seneca, and instead flies you off to the south of France and northern Italy to drive in an open world with few boundaries to worry about.

The open world objectives, accessed through your menu or by using the Kinect command “Anna” to call up your GPS, show off several challenges. These include different types of races, from a normal street race complete with innocent traffic littering the road, to circuit races that keep you on a regular thoroughfare. Complete a set of four races that comprise an official tournament and you’ll be one step closer to the Horizon finale.

The open world lends itself to exploration, and you’ll find yourself getting sidetracked locating hidden barns with rare cars inside, or XP boards ripe for smashing. There are also special bucket lists that put you behind the wheel of a special car with a unique challenge that ranges from showing off your stunt skills on a golf course to crossing fields of grapes to reach a destination a few kilometres away in 60 seconds.

Visual evolution

The most impressive thing about the open road concept in Forza Horizon 2 is the exhilaration that comes from crashing through a wooden fence and gunning through some poor farmer’s field just to reach a destination a few seconds quicker.

Moral quandaries about vandalism aside, the ability to take advantage of the wide open fields before you is quite liberating, even though you can rarely take advantage of shortcuts during actual races due to a checkpoint system that keeps everyone on the straight-and-narrow. These misadventures also show off Forza Horizon 2’s visual prowess as debris goes flying, obscuring your view with realistic foliage creating a few hair-raising moments.

Graphically, Forza Horizon 2 is more of an evolution than anything else, but the subtle touches in which the presentation has been improved look beautiful. Special attention was paid to water, whether coming down in a light seaside drizzle or settled in puddles on a glistening road. Cars even have beaded drops of water along their surface, giving the game yet another nudge towards realism.

Have some fun

Forza, both Motorsport and Horizon, have several difficulty options that touch on every major aspect of driving, from the AI you face to the different assists implemented in handling your vehicle. Critics say this makes the Forza series more of an arcade game, but we challenge them to try out the hardest mode and see if it doesn’t compete well enough against the realistic-but-stuffy Gran Turismo.

While easy difficulty is a bit too easy (cars almost steer themselves), medium with more difficult AI is how we like to play, as it offers a nice challenge. By giving you a multitude of options, Forza makes it clear that your experience is first and foremost. You dictate the level of effort and the challenges you face, and it lends itself to that concept of freedom that, for racing games, is unique to the brand.

It may frustrate players looking for a worthy challenge with every race, so tinkering with the settings to offer the best resistance may not be everyone’s cup of tea. If you find yourself slaying racers a bit too easily, though, those options help equalise the field.

A couple of steps back

There are no major criticisms, as Forza Horizon 2 offers a very fun ride, but there are aspects where a bit more care would have helped. One of our favourite modes in Forza Motorsport is Autovista, the ability to check out your cars inside and out within a virtual showroom. There was always a special incentive for the car collector to acquire more vehicles for your garage, but that doesn’t appear in this game, much like in the first Forza Horizon.

One aspect that Microsoft made sure to include is the fact that some cars are under lock and key, accessible only after purchasing another DLC pack. The disappointment was palpable, as we tried to purchase a Tesla Model S only to be greeted by a purchase screen that requires real world currency for several of the cars listed. At least the car list comes at a very respectable level, with over 200 vehicles to choose from.

Overall, Forza Horizon 2 offers a freer open world experience lacking in many racers. The core Forza gameplay mechanics are there, and the ability to tweak your gameplay settings and race the same Drivetar AIs make this an easy addition to any library. With just a bit more attention to detail, Forza Horizon 2 could have been one of the all time greats, but as such, it brings enough power to become the best racing game available for Xbox One.

GAME's Verdict: 9/10

The Good

  • Beautiful open world to explore.
  • Visuals show a significant evolution, with water the star of the show.
  • Drivetars and custom gameplay options make for a comfortable ride.

The Bad

  • Disappointment in the required DLC for some cars listed on the menu.
  • If you’re not into the club scene, the presentation may annoy.
  • Where is the gorgeous Autovista mode?
Forza Horizon 2

Forza Horizon 2

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SKU: Reviews-312754
Release Date: 02/10/2014