What do you get when to take the most comprehensive racing simulator and combine it with the best of Test Drive Unlimited and Need for Speed? Forza Horizon 2. Two years after the original was released, Turn 10 Studios has once again departed from the track and teamed up with developer Playground Games. Horizon 2 is the first open-world racer to be released on the new consoles and has set the bar quite high.
The game is based around a similar concept as the first. The Horizon Festival is about cars, cars and more cars. You compete in a series of championships to rise up the standings and eventually attempt the Horizon Final. At a glance this is a very similar formula to Horizon 2’s track-based cousin, Forza 5. However the major difference is that you can drive between events instead of sitting in a loading screen. This means that there is much more of a chance to drive some of your favourite cars such as the Aston Martin DB5, or the Ferrari 458 Italia or even a sports Ford Transit van. The list of cars, while not huge, is comprehensive enough with the base game but there will be plenty more added through DLC. The location has also changed from being a small segment of land in Colorado to the expansive and beautiful countryside of the Provence-Tuscany border. This change of location is very much welcome as it gave the developers the chance to show off the graphics on the new console.
Now you may say that competing in championship to championship with a little drive in between would get boring, and it would if this were the case. Instead Forza Horizon 2 offers so much more than just racing for points. Dotted around the map are Horizon Bucket List challenges. These are rare, fast and classic cars that have certain challenges assigned to them such as straightforward time-trials or skill challenges such as drifting or near misses. This is a way of driving some of the most iconic cars in the game without having to pay for them. Aside from this there is plenty to explore, billboards to smash, skills to perform and showcases to race. The showcases were a feature from the first game and are exactly what they say on the tin. The final thing to mention is the road trips. Each town/village/shed in the game hosts the championships in some form and the road trip is the way to get between them. This involves you driving between the locations along with the Drivatars (if you are playing offline) or with your friends.
Let’s get something straight. Forza Horizon 2 looks stunning. There is no doubting that this is one of the best looking games that has been released on the Xbox One during its short life-time. Turn 10 have always led the way with realism but you have to take your hat off to them once again. The cars are so real that they may as well be in the room with you. The interiors have been painstakingly recreated in digital form but the best aspect, as ever with Forza, is the sound. Unlike Sony’s Grand Turismo 6 where it sounded like the cars had all been recorded by a small child blowing is lips together, Forza Horizon 2 gives you the sheer power of the cars. This is no more prevalent when driving through the numerous tunnels on the map.
Turn 10 has also brought back the revolutionary Drivatar system which enjoyed a successful first outing in the track-based Forza 5. For far too long the main complaint about nearly all racers was the AI. This is no more. With the Drivatar system in place, no longer will you have to endure boring races where you storm to the front of the pack and stay there. This is because all of your opponents’ driving styles are based on the tendencies of other players. Now the AI will actively try to beat you by forcing you off the road, cutting you off or even out-breaking you. They will now also make mistakes such as going off line or spinning the tires and heading into a sideways skid. It is just fantastic to be playing a game where you have to be on your toes throughout the entirety of a race.
Ever since it’s unveiling at E3 earlier in the year, Forza Horizon 2 has been on the watch-list and it is fair to say that it has met all of the expectations. With no other real rival at this point in the open-world racing genre, it will therefore be a very tough task for whoever decides to try and follow this. That goes for Turn 10 as well.