The original Forza Horizon is one of my favourite racing games to have released on the Xbox 360, the festival setting, fantastic soundtrack and the gaming memories created in our online ‘crew’ is something we still speak about in my gaming circle today.
When talks of Forza Horizon 2 on Xbox One surfaced, we were excited to hear more, and the trailers that have been released to date have excited that same Forza gaming crew, I was lucky enough to get extended hands on time with the game, so the question remains now, is Forza Horzion 2 the game I hoped for?
*Please note that my playtime was from the very beginning of the game and although there’s not many spoilers, I do talk about starting cars and event’s which some readers may not want to know *
Much like the original, Forza Horizon 2 takes place at the Horizon Festival, which is now held in Southern Europe, more specifically southern France and northern Italy. The first thing that hits you upon starting the game is the visuals, using the same engine as Forza 5, the game looks fantastic, with such varying environments that are possible with the new setting, Playground Games have created some stunning vistas for players to explore.
Arriving to the festival via ferry, your first task is to help deliver one of the cars to the festival, in return the organiser rewards you with your very own car (what a lovely chap!) driving in this game feels very rewarding, you have your standard selection of cameras to chose from, I myself mainly opted for the cockpit cam for the most realistic experience.
Once the car was delivered, undamaged…. I was given the choice between 3 vehicles to use to explore the festival, a Toyota Supra, BMW Z4 and an American muscle car. Eventually I settled on the Z4 and my Horizon adventure begins.
Theres certainly a lot to do in Forza Horizon 2, with 315 roads for you to explore, 168 championships and 700 events you’ll be kept busy for sure, after a little over an hour into the game I was only 1% complete, with the rep telling me that, that number is in fact rounded up so you’ve probably not hit that yet.
So now with my car, it was time to set my waypoint to my first championship, a 3 race event with the winner obtaining that all important wristband. Unlike the original Forza Horizon, Playground Games have adopted the Drivatar system from Forza 5 for Horizon 2, meaning that my opponents are based of real players of the game. With the only Drivatars being those of the developers at this stage I was bound to be tested from the very beginning, although saying that I did manage to win my first race by miles. Bragging aside it’s nice to see the Drivatar system brought over to Horizon 2, all other racers throughout the open world are those of other players too, so the world does feel very much alive.
Another point to make in racing is, unlike traditional racing games, being set in an open world meant that I can chose my path to get to the finish line, I could take the road, or I could cut though a field in the hope that, that’s the fastest route possible, although I did learn the hard way that this is not always best when doing a checkpoint race, so cutting though a field and completely missing a checkpoint wasn’t the best idea.
Each race in this event earns you points based on the position you finished in, so despite no winning all my races, winning 2 and coming 3rd in another did mean that I had enough points to secure the overall victory of the event and obtaining that all important wristband.
With the championship safely secure, I decided to head back to the festival to see what tuning capability’s are available to me. There are 2 options when it comes to tuning, buy a pack which will align your car to be in a certain class, or you can fine tune everything to your specification. From tyres, gearing, anti roll, springs, damping, aerodynamics, breaks and diff, these can all be fine turned and upgraded to however you want. To save time, as well as lack of actual knowledge I decided to buy the most expensive upgrade, making my car an S1 class. Problem being, I put so much power in the car now that the handling was a little to be desired so trial and error is the best way forward. If I could spend more time tuning my car I’m sure it would have been a very rewarding experience.
Dynamic weather affects makes its debut on a Forza game, when the rain does decide to fall, the car certainly feels different, and you will have to change to way you drive to accompany it. But once the rain stops, and the sun comes back out, the reflections and attention to detail on the water droplets left on your car are a photographers dream.
Liveries have also returned, with endless possibility’s to make your stamp on a car, whilst play testing I was told that one of the developers is currently rocking the Nyan Cat design in which Deadmau5 has on his actual car, consisting of around 1000 layers, with the amount of fantastic designs seen on Forza 5, I’m sure the community will be making great things for me to buy to use on my cars in the future.
The soundtrack from the first Horizon game received much praise, with DJ Rob Da Bank creating the list. Rob Da Bank is back selecting the tunes we will be hearing in Forza Horizon 2, with double the amount of music tracks than the previous game. A bass lover, the Bass Arena station certainly had me covered, with great tunes that I’ve heard of as well as other which I have missed and have since added some of these to my playlists on Spotify! You start with 3 radio stations at the beginning with others becoming available as you progress though the game.
My session finished by entering a race where I competed against 5 planes from point to point, a race which we first saw from the original title, more races like these are set to be included in Horizon 2, and is certainly something different from your standard circuit race.
So is Forza Horzion 2 the game I hoped for? absolutely, Playground Games have made a game which I’m certainly excited to play more of. The southern Europe setting opens up to allow them to make a truly beautiful game, lots to explore and lots to do, a great selection of cars to acquire, with over 200 in total there is certainly something for everyone. The dynamic weather effects means that not every race is predicable, and along with the Drivatar system, your skills will certainly be tested at times. Add another great soundtrack this all marries together to make one of the best racing games we will see on the Xbox One for some time. Bring on September 30th