Anybody remember Rallisport Challenge on the original Xbox? That was probably the first real Rally game that piqued my interest in the console scene. Yeah, I’d played SEGA Rally to death in the arcades, but never touched the SEGA Saturn or PC versions. I tried SEGA Rally 2 on the Dreamcast, but the long ass loads and the muddy graphics didn’t really captivate me. It wasn’t until Forza Horizon 4 that I really got back into the Rally (or in this case, off-roading) groove. That’s why I couldn’t wait for Forza Horizon 5!

I mean, what’s not to love right? You have dirt flying through the air, caking your car all the while you’re bumping and jostling around in your vehicle trying to make the next checkpoint. It’s exhilarating, which is something I’d never say about circuit racing.

With Forza Horizon 5 heading to the sunny lands of Mexico for its Horizon Festival, does the new entry in the series live up to what’s made it great thus far?

Find out more by reading on!

What is Forza Horizon 5?

Forza Horizon 5 is an open world racing game developed by Playground Games and published by Microsoft Game Studios. It’s out on PC and Xbox consoles and is free for Game Pass subscribers. Our copy was awesomely provided by the folks at Xbox.

The game comes relatively hot on the heels of the very received Forza Horizon 4, which took place in a much compressed version of Scotland. This time around, the Horizon Festival’s moved on for warmer climates, in the form of Mexico. It’s a pretty good change.

Gone are the rolling hills and wide open meadows of Scotland. In its place, we get arid deserts, dusty plains and humid tropical jungles. There’s even a volcano (which features prominently in some of the game’s races and story missions) to race down!

Yeah, if Forza Horizon 4 was a 10 on the Extreme-o-meter, Forza Horizon 5 is a damn 11. It’s on a sworn mission to outdo Forza Horizon 4 in every way possible and will not (cannot!) rest until that’s done.

In that sense, it pretty much succeeds.

Forza Horizon 5 is a definite step up from the past game.

However, it’s not saying that much because like it or not, Forza Horizon 5 is still incredibly similar to its predecessor. The progression style is ripped right out of the last game; you still hunt XP boards throughout the map to increase your rank and get Fast Travel discounts. You still race to get XP to raise your Forza rank. You still gain Wheel Spins after every level. You still have individual car levels you can use your points on to raise their bonuses.

There’s a 5 at the end of this Forza Horizon, but for all intents and purposes, it could’ve been a .5 instead for all the ‘innovation’ the new game brings.

That’s not to say that Forza Horizon 5 is bad.

Quite the opposite. It is very, very good.

Despite all the similarities the game has with its predecessor, the fun is still there.

Why shouldn’t it be?

It’s basically a carbon copy of Forza Horizon 4 and that’s a damn riot! There’s a ton of stuff to do in the game, though much of it will be very familiar. The map’s peppered with diversions like speed traps, insane jumps and barn finds to discover. Not to mention races and other activities of interest.

In fact, the map is so busy, that it’s hard to tell what’s going on.

When people say information overload, what they mean is Forza Horizon’s map. To be fair, this was an issue in past games too. It was just as bad in Forza Horizon 4. Somebody really needs to figure out how to clean up the map without sacrificing the information it provides to gamers because as it stands now, it’s incredible confusing and time consuming to use.

Thankfully, it’s not so much of a problem when it comes to the meat of the game; the racing.

Whether you’re racing in the streets or doing some off-roading, the vehicles in the game perform incredibly well. Control is damn tight where it needs to be, loose when it should be. You can really ‘feel’ the different surfaces you’re racing on just by how your car zips around. Since the game also has a rewind function, screwing up during races isn’t necessarily a loss too! Just rewind time and you’re golden, with your car back in contention.

Sadly, that’s still pretty much what the game only offers; cars. Those of us looking for bikes are completely out of luck…again. I’d kill for some motorcross bikes or superbikes to zoom around the game with.

There are a lot of cars to buy and drive though…boatloads of them!

Some you might recognize from movies and cartoons, some you might have never even heard off!

