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Forza Horizon 2 (XB1) Review

"No Roads, No Problem"
The first Forza Horizon flipped the script on the Forza franchise. Going away from the car simulation style of the Motorsport games, Horizon bridged the gap on both arcade and simulated racing in an open world setting, particularly a music festival at Colorado. Driving with more finesse than going along the standard driving line was the name of the game. Playground Games are back at it again with Forza Horizon 2 on the Xbox One. The Horizon Festival moves on to a fictional take on Southern Europe and if you loved the first game or open world racing games generally, Horizon 2 is fun and thrilling both on the road and off.

The core structure for Forza Horizon 2 revolves around completing championships in various types of cars. From your muscle cars, hot hatches, offroad vehicles, and hypercars such as the Bugatti Veyron Supersport, the game encourages variety in terms of driving different cars. You have to complete a number of championship events, four race series at a certain region in Southern Europe, to unlock the Horizon finale that uses the majority of the open world map and reminiscent of SSX 3’s 15-30 minute romps through multiple mountains. These races range from standard circuit races with laps, point to point sprint races, and even cross country races where the majority takes place offroad. The formula does get repetitive as you keep doing these: road trip to a specific location, complete races, continue the road trip at another locale, repeat. It is recommended to take a break from championships to take on Horizon 2’s other activities to make it not much of a grind.
Besides the championships, Horizon 2 offers plenty of side activities to do from bucket list challenges, finding boards throughout the huge map, showcase races pitting you against planes, trains, and even hot air balloons, and many more. Bucket list challenges provide you a set car with a specific goal to beat like hitting a speed trap or zone at a certain speed, accumulating skill points, which I’ll talk about more later, or simply going from point A to point B within the time limit. Showcase races are more of the highlight reel races and something you expect from a Top Gear episode pitting cars against other vehicles that are not cars. These are pretty special and usually come down to seconds even if you drive well enough to beat these specific opponents. As expected for an open-world racing game, the collect-a-thons consist of boards you have to smash with your car (similar to Burnout Paradise but smaller boards though), finding rare cars at hidden barns, driving every road, and taking photos of cars Pokemon Snap style to complete the collection. These activities are fun to do and the OCD-esque players will have a field day trying to find everything in the map for that 100% completion (As of this review, I’m still only at 30% because there’s so many championships to beat and almost half of the boards left to find).

The driving in Forza Horizon 2 feels great to no surprise especially if you played both the first Horizon and Turn 10’s Motorsport games. Of course with the Forza franchise, you can change up your assists to earn more credits to buy cars if you’re willing to increase the challenge such as having car damage affect your actual performance and no driving line to guide you. The drivatar AI even on default settings can hang with you if you’re not careful in these races and there’s also the rewind feature if you messed up on a specific turn or missed a checkpoint. The physics do change up a bit as expected when offroad, but these offroad, cross country races offer some of the best moments the game offers. Barreling through fences and plants with ease on a supercar at breakneck speeds with no rewinds if you mess up feels very satisfying.
Then there’s the skill points system that will remind racing game fans of Project Gotham Racing’s Kudos system. Horizon 2 encourages stylish and effective driving from drifts, near misses, driving clean, wrecking the environment, passing the opposition and more. Even a slight bump on a wall or another car doesn’t end a combo, so the game can be pretty generous in terms of keeping that alive. Racking up skill points give you access to perks like earning more experience points performing specific tasks, the ability to fast travel anywhere, and extending the skill chain longer than normal. After loving the Kudos system from the PGR games, it is nice to see Horizon 2 have familiar vibes to Microsoft’s previous racing franchise.

Forza Horizon 2’s online options are interesting to deal with. You can join in online road trips and freeroam sessions from the game’s pause menu. The other way to start online games are at car meets. These car meets are essentially lobbies where players can challenge each other into showdown races or start online road trips hoping others join as well without scrolling through menus. Online road trips work similar to the championships in the main game in which you drive to a specific area to start up a race. Latency-wise, the game is fine even though you will run into players that lag at times. Other than standard races, there are also non-race modes to spice things up. King is about holding on to the crown as long as possible before being bumped. Infection is similar to what you see in shooters where one car is already infected and has to bump everyone else to infect them. The last one infected is the winner. In freeroam sessions, players can also complete bucket list co-op challenges. Just like the main game, there is also plenty of content to mess around with online in Horizon 2.
The game does look amazing on the Xbox One especially driving on the map’s coastline as if you come up with a postcard in thanks to the photo mode. The draw distance is pretty impressive and the environments are diverse enough whether driving through Nice at night or going on an offroad trail in the rain. Yes there is a day/night cycle in Horizon 2 along with rain and it looks great as well. It does run at a stable 30 frames per second, but I do wish it was 60 like the Motorsport games. Sure, there is a lot to compensate in an open world racing game, but there are some running at 60 frames per second. I personally encounter a couple of crashes during my playtime with the game and the game does stutter at times making me worry it will crash again, but keep in mind that I’m in the Xbox One dashboard preview and others have experienced the same when on that program too. Music-wise, Horizon 2 offers a diverse soundtrack of EDM, techno, rock, and classical tunes, so there is something for everyone in terms of what to listen to when driving through the countryside.

360 Version Impressions by Zack Zwiezen
Forza Horizon 2 was also released on the Xbox 360. This version of the game was developed by Sumo Digital and has less impressive visuals. On the Xbox One trees and other details are everywhere and make the world feel more real. On the Xbox 360 version there are less trees and details. Cars look great, but the world looks empty. Which is a shame, because the actual driving and gameplay is still super fun. Driving and drifting around corners feels great and actually feels better than the Forza Horizon.
Most of the content from the Xbox One version is here. Radio stations, bucket list challenges, painting cars, online clubs and more are all available in the Xbox 360 version of Horizon 2. The only real thing that is missing is the drivatar system. Other than that though, Horizon 2 on 360 is nearly identical feature wise to its Xbox One counterpart. If you can can stomach some less than great ground textures, Forza Horizon 2 on Xbox 360 is a lot of fun.

While it doesn’t offer anything new to the table in the open world racing genre, Forza Horizon 2 is still a great and fun racing game that should be not missed by Forza fans and also fans of the genre in general. Playground Games’ take on Southern Europe looks beautiful and a blast to drive through in the hundreds of cars the game offers. The skill points system is a neat implementation of Project Gotham Racing’s Kudos system and there’s plenty to do besides grinding out the championships. The championship structure does get repetitive pretty quick and luckily there’s other stuff to mess around with to not make the game feel as much of a grind. The online is also fun but prepared for players of all skill levels when it comes to racing games when some just want to bump everything. If you just want to drive anywhere in a fictional Europe, Forza Horizon 2 is well worth it for that alone.
  • Beautiful take on Southern Europe by Playground Games
  • Satisfying driving controls for all levels of racing gamers
  • Thrilling offroad, cross country races that provide some of the game's best moments
  • Fun skill points system reminiscent of the Project Gotham Racing series
  • Tons of content to do both offline and offline
  • No roads, no problem
  • Championship race structure does get repetitive, so take a break at times to do the game's side activities
  • Encountered crashes and stutters (if you're on the Xbox One dashboard preview program)
  • While it runs fine at 30 FPS, I do wish this ran at 60 FPS


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