The Italian countryside is yours to explore in Forza Horizon 2. Race a train in a Subaru WRX, because why not.
Forza’s trademark cockpit view returns, and each car features a stunningly accurate interior. What this play option lacks in visibility it gains in terrifying immersion.
Forza Horizon 2 on Xbox One, Xbox 360 Reviewed on Xbox One $89.95 – $99.95 Classification: PG Reviewer’s rating: 8/10
If the Forza Motorsport series is designed for car enthusiasts who dream of taking their hobby machines to professional race meets around the world, Horizon is for car enthusiasts who dream of road trips with friends and colour-filled parties where supercars are worshiped and their drivers are celebrities.
Horizon 2, in stark contrast to the straight-laced Motorsport 5, is a bizarre parallel world where a massive and picturesque south-eastern region of Italy can be shut down to host a gang of rich kids taking their Ferraris and Lamborghinis for a road trip. It’s an ego fantasy, pure and simple, and it’s a lot of fun.
The crazy attention to detail from the more serious game remains, as the cars look the part inside and out, yet rather than stick to the tarmac, Horizon 2 lets drivers loose upon fields and coastal towns, barreling through private property and narrowly avoiding unsuspecting traffic with nary a police car in sight. Events range from street races to crazy off-road tours through wheat crops, or you can always just roam the highways and enjoy the feeling of making a perfect corner in a Lamborghini Huracan.
This is still a simulation game, and car physics and control is realistically modelled. This means slamming the handbrake at top speed to drift around a corner is not a viable race tactic, but as always there are plenty of “assists” you can activate at any time – from rendering a suggested driving line on the road to automatically helping with brakes.
Despite the need to be a little more careful in your driving, the realism is an advantage as taking a 1988 Lamborghini Countach on a thrill-ride through wheat crops and across aqueducts on a whim wouldn’t be nearly as fun if the car didn’t fight you every step of the way. The 200 or so cars – which include work vehicles and city cars as well as those explicitly designed for racing – each offer subtle variations in performance and handling, and can be tweaked endlessly to your liking in the garage. Struggling to stay on the road at high speed in a McLaren or gliding around a corner in an Impreza is where Horizon 2 shines.
Another area of success is the sheer amount of freedom the game provides. Although you have to win a certain number of races and championships to progress, the class of car you race in is up to you. Fancy a 1999 Lancer Evolution for the next leg of the trip? Selecting the appropriate rally championship makes all the events ahead compatible with the car. Beyond the events there are also plenty of opportunities to hit the open road, and fulfil side objectives like taking photographs or discovering beaten-up old racers in countryside barns. An unexpectedly robust and streamlined online mode is present too.
The fun free-wheeling is ruined just a tad by the attempt to pull all the events of the game together into something of a road-trip story, as the cast of homogenised European 20-somethings (who by the way offer far to much input and exposition when they could be letting you enjoy yourself) aren’t quite sure whether they’re street racers or snotty billionaires. The rave festival narrative in general has a tendency to be at odds with the beauty of classic cars and coastlines (and this extends to the electro soundtrack, which can thankfully be switched off or turned to a channel of generic classical), but this is of course a matter of taste.