Welcome to Horizon Europe!
Returning to the land of open-world driving with Forza Horizons 2, the sequel to Playground Games’ and Turn 10’s 2012 hit, was something I was very much looking forward to, especially since this was the first REAL next-gen racing title on the Xbox One, intentionally omitting Forza Motorsport 5, for those automobile obsessed out there. I’m talking about a “fun” racer.
Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.
Taking place again during the fictitious “Horizon Festival”, Horizon 2’s game world is located in southern Europe, focusing primarily on France and Italy. The game world itself is about the same size of Forza Horizon 1, but this time the drivable area has been increased three fold. Gone are the invincible fences protecting forests and farm land. Everywhere is accessible, and it’s a blast to drive off the side of the road, plowing through open fields filled with crops, while narrowly escaping huge bales of hay or random tree groupings. The telephone poles are still impenetrable though.
The game sports over 200 licensed vehicles from many different manufacturers, shapes and sizes. Forza 5’s Drivatars are back, as well as the custom tuning and liveries. Horizon’s in-game radio stations return, showcasing a very cool collection of tracks, and have the radio’s DJ come on everyone once in a while and tell us what’s going on in the world, or if it’s raining or not. Thanks, so the sky isn’t falling?
The game fits the same mold laid out in Horizons 1. We start out in the Horizon’s Festival as Mr. Nobody, and have to race to progress, earn money, buy new cars, and race more, until the festival hosts a championship race to name this year’s Horizon Champion. The road trip starts you in one city, and you get to choose the class of car, compete in 4 championship races, and then convoy on to the next locale. 8 destination cities in total, 21 championship events per city, 168 championship events in total. Sounds daunting and it is! That’s almost 700 races. Gracefully after 14 events they host the Horizon Championship, so it’s not actually too bad. You get a lot of added gameplay for the completionists out there, once you’re crowned as the champ.
Scattered about, and unlocked during the game’s progress are specialty events where you get to race against a locomotive, or some jets, or even 100’s of hot air balloons. These events are a nice distraction between driving from city to city, race after race.
Car vs. Cargo Plane
Notably missing from Horizon 2 is the “Street Race”, the start to finish line – no checkpoint races. Due to the sizable drivable area I’m guessing. But that whole group meeting – lets race! feeling has been replaced with the Car Meets. This brings us to the online portion.
When you start up the game, you’re dropped right away into one of these car meets. This is Horizon’s online lobby. At this point you can either choose to play offline, in your own free-roam campaign, or you can join an online free-roam session or online road-trip session. Private free-roam or road-trip sessions are also supported.
Online free-roam hosts 16 people, where you can drive around, search for collectibles, participate in challenges, or initiate races. Race types include circuits, sprints, drag races, and cross country. Once a race has been started, anyone in the group can join it, and then once the race is done, everyone just gets dropped back into the free-roam world. Multiple events can be taking place at any given time.
Online road-trip is a little bit more structured, and follows the same path as the offline campaign. Again, supporting 16 people, everyone drives to a destination city, participates in 4 solo or team races or multiplayer events including King and Infected. The group then votes on the next city. Drive there, repeat.
Built on the already pretty Forza Motorsport 5 engine, the game is tuned down to a competent simulation/arcade racer, while keeping the gorgeous visuals, keeping the licensed vehicles, but throwing away the licensed tracks. Forza Horizon 2 is a racing paradise. Extra praise has to be given to the game’s dynamic weather system and day/night lighting. Playing in rain, at night, in the driver seat camera view is a thrill.
All commendations aside, I did have a few, very minor issues with the game. Firstly, and most prominent issues involve the car physics. Now, given the fact that this game is open-world, and potentially extremely off-road, the vehicle physics are brilliant when on the road or off-road depending on your car. But if you happen to hit a ditch or bump, and find your car rolling, it becomes very floaty, as if the car didn’t weigh more that its lovely paint job. This can be very frustrating at times while racing online, without the rewind feature or vehicle reset option.
Second gripe, barely worth mentioning, is that you have to go back to the Horizons hub to change your car at the garage. Minor, but annoying at times.
For gamers who like the perfect blend of Simulation/Arcade racing.
All Your Race Are Belong To Us 2.0 (Complete all 168 Championships) 50G
Super Meet Boy (Grab a livery, tuning setup, buy a car, and enter a Showdown at any Car Meet) 10G