Why Forza Horizon 5 is the best racing game to start with.

Forza Horizon 5 (FH5) was published in late 2021 and is developed by Playground Games. The game was crowned IGN’s game of the year 2021. In this review we will express our view on and experiences with FH5.

My friend and I both bought the Forza Horizon 5 base game on sale for 40€ on steam. The normal price is around 60€ but you can it for less on third party reseller websites. There are 2 expansions available so far. We created a review about the Rally expansion.

Game appearance and sound design

Let’s start with the first thing you notice when booting up the game: the graphics are really awesome. This somehow feels unnatural as FH5 compared to other titles in the genre like Asseto Corsa has a very good appearance out of the box and doesn’t rely on mods. Playing in first person feels immersive and close to real life even on lower end graphic settings. The cinematic looking cutscenes are also really well made.

The car sounds feel realistic and also quite different when trying different cars and engine swaps. The sound design is complete by a variety of radio stations to listen to. The game navigation system also has a assistant that helps you with missions and navigating the big map. After some time this can feel like a nuisance when you get to know the environment.

Turn the leafblower off – Hardware requirements

As you possibly already guessed the game uses a lot of your hardware performance. On the medium preset it’s using around 25% of my cpu (AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX) and around 10% of gpu performance (Nvidia Geforce Rtx 3060 Laptop). The biggest problem for me is that its using around 9 of my 16gb ram which leads to a pretty noisy environment and sometimes performance issues when running other programs like discord or a browser window in the background.

Too much to progress – Game content


Just a small part of the map

Speaking of the environment: The game is situated in Mexico during the Horizon Festival. You as a player go there as a superstar to complete races and other events. This feels weird, especially when this is your first Forza Horizon game (as in my case) and you never experienced the story in the previous parts.

The variety is amazing: After around 100h of playtime I still had enough activities on my map waiting to be completed. On the FH5 map you can find a big highway, multiple tropical forests, a big volcano with mountain roads and roads near the ocean or with others words: basically everything for street and offroad racing. Sadly there isn’t a big city or a big snowy area (yet).

The main open world activities include: speed traps, speed zones, danger signs and more. The goal here is either to go fast from one point to another or to jump the furthest. Most of the time you complete these by just traveling around Mexico. They might not be the most fun thing but chasing highscores of your friends definitely can lead to some epic rivalries.

Other than open-world activities there are Road, Street, Dirt, Drag and Cross Country Races. They either take you around a course for 3 laps or along a certain path. The way they are designed feels quite forgiving: even if you brake to early or crash into a barrier you still have enough possibilities to overtake and win. (At least on lower end difficulties). What’s also cool is the event lab where you can play races designed by other players which are a lot of fun and sometimes even help you complete certain achievements.

Another useful and also pretty unique feature which can destroy the illusion of reality ingame is the rewind feature. After you press a certain key you can rewind back a few seconds to correct racing mistakes. This can be deactivated in the difficulty settings.

Collectibles and progress

There is a useful fast travel feature but it’s locked behind 50 fast travel boards which are placed all around the map and need to be destroyed. After unlocking fast travel you can buy a certain house on the map to travel for free. There are 7 houses to buy in total and they can be bought for around 100k to 2M. Choosing one as your home will give you some little advantages.

Talking about collectibles: there are also 14 barn finds where you need to find a barn in a unknown location. You can get some rare cars there after getting a tip for the rough location. Similarly to the fast travel boards there are also xp boards which reward you with a small amount of Experience points as the name suggests.

A super wheelspin in action

Experience points grant you level ups which reward you wheelspins. These give you a chance to win new cars, money and character clothing. There are two kinds: Normal wheelspins and super wheelspins which are basically 3 normal ones.

Other than that levels in FH5 don’t really mean that much as they can be bought over third party “shady” websites and don’t determine the skill of a player.

Car customization and liveries

As with the racing activities there is also a great variety of appearance customization for most of the cars. All of them have the same basic options for performance tuning and there is also a menu for fine tuning. Although this can be fun to play around with I recommend either searching for build of your favorite cars on youtube or just using the tuning setting provided by other people ingame.

The livery editor feels like hell when you start your journey but after getting used to it it’s fun to work with. You can put either self-made stickers, public stickers or “regular” shapes and letter on your car to achieve your style. I already spend around 10 hours just putting together logos and experimenting with colors and shapes. We also made some cool stickers and liveries for you to use.

