For the modern Triple-A PR and marketing team, “the horizon” is gaming’s most potent metaphor for depth and excitement. Show your character standing some distance away from a mountain, promise the player that they can explore what’s on the other side, and a good portion of the audience will immediately be won over. In a racing game, of course, the goal is always to get to the next part of the track, around the next corner, to a new destination, as fast as you possibly can. Forza Horizon 2’s name feels more resonant now that the game is on new hardware, and our relationship with the horizon has once again shifted: on a new, more powerful system, it’s expected that the sights ahead will be grander, that once we reach the horizon the world will keep going on forever.
Horizon 2 takes place across a huge chunk of southern Europe, covering the south of France and the north of Italy. As with its predecessor (and numerous other racing games), Horizon 2 centres on a ludicrous fictional racing festival. Thankfully, the game has the good sense to not dwell on its plot. After each four-race championship you pick a new car, a new set of races, and go on a scenic road trip to the next destination. It’s a great way of really emphasising the scope of the game world, which is big enough that it can produce so many different tracks that there’s never a sense of repetition. There’s not a whole lot of variety to the racing events themselves beyond a few opening novelties, and many of the checkpoint-based point-to-point races sadly negate the possibilities of the wide open fields Horizon lets you drive through in favour of asking you to stick largely to the road. But still, switching racing styles and locations constantly keeps things fresh.
On the track, Horizon 2 feels somewhere between Forza’s traditional enthusiasm for simulation and Project Gotham Racing’s love for flash and risk/reward stunt driving, leaning more towards the second. If you tinker around in the options you can transform this game into something closer to a traditional simulation experience, where tuning your car matters and an understanding of exactly what is happening under the hood will make a genuine difference. Leave the game on its default settings, though, and it’s a novice racer’s dream. The rewind button, a controversial addition to many modern racers, is key – being allowed to rewind on corners and try new tactics lets you learn from your mistakes, correcting them on the fly, and allows for riskier manoeuvres. Races are never drawn-out too long, and although winning on the default difficulty is generally pretty easy the Drivatar A.I., which replicates the driving styles of your online friends, makes each win feel hard-fought.
Forza Horizon 2 is the sort of game that succeeds, in part, simply by giving you a lot of different stuff to do. The online options are extensive, there are leaderboards all over the place, and the open world setting is littered with challenges to try out and objects to collect. While open world driving games can often feel like a chore after a while, this one is a continual pleasure to drive through. At its best, Horizon 2 can evoke feelings of being a tourist, simply content to exist within a new setting. Even when you’re travelling at over 200 km/h, the sights in this game are worth taking in.
Games like Forza Horizon 2 often pop up early in every console generation. They’re the games that you know in the back of your mind probably won’t be quite so wonderfully impressive in a few years’ time, but in the moment they’re a great reminder of why you bought into the hype and bought a new system so close to launch. This is one of the most enjoyable games on the Xbox One so far, a truly fun racer for players of all skill levels.
- Buy it
- Wait for discount
- Don't buy