Considering how cold Forza Motorsport 5 (2013) felt, the opening moments of Forza Horizon 2 are a strange thing to behold. The game welcomes you with a FMV cutscene that feels like what would happen if Terrence Malick were to film a car porn. After that, you are cast in the shoes of a typical brown-haired dude who has no redeeming characteristics other than access to his parents’ black card; he uses it to go on expensive trips, to expensive places, where you can drive expensive cars. You see, it is the Horizon festival and you’re there to go fast, to be loud … and maybe to try a little bit of ecstasy.
You kind of have to enjoy it ironically, which might come off as condescending, but Horizon’s setting is one of the best thing about the game. It is totally stupid, but it has enough fun being dumb –trying to make sure the player is always enjoying themselves– to make a good backdrop for the gameplay itself. And let me state it right now: the gameplay is really good.
Like its predecessor, Horizon 2 takes the best of Forza’s driving mechanics and lets you play with them in an open world. It has a great variety of cars and the minutia that makes them tick keeps new championships interesting. The main game follows a pretty straight forward loop: you participate in events that take place in the open world to earn more money, to then buy new cards, and repeat. Ad vital aeternam. Except for a few types of collectables, there is not much else to do other than racing. Some rare events will have you face vehicles other than cars –the first of these pits you against jets– and while these look awesome, they are not much more than glorified checkpoint races. Still, Horizon’s core driving gameplay is so good that the basic racing is enough to sustain the game.
What meshes everything together is the game’s skill system. By doing tricks –essentially by just driving– you will earn points and a multiplier that slowly goes up. Crash and you lose everything. Even if the rewards are largely minimal, the skill forces the player to always drive as carefully as they can. It’s a good meta-game that creates a persistent progression, thus ensuring that even driving in the open world does not feel meaningless.
The only troubling thing about Forza Horizon 2 is that it does not add much to the formula of its predecessor. One notable addition is its new off-road races, which are guaranteed to be divisive. In these, the game loses all its finesse and become a fight to keep control of your car. Purists will likely hate these events, but I had a blast with them. Crashing through fences with a Ferrari and passing another car by jumping over it can be exhilarating. If this sounds too wacky for you, you will probably be better served by Forza Motosport 5.
There is not much more to add. The multiplayer systems are good enough, but they do not change the game in any drastic way. If you have played an open world racing game before, chances are good you will know what to expect — Forza Horizon 2 is a great one these, with plenty of variety to keep you going for a long time. The vacuous festival attitude is just cherry-on-top, but try not to take too many drugs while driving.
- A word on the radio stations: they felt A-Okay to me, though not particularly memorable. The announcers will repeat themselves quite a bit, but they don’t talk that much to begin with.
- The open-world is supposed to be a mix of southern France and Italy. It looks incredible and is great to drive in.
- I kept referring the main character as “brown-haired douchebag” in my head. I did not use that word in my review because I felt it sounds condescending but… the main character totally looks like a douchebag.
- “Vroum Vroum” – Random French dude.
- Drivatars are back. They do not feel as sociopathic as they were in Forza 5. Having the name of other players is a fun context but they don’t feel that much different from any AI.
- Like in any Forza game, importing car designs is a big part of the game. Everything is in place, but there’s not many user designs available right now. The game is still newish.
- The game lets you customize the difficulty. There is plenty of option there so anybody could find their perfect balance. I played it on hard.
- I don’t even have a driver’s license.