Playground Games is no stranger to racing titles, but Horizon 5 is the pinnacle of what the British developer has offered.
It's no secret that Playground Games' Forza Horizon series has been great for a long time. These racing titles are split from the more formal, track-centric Forza Motorsport games, and instead favour an open world and a more arcade-like experience over simulation-level realism. Since they raced onto the scene in 2012, the Horizon games have taken us to America, Southern Europe, Australia, Great Britain, and now most recently, Mexico, in a game that is hard to ignore as anything less than the finest example of what the new-gen Xbox consoles can serve up.
Forza Horizon 5 is a prime example of what the near future of gaming will look like. Playground Games has delivered a top-of-the-line title that doesn't skimp on truly bewildering visuals or engaging and captivating gameplay, and serves as a prime look at what a decade of developing the racing series can amount to. It may not be a vastly different game to Horizon 4, or really any of the Horizons beforehand, but it is a display of a game that has been built and sculpted with the finest of details at the forefront.
The cars look more lifelike and gorgeous than ever before, with the Mexican sunlight helping to accentuate the subtle nooks and crannies that make up the vast list of automobiles of all types and ages. And then there's the level design, which has been sculpted to such a precise degree that even the individual spines on the many, many cacti dotted around the map are rendered in the game world. It's an open world that is more alive and realistic than we have ever seen before in a Forza Horizon game, and this reigns true regardless of whether you are gently cruising down the coastal golden Baja shores, or instead tearing it up through the lush jungles of Mexico.
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Horizon games have always been known for serving up a plentiful array of content to chew through, and Forza Horizon 5 continues that trend by cramming the world of Mexico with a massive range of activities. Be it traditional races, speed traps, stunts, barn finds, landmarks, bonus boards, the wild Showcase activities, or the newer Expeditions, by the time that you've unlocked each of the Horizon Festival sites, the world map becomes an explosion of markers and colours that looks like a rainbow vomited onto an atlas.
Then there's the activities that exist outside of the traditional world map. Similar to its predecessors, Horizon 5 has a range of Forzathon challenges to crack on with to earn a variety of unique and exciting cars for your garage, as well as a multiplayer mode that takes the learnings of where Horizon 4 excelled and expands on it, with fan-favourite battle royale mode The Eliminator being available from day one. The extent of things to do in Forza Horizon 5 is remarkable and at times a little overwhelming. Playground Games has managed to cram the map of Mexico to its brim, and yet still deliver on an open world that is completely unmatched in the racing genre.
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And that is precisely what separates Forza Horizon 5 from its competitors, and why we have placed it so high up our list. This is more than just a simple point-to-point or circuit racing game, and it clearly shows. The core mechanics are as good as ever, better even, but Playground has made a world that is so vibrant, diverse, and intricate that it's difficult to describe it as anything less than incredible. This series has been getting better and better as the years go on, and when we look at what has been delivered in Horizon 5, we can't help but beg the question of how exactly Playground looks to up itself in a few years, when the monumental success of this game eventually sees another sequel on its way.
But more than that, the craftsmanship of this game shows the strengths of this British-based developer, and what they can bring to the table. Microsoft has eyed this team up for the next iteration of Fable, and six months ago, before we really got to take a look at Forza Horizon 5, it seemed like a questionable and brash decision to give a racing game developer a chance on an iconic RPG, but now we can see why. If a world of this calibre is in the capabilities of Playground, then you can absolutely consider us interested in a Fable title from this team, in fact, we can't wait to see how it's really shaping up. Until then, you're going to have a hard time prying us from our Mexican journey, as we still believe that Forza Horizon 5 is the best Xbox Series game to date, even if Halo has made a very, very strong case for the same title as of late.