Review: Forza Horizon 2
I’m beginning to wonder if Playground Games have ever actually been to a music festival. In Forza Horizon 2 there’s no tent to pitch, no bands to watch, and no drugs to take. Instead you drive supercars, smash up the streets of Southern France, and steal old wrecks from barns. That’s not to say there’s no chance to party hard however, and an early cutscene reveals that the drivers stay up till 4am before the first day of races. Obviously a night of drinking it totally safe and responsible before a day of street races, theft, and destruction.
The implications are a little worrying, and I really can’t get over the ‘finders keepers’ rule that applies to the game’s barn finds, but behind this bizarre framework is a great racing game. Forza Horizon 2 is not only a lot of fun, but a significant improvement over the first game. Championships are now contained within ‘road trips’ that help give more of a sense of a driving community, and the oddly isolating feeling of experiencing a musical festival alone in a car is a little less jarring. There’s also no Old Spice themed events and absolutely no mention of Darrius Flynn, although there is now an irritating chap named Ben who guides the player through the festival. It’s quite odd to hear him talk about a successful first day of races after playing through a championship of alternating day and night events. We’ve been here a week Ben, you’re still drunk.
Everything else feels bigger and better. The location, a mix of Southern France and Italy, is much larger than the first game’s Colorado, and there’s a variety of towns that help break up a landscape that, although pretty, is still quite repetitive. You’ve also got more radio stations that cover more genres, and the classical music on offer is particularly enjoyable to drive to. Then there’s additional event types, including off-road races and hill climbs, and the street races are now integrated into the championships. Whilst the first Forza Horizon was big, this is an expansion in every way, and if anything the game now has Forza 5‘s problem of too much content.
The variety enabled by an open world map makes helps make Forza Horizon 2 feel like a little less of a grind than constantly playing the same tracks again and again, although the trade off is obviously less defined and memorable circuits. Just like Forza 5 there are so many events on offer that attempting to complete them all (as well as the huge selection of challenges) is a mammoth task. With the original Horizon game I was compelled to do everything, but this time the task is off putting. There’s also a distinct lack of challenge that exceeds beyond simple persistence. Winning races is easy and the difficulty level does not increase as the game progresses.
But whilst achieving 100% completion may test your patience, the career mode itself is probably the easiest to get into out of any game in the Forza series. Acquiring your first super car is a quick and easy process, and after the disastrous marketplace of Forza 5 care has been taken to ensure that the cars are all fairly priced. It also helps that pretty much everything you do nets you credits and perks. This draws together the experience and ensures that completing additional challenges feels worthwhile.
Overall Forza Horizon 2 manages to improve upon the original in several major ways, although at times it can almost feel like it’s reached a San Andreas’ level of ‘too big and too ridiculous’. But however strange it may be, the career mode is immensely fun, and the new options for online play help make the social aspect of the game more enjoyable too. There’s nothing quite like the fun of speeding around the streets of France in an Ariel Atom with Ride of the Valkyries blazing out the sound system. Reminds me of ALL my favourite festivals.