Forza Horizon 2 Review: It’s Easy To Get Sidetracked – And That’s A Good Thing!

Game Reviews / Gaming / Reviews / Xbox

Playground Games’ Forza Horizon 2 has been out for a week now, and I’ve got to say the game is absolutely incredible. The graphics are great, the festival mood is alive and well, and there are so may things to do that it’s easy to get sidetracked from the main championship story line – and that’s a good thing.

I’ve been waiting for the release of Forza Horizon 2 since it was announced. I’ve been a huge fan of racing games like the Need for Speed and Burnout franchises, and Forza Horizon was my gateway into the Forza series. I wasn’t big on Forza Motorsport before that, as it seemed to rigid – racing laps around a few different tracks didn’t really appeal to me. When Playground Games announced the original Forza Horizon game, I was pretty stoked as I loved the look of the Forza series, and Horizon gave me the Need for Speed style gameplay that I preferred. It was only a matter of time before Forza Horizon 2 hit the Xbox One, and hit it has.

Forza Horizon 2 is just that massive and fun, so I’m bound to forget one thing or another in what follows, but hopefully this gives you a decent idea of what you can expect – if you aren’t already experiencing it first hand.

Graphics

First up are the graphics. The trailers on YouTube just don’t do this game justice. Not only have the over 200 vehicle models – from the 2013 McLaren P1 to a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air to Jeep’s 1945 Willys MB and just about everything in between – been recreated from the ground up for the next-gen Forza games, but Playground Games has also added dynamic weather effects to the Xbox One version of the game. Not only does the potential for rain set the mood, but it also makes driving a bit trickier on those slick roads.

The European environment as a whole is absolutely stunning at 1080p resolution, and the dirt and damage effects are very realistic. The attention to detail, from the different layers of dirt, to the streaks behind the tires, is just incredible.

Forza-Horizon-2-McLaren-P1

The McLaren P1 complete with dirt in Forza Horizon 2 (click the image above for a larger view)

Honestly, the game needs to be played to truly appreciate the amount of work that went into the graphics and weather system. I know I’ve said it before, but screenshots and videos just don’t do it justice.

Gameplay

As the title indicates, there is no shortage of things to do in Forza Horizon 2. I sat down the other night with the goal of completing a few championships on my way to becoming Horizon Champion… three hours later I’d completed one event in the championship series. The rest of the time was spent on finding hidden relics in barns scattered through the countryside, racing random opponents I found while enroute to events, and building up massive skill chains to max out my Skill Perks to give me a leg up in the game.

The main point of the game is to win enough Championship Series in order to race against the best to become Horizon Champion. However, because the game uses Drivatars – computer AI that drives with information pulled from your friends and other Forza players (both Forza Motorsport 5 and Forza Horizon 2) – it’s so easy to see someone you know, pull up behind them, and challenge their Drivatar to a quick race down the highway, or through the countryside.

While the original Forza Horizon had some off road events, these typically stuck to dirt tracks with the Rally DLC. Playground Games has taken that up a notch by truly allowing you to race any car just about anywhere you can see. As you can see in the video above, this allows for some… creative driving when trying to figure out how to beat a Ferrari F12berlinetta while driving a Ford Mustang GT in Rivals mode. It also makes for some interesting driving when taking an X class McLaren P1 off road.

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Truly go off road in both events or free roam (click image for larger view).

As well as the main championship story line, players are encouraged to race Rivals they find out in the open, or after each event race. Every once in awhile, the host of the tournament lets you know that he’s heard a rumor of an abandoned car left to rust out is somewhere near in an old barn. Once you find it, the Horizon Festival mechanic will fix it up and you can then add it to your garage. The Bucket List is a new addition to this second installment of the series, and offers players a fun way to drive cars they can’t quite afford yet – pitting them against timed challenges to complete a certain number of skills, or make it to a specific destination.

A voice activated navigation system has also been added to the game. Dubbed ANNA, if you have the Kinect hardware enabled on your Xbox One, you can simple say “ANNA nearest event” – or numerous other commands – and she’ll respond and set up a route to where you’ve requested. She has even informed me a couple of times that I had friends I could join in an online session. However, ANNA isn’t always paying attention and sometimes it can be a little fickle trying to get her to respond and set up or continue your desired route. I find ANNA listens best just after you’ve completed an event and are at a standstill.

Social

In keeping with a festival atmosphere, Playground Games has introduced car meets. Drive up to a Car Meet and you’ll be connected to a group of cars online where you can view what others are driving, purchase vehicles, and download tuning setups or other drivers custom liveries. Car Clubs are a great way to meet new friends and compete in events – and against each other.

At anytime, you can jump into Online Free Roam and be connected with up to twelve other racers to take part in a variety of events from Road Trips to event races and game modes such as Infected where players try to smash into each other, and infecting them as a result.

I haven’t checked out the online modes too much yet, but once I make Horizon Champion, I’m certain my focus will shift towards online play. What little I have experienced though is very seamless, you indicate you want to join Online Free Roam and continue what you are doing in solo mode until a match is found. Once you are done with online mode, simple revert back to solo mode – and you will be able to carry on by yourself from the same spot you were currently when you left the online mode.

Music

Music is a huge part of any festival event and BBC Radio DJ Rob da Bank returns to curate a massive track list of nearly 150 tracks across seven stations. This is more than double the track list from the original Forza Horizon game and includes artists such as Nero, The Clash, Jane’s Addiction, R3hab, Nervo & Ummet Ozcan, CHVRCHES, and even some classical pieces from the likes of Mozart, Vivaldi, Wagner, and others. Oddly enough, it’s pretty fun tearing through the countryside while chilling to Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries.

In case you’re interested, I’ve created some playlists with the tracks from the game from the songs that are available on Google Play Music. If you’re an All Access member, feel free to check them out and listen to the tracks while you’re not able to play.

Final Thoughts

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Forza Horizon 2 is available digitally in three editions – Day One, Deluxe, & Ultimate – as well as in stores.

Overall, Forza Horizon 2 is an outstanding game – both visually and gameplay wise. Combining the visuals of Forza Motorsport 5 with open world freedom makes for a truly fun experience. There is plenty to do between the main story, Bucket List, Rivals, and other events to keep you busy for quite some time – and when you get sidetracked, you don’t feel like you’re wasting time or missing out on the main story. There are a couple of minor glitches, like the aforementioned issues with ANNA, and I’ve noticed some frame rate stuttering in loading and cut scenes, but it’s minor and very occasional.

Having played Forza games for some time now, the initial bonus from the Forza Rewards program was a major boost as well. Nothing like starting off a new racing game with six free vehicles (including the McLaren P1) and 1.5 million credits to stock up your garage further. With the first set of DLC – the Mobil 1 Car Pack – already launched, there will be no shortage of new vehicles to pick up and race through the European countryside. I’d definitely recommend picking up the Deluxe or Ultimate editions which include the DLC Season Pass and other bonuses. If you’re still unsure, you can check out the demo on the Xbox One – I’m positive you won’t be disappointed.

I’ve got so much left to do in the Forza Horizon 2, but I already know I’ll be playing this for months to come. Any game that I play and find myself smiling consistently is a winner for sure.

Are you playing as well? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below, or on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter. Better yet, hit me up on XBL at JustAnotherJay and let’s hit the roads together!

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