They’re all there, from a whole host of manufacturers and the game encourages you to nab them all by rewarding you with gifts as you fill out your collection. If you’re somebody who has a compulsive need to have everything in a game…get ready to set aside months (if not years) of your time here.

Let’s not forget the creative crap you can get.

Fancy driving a van that’s decked out like the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo? It’s online. Fancy a Halo themed racer? There’s one out there. If you have the creative chops (and the time), all the cars are your canvas! If not? Just download premade user creations!

Despite all the stuff you can do in the game, the best part of it is still Horizon Live.

These impromptu massively multiplayer events groups players together for a common goal and it’s some of the best gaming you’ll have in Forza Horizon 5. There’s nothing like a crap ton of other people gathering in one location to work together on an objective.

It’s insane, it’s fun as hell and it’s easily the best part of the game.

Thankfully collisions for the game are turned off during those events or it’d be just a miserable situation with people bashing into each other all the damn time. In fact, that’s the case for most of the game too. While the open world’s populated by other players, they might as well be ghosts. They can’t interact with you in any way (unless you allow them to), which is great if you just want to enjoy the game by yourself like me.

In the races, the other competitors will all be ghosts (the series calls them Drivatars) of those on your friend list. Some of them are based off the real driving styles of your friends (if they’ve played a Forza game in the past). It’s a cool feature that’s been in multiple Forza games now and I hope it keeps on getting better in the future.

There’s nothing like racing against AI with your friends’ names (even if you know they’ll never touch the game). It gives a touch of familiarity to the game like no other series out there.

Speaking of being like no other racing series, that also applies to the game’s visuals.

I prefer to play on the game’s 30FPS mode, with all the bells and whistles on the Xbox Series X on 4K. Response doesn’t suffer as much as you’d think too. The game’s still a joy to drive, even on 30FPS.

The 60FPS mode’s fine but it loses a beat in foliage density and other visuals effects. On the 30FPS mode though, the game shines. Not only is the framerate rock solid, it has some of the best visuals in a racer yet!

Particularly impressive are the reflections.

They’re not ray traced, but they sure as hell look near enough! Everything, from bushes to buildings, accurately reflected as you drive by. The weather effects deserve kudos too, though they falter a bit in the photo mode when you can scrutinize them. Water ripples for one, look nice in motion, but look crappy in the photo mode.

One other thing that I find lacking’s the game soundtrack.

It’s all hip-hop, pop, techno, punk and classical. No love for old school rock or metal at all. I understand that the licensing budget dictates the songs but come on, throw us rockers and metalheads a bone with some Black Sabbath or Manowar or Rammstein. Hell, I’d even take Rush or Meatloaf!

Meatloaf’s songs can’t be that expensive, can they?!

The Bottom Line.

Forza Horizon 5 is a LOT like Forza Horizon 4.

If you loved the older game, you’ll love the new one, guaranteed. It’s everything Forza Horizon 4 was (warts and all), amped up to the next level. It might not be different or innovative, but it’s still good fun.

On the other hand, if you’ve looking for a change of pace after Forza Horizon 4, this isn’t the game for you.

The racing’s great but the presentation feels all too similar to past games. Plus, the music sucks too if you’re not into modern songs. It’s also a shame that bikes aren’t in the game after so long being MIA. Fingers crossed for an expansion pack with at least a couple of them in the future!


Great open world racer but feels too similar to previous entry in the series.

The Good.

  • The off-road racing.
  • Tons of cars to collect.
  • Big open world to drive around.
  • Incredible visuals.
  • Live events.

The Bad.

  • Feels too similar to Forza Horizon 4.
  • The in-game map is too busy.
  • The soundtrack.

Sal's been in the industry since the early 2000s. He's written for a ton of gaming and tech publications including Playworks, Hardwarezone, HWM and GameAxis. Recently, Sal served as a juror for the Indie Game Awards at Taipei Game Show 2020. A geek and hardcore gamer, Sal will play everything, on any platform.