What happens when you take someone who does not particularly love racing games, and you sit him down with Forza Horizon 2? Turns out you wind up with a person who spends roughly the next six hours in front of his television playing nothing but a racing game. Simply put, Forza Horizon 2 is just that good.
Racing games are popular titles for showing off just what a system’s hardware can really do. Forza Motorsport 5 was my favourite release title for the Xbox One when it came out, and the recently released Driveclub for PlayStation 4 is another very pretty example of what these consoles can do. Forza Horizon 2 is certainly a pretty game, but it does not blow either of these titles out of the water visually. In fact, the frame rate is actually locked in at 30FPS as opposed to 60FPS, and this is something that would generally upset a race game fan, but the detail and draw distances of this open world more than make up for it, especially when one factors in the different times of day and weather events.
However, regardless of where you stand on the technical side of things, the gameplay itself is a near-perfect mixture of action, style and speed that outperforms either of these other two titles. One of the aforementioned visual touches that is absolutely worth touching on is the weather. It can impact the actual driving in very discernible ways and makes the world of Forza Horizon 2 feel much more alive than any other game I can recall. The cars themselves handle wonderfully, with a variety of controls for tweaking the experience. If you crave a more genuine simulation experience, go ahead and turn off the assists. If, like me, you want to actually feel like you have a fighting chance in these races, you can leave assists on and enjoy the racing without getting too frustrated with the mechanics of it all.
Another nice aspect to the racing process is the reappearance of Drivatars. These showed up in Forza Motorsport 5 and again grace the roads. This is a system whereby the game records how you play, to then offer your buddies offline versions of your “AI” to race against. It is great seeing friends of mine show up next to me, complete with their racing tendencies. If they really like to take risks on turns, that shows up here as the Drivatar driving more aggressively. With the roar of the engines and the finesse of the controls, Forza Horizon 2 delivers an exhilarating experience on the road.
However, that would have entertained me for an hour or two – not the nearly half a dozen that melted away that first night. Far less structured that the race track design of Forza Motorsport 5, Horizon is very flexible not only in what cars you can drive and where you are located, but even how you spend your time. Of course most of it will be spent behind a wheel, but Bucket List challenges and the ability to do some Easter Egg hunting for other cars tucked away in barns off of the beaten path add some exploration and experimentation to the mix. Sticking the road means more curves but less obstruction.
If that is not enough, billboards littered about the place can be crashed through for bonus experience, speed traps for recording high average speeds and showcase races pitting seemingly unbalanced cars against one another add more variety to the mix. Looking for even more to do? Earn experience and coins to progress and unlock new vehicles and slap down some custom paint jobs to boot.
That is not to say Forza Horizon 2 is perfect. It feels very similar to the last Horizon game, and some more innovation on finding something new to bring to the franchise would have been nice. Racing around Europe is certainly beautiful but it can become somewhat redundant if you choose not to partake in those side options. The number of roads and cars is solid, but not staggering. The choice of licensed music is also a mixed bag. Sometimes the songs really seem to work, other times they feel oddly out of place – almost distracting.
Forza’s combination of speed, presentation values, excellent handling and flexibility in letting players approach the game in a variety of ways makes it really hard to put the controller down. At the end of the day, it is just a whole lot of fun.
– Nick H.