Forza Horizon 2 is not a game. It’s a reflection of our culture. That is, if your idea of culture is defined by what appears to be an endless rave party in the guise of a music festival, complete with dubstep and EDM tracks to further enhance the annoyance. Throw in the obligatory British narrator, who does little more than subtly brag about his past racing glories, and you have something a little more reminiscent of an event akin to Sunburn rather than a game.
Once you peel away the needless music fest vibe it blasts at you from every angle, you’ll realise that Forza Horizon 2 has a lot more going for it than being a digital representation of certain types of music subculture. There are cars; a seemingly limitless number of them. From sleek supercars to hot hatchbacks and everything in between, there’s something for everyone, including people who aren’t fans of the genre, like myself.
“So why are you reviewing Forza Horizon 2 if you don’t like the genre, Rishi?”, you ask. Well simple; it’s made an utter newbie like me open to the idea of playing racing games.
I’m no expert on driving games or cars (unless Mario Kart counts) but I’ve poured hours upon hours into Horizon 2. I’m nowhere close to being a petrolhead, watching Top Gear, or ordering a Team BHP sticker to put on the family car or my cat, and yet, Forza Horizon 2 is, to put it succinctly, my jam.
It speaks volumes of what Playground Games has been able to achieve. They have made the idea of getting into a carriage with four wheels and an engine and succumbing to the laws of physics appealing, to the point where mere muggles like myself want nothing more than to speed past the open roads, crashing into other drivers and making a general mess of what is quite possibly the most gorgeous virtual interpretation of the European countryside in a game to date.
If the subversive angle to gameplay isn’t your thing, there are cars. A whole lot of them. The game will let you drive as many different kinds as you can. Be it narrow city streets or sprawling farm lands, you’ll experience these with a host of varied vehicular goodnesses. There’s something for every kind of racing game fan too. Want to customise each and every part of your ride? Well, go right ahead. Wish to go head to head with the best and brightest racers online? It’s just a button press away. Rather spend your time just cruising around the many eye-popping locales in Europe? That’s possible as well.
What the nice people at Playground Games have made is a colossal open-world to accommodate each and every type of racing game fan, regardless of his or her preference. The end result is an almost amusement park feel to the proceedings, where there’s always something to do.
But there’s no point driving around if the cars handled like boats. Thankfully, they’re fun, fast and responsive. Be it driving through Provence in a Toyota Supra or blitzing through Tuscany in a Ferrari F50, each and every ride ends up feeling exhilarating.
With a surprisingly deep progression system, the game rewards you with skills and perks as you keep doing things in game. Be it winning a heated race against a train or simply drifting around, your actions translate into progress. What this also means is you can choose what you consider to be the most fun way to play rather than just finishing the game’s many races in the quest to be crowned the Horizon Champion. This degree of flexibility makes for more open-ended gameplay that’s easy to get into, be it for a few minutes or a few hours.
In addition to this, Horizon 2 borrows a fair bit from mobile games. You’re awarded with in-game credit every time you come back (as a function of your ghost data racing in your friends’ games). It acts similar to the daily login bonus that nearly every smartphone game employs. Levelling up allows you to spin for a new car or varying amounts of credit. There’s also the Horizon Hub app that rewards you for progress across all Forza games. There’s a concerted attempt to keep you playing, with a steady stream of level progression and unlocks. It isn’t as generous as say, Diablo III, but does more than enough to keep you playing.
The topic of lavish XP gains brings us to online play. It’s absolutely frictionless. Playing with friends or soon to be friends is simply a few button presses away. I’d recommend checking it out thanks to the absolute generosity of the XP doled out alone. Go for a road trip (of the non-Crossroads/ Final Fantasy XV variety), take part in a few championships, or simply free roam where you can participate in series staples like Infected and King.
Want a little more out of multiplayer mayhem? Pledge your allegiance to a club or simply create one. With support for up to 1000 players, it’s neat way to compete with your friends. XP you earn goes towards your club’s overall rank, which comes the all-important bragging rights. (You can also join the IVG club, the club tag for which is IVGC)
It would be nice if rather that in addition to a player’s level, there would be a better way to actually denote someone’s actual skill level in game, but that would border on nitpicking, I guess.
Perhaps the best way to describe Forza Horizon 2 is if it were an all-you-can-eat buffet. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of automotive delights that never seems to end. Combined with comprehensive control options and an endless number of things to do, it’s got everything you need to whet your appetite for all things on four wheels. If you’re not a fan, you’ll end up being one. Needless to say if you own or plan to own an Xbox One, Forza Horizon 2 is the game you cannot do without.