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Review: Forza Horizon 2

by onJanuary 12, 2015
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After a first try, imperfect yet very promising, the Forza Horizon recipes comes back on the Xbox One full of good intentions. Larger, with a bigger variety, balanced, Forza Horizon 2 is almost becoming an indispensable title to own on Microsoft’s next-generation console. But for car enthusiasts and driving freaks, are all needs satisfied?

To start, Forza Horizon 2 picks all that was good in the first part, and sprinkled everything that was missing to become a winning formula. For those who missed the previous episode, Forza Horizon is a spin-off of the very serious driving simulation from Turn 10 Studios – Forza Motorsport – making use of the latter’s excellent graphic and physics engine, integrated into an open world environment and adapted to a much more arcade-y gameplay mechanics. With a delicious blend of accessibility, fun and subtle driving (noting that some proper simulation settings are now available in this sequel), over 250 cars (thanks to fresh new DLC drops), Forza Horizon 2 made some key enhancement that fans were waiting for eagerly.

Shots taken in-game with the photo mode

Shots taken in-game with the photo mode

Some criticized the first Forza Horizon visual monotony for its picked open world setting (the Colorado Desert) and the first criticism, like many others, has been immediately “fixed” with the Forza Horizon 2 settings. Set near the Mediterranean, drivers will experience the scenic beauty of Le Midi (southern France) and its Italian neighbors’ northern regions. Although not reproducing them road by road, Turn 10 were faithful to the essence of the Côte d’Azur, Provence and Tuscany, adding more variety to the game and especially more colorful than the sandy dunes of Colorado. It is makes for a feast for the eyes racing along the Italian coast all the way to Nice in France (although most of these cities lack the same consistency as the open world), as well as for sensational high speed driving experiences.

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Another frustrating point of the first game which was corrected here are the indestructible barriers you used to find on the side of the road, illogically staying in place without a dent even after crashing at 200 km per hour in a Pagani Zonda. All these obstacle can be smashed to access new areas (or just for the fun of it) and run through vineyards or even sprint though a field of Lavender. This was a key point that needed to be adressed to avoid fustration, but mostly to allow us to take shortcuts and to have real off road racing with beautiful rally cars or large pick-ups trucks, emphasizing the open world sensation. If all of this didn’t emphasize a varied open world experience, then maybe you will enjoy all these settings that are altered by the game’s day and night cycle and weather conditions changes. The rain does not make as much of an appearance as I would like, but it intensifies the graphical feat, and affect your car’s handling as well.

Shots taken in-game with the photo mode

Shots taken in-game with the photo mode

Now let’s talk a bit about the single player mode of Forza Horizon 2. Based on its predecessor same system, namely formed by mini-championships varied for your pleasures (sprints, lap races, etc) organized all over the map, with of course the freedom to practice various activities between two competitions. There are your typical extra-curriculum activities as well such speed cameras, which record your speed with those of your friends, hidden barn (which house hidden car gems), or the social clubs, a sort of online gathering for Xbox Live racers. But ultimately, the only real novelty in these off-championships activities (putting aside the Photo Mode which I used to create all the screenshots for this review) remains the “Bucket Lists” which are great. These challenges are events related to a particular car, parked all around the map, such as the vintage Ferrari 250 GTO, that test you to ride in a time-attack race on narrow and meandering Italian coast roads with Vivaldi’s Four Season Summer playing in the background … So much class! There is all kinds of tests, from achieving big jumps in a Japanese icon, Nissan GTR, or achieve a high speed in a LaFerrari through tight turned streets  and much more. All these challenges can be quickly tracked via the computerized GPS nicknamed “ANNA”, which you can control via voice commands through the Kinect.

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If the “free roam” activities are lacking a bit of novelty and variety, I would have liked to have more leaderboards Need for Speed style (jumps, drifts, and all kinds of records), yet, I’m content of the main single player experience. With over 168 championships events and nearly 700 challenges, it will take countless hours to complete everything, even if you only have to win 15 championships to officially access the Horizon finals. Adding all this to that the time “lost” wandering around from challenge to challenge, playing in multiplayer (we’ll expand on that note later), drifting off course to grab collectibles, challenging your friend’s Drivatars based on their performance in Forza Horizon 2 or Forza Motorsports 5, then you’ll set for a while with this game.

Shots taken in-game with the photo mode

Shots taken in-game with the photo mode

So what about multiplayer? Turn 10 Studios have assumed that when we play a game, we should be treated to a multiplayer that is streamlined in the core experience … and they were right! In Forza Horizon 2, you will not find a lobby with its full menu to organize your party, but rather an experience completely “seamless”, that is to say, almost confused with the solo experience, without transition or almost no loading time. At any time, you can simply go to the pause menu and activate the online mode to switch from your solo experience into a multiplayer one. On the screen nothing changes: you continue to ride until the event is found, or choose an event or even go on a Road Trip and everything follows automatically. Easy, effective… and most importantly fun. All this without forgetting that you can create or join a club to accumulate experience and become the kings of the of the Horizon Festival roads with your friends.

In a nutshell, Forza Horizon 2 stands out as a big release for Xbox One at the end of the 2014 year. Even though it’s been out since September, the game keeps on expanding and calls me back to the roads, especially with the newly realeased “crazy weather” offroad DLC called Storm Island. The game in the end kept its promises, offering the basics from the first episode and turning the experiences into a richer and more fun one, all in a beautiful setting true to next-gen consoles that delights the eye. Turn 10 Studios has made Forza Horizon 2 an indispensable pick for the Xbox One, whether you’re a driving game fan or not.

Forza Horizon 2 was reviewed using an Xbox One retail copy purchased by the reviewer. The game is available in both retail and downloadable versions on Xbox 360 and Xbox One. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published (click here for more information about our review policy).

What we liked

• A vast and varied open world
• Farewell unbreakable barriers, hello off-road racing.
• High-flying achievement
• Aesthetically beautiful
• A Forza experience adaptable to all tastes
• The radio stations
• The continuation of Drivatars from Forza Motorsports 5
• A seamlessly integrated multiplayer system
• The day & night cycle and weather
• Over 250 cars
• Full simluation settings are now available

What is not fun

• Towns are small and lack the freedom of the open space on the rest of the map
• Some ranking stats are missing (jumps, drifts, etc)
• No local multiplayer modes

Editor Rating
 
Concept
9.5

 
Graphics
9.7

 
Sound
9.0

 
Playability
9.5

 
Entertainment
9.7

 
Replay Value
10

Final Score
9.6


Our final verdict
 

The iconic graphics and physics engine of the Forza saga in an open world arcade racing game was an idea already exploited in the first game, but its return on Xbox One with Forza Horizon 2 definitely drives the recipe to perfection with excellent driving sensations and some additions that make the difference. Not to mention the excellent soundtrack that accompanies us continuously via the different radios, the mountain of challenges faced and seamlessly integrated multiplayer system, which will make you waste countless hours of proper fun. Too bad there's a lack of consistency between urban areas and the open-world activities... But it's not enough to prevent it from becoming an essential Xbox One title, and even become a benchmark in open world racing game.

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