Kissing the barriers – Difficulty

As there is an extra difficulty setting this is explained rather quickly. Let’s say you lost your last race and felt like it was too challenging: Just turn the difficulty down. Want to have a challenge: turn it up. This gets really ridiculous to a point where you can drive against the race barrier to turn into a corner and still be able to beat the slower AI-cars. Obviously at the high end of the difficulty spectrum its the same: without using ramming as a way to overtake you will hardly make it.

The AI drivers feel balanced (on their difficulty level) until you notice their small flaws. They often brake early and sometimes literally brake a few meters in front of the finish line so you magically win and have a sense of achievement. For me this feels this has quite the opposite effect as I do know I wouldn’t have won it the game didn’t made me. Also AI-driver for some reason do not care if they hit you in corners which quickly leads to an off-road adventure and lots or reset-button presses.

The difficulty in multiplayer or coop-races feels really different: when you are playing against other humans they aren’t as predictable as their computer-driven counterparts and people tend to ram you off the track almost every time. From my experience multiplayer is only fun when playing with friends and I only find myself doing it when I need it for certain quests or challenges.

Collecting some shiny medals – Grind

Speaking of quests and challenges… Grinding leaderboards for speed traps, jumps or any kind of open world activity is unnecessary as Playground Games apparently doesn’t feel like removing scores achieved by hackers and people using glitches which leads to a complete mess. You can’t really compare your achieved time/speed/flight distance to real player other than your friends.

Accolades are basically small achievements you can earn for every aspect of the game. Grinding them is a lot of fun especially when you see the result in a completed category. There are 2014 of them (at least now in March 2023) and some are hard to achieve while others are gained by just playing the game.

If you’re planing to play the game on steam there are 97 achievements to unlock but around a fifth of them are locked behind the hotwheels expansion. (there will probably be more achievements added with the new rally expansion)

The real grind begins with the seasonal challenges: Logging in to complete the same basic tasks over and over again isn’t the most fun to do. The rewards you get are often quite basic and not worth the effort spending hours of your precious gaming time with the provided task. But I do need to say sometimes you can find some gems in the reward section that are worth the time.

I don’t care about Papa Fernando! – Story

Koenigsegg Jesko in action

The story lines are there but I never really felt attached to the characters and it feels more like a task you need to complete to progress rather than a thing I want to do. I would say that the main reason for that are the unbalanced 3 star times the game wants you to achieve. Sometimes you have half the time left and sometimes you need to try certain missions over and over again to get the 3 stars. Also the dialogue most of the times feels annoying and unnecessary as the tasks you need to complete are very similar and self explained.

Although there are annoying points the story missions are really valuable to complete as they are lots of accolades to get and for each story line there are a few which have car rewards. These cars are story related and you can even get the fastest car ingame, the Koenigsegg Jesko by completing the “V10” story mission where you’re a stunt double for an actor.

As I mentioned above in the difficulty part, your opponents in story missions or show races almost everytime slow down at the end, enabling you the celebration of your victory. This is really noticeable in the show races. The races themself do have a nice layout and are nicely designed.

After all there are some quest lines that were very fun to play for me like the “Midnight Battle” races or “Drift Club Mexico”.


Summarized Review
Player: Nik, Playtime: 110h, Score out of 100: 75
criteria X/10 comment
Graphics 9
Audio 8
Hardware 5 not playable for lower end devices
Gameplay 8 sometimes repetitive
Story 5 not that interesting to me
Difficulty 9 depends on setting, good for everybody
Grind 8 only if you want to
Audience 8 wide spectrum of stuff to do
10 haven’t seen any so far
Price 5 highly depends on how long you plan to play
Extra comment
Summarized Review
Player: LJ, Playtime: h, Score out of 100: 68
criteria X/10 comment
Graphics 10 better than irl to be honest
Audio 8
Hardware 4 supports Nvidia DLSS but still – with good graphics comes the need for good GPU power
Gameplay 7 apart from the mediocre story top
Story 3 very different from person to person but for me too much talking
Difficulty 8 thanks to the difficulty setting perfect for everyone
Grind 7
Audience 9
Price 3 a bit too pricey to buy without a sale
Extra comment Searching for a classic car racing game? This is it

Forza Horizon 5: As I said in the heading of this review: Forza Horizon 5 simply is one of the best if not the best driving game to start with. That is simply because of the content variety: you can race in very different conditions, environments and cars. FH5 sure isn't a modifiable as other games (Asseto Corsa, BeamNG) and it's very pricy for the low budget gamer. We recommend either just buying the normal version when it's on sale of if you really know that you want to spend a lot of time playing to go for the Premium edition as you get the additional content for a lot cheaper than buying it individually. GLPC: emk

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