On The Road Again
Honestly, I’ve never been one to really enjoy the racing genre. I’ve grown up with Need for Speed, the Fast and the Furious, Gran Turismo and Forza all around me, but I’ve never really taken to them like I have with something like FIFA, and that’s generally because I don’t find the art of racing that exhilarating and something that’s worthy of my on-going attention for hours at a time. That all changed with Forza Horizon 2, because not only is it an incredible game itself, but it’s changed the way I view the racing game genre.
Forza Horizon 2 takes place in an area around the border of northern Italy and the south of France, and it’s frankly much larger than its predecessors slice of Colorado, which is great for newcomers and returning fans alike. There’s a lot to do here, and that’s one of the strongest points in Horizon 2’s on-going list of positives.
Racing games are often some of the prettiest and most detailed games available and that’s clear in Horizon 2 right from the beginning. From the gorgeous coast to the inner land, Horizon 2 is freaking gorgeous to look at. In fact, there’s been multiple moments where I’d just flick on the photo mode and take in everything, it’s that pretty. The hundreds of cars available are also incredibly well designed and detailed too, from the super cars to the rally cars, everything is beautifully crafted and looks about as good as it gets in the video game spectrum right now. While the daylight and sunshine is beautiful to drive through and experience, it’s the night that really shows off the beauty of Horizon 2. Combining that with weather effects like rain, lighting and thunderstorms and you have perhaps the perfect combination of beauty and racing. This is what next generation racing games are supposed to look like.
The biggest part to a racing game is, as you’d expect, how the driving feels with each and every car you choose and Horizon 2, like its predecessor, takes elements from Forza and meshes them in with the more fast-and-furious focused Need for Speed titles, giving an exhilarating and satisfying feeling of speed, control and fun. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this review, I’ve never truly been a huge racing fan. I’ve seen the Fast and Furious movies, I’ve played most of the Need for Speed games, but I just couldn’t feel the grip that so many other gamers have felt with this genre – but the way Horizon 2 plays made everything feel like home to me, similar to the way FIFA greets me every afternoon when I come home and fire it up. Horizon 2 has such a strong element of replayabilit, fun and excitement and every time I play the game I encounter something new and different which is why I’ve been obliged to go back so many times, finish those championships and race in the Horizon Finale.
“everything is beautifully crafted and looks about as good as it gets in the video game spectrum right now.”
Another vital cog in Horizon 2 is its skill points, XP and perks system. Throughout your time in the game, you’ll gain XP for doing all sorts of things (racing, doing challenges etc) and steadily level up. Likewise, you’ll also gain credits to use to purchase cars for the next set of races and earn skill points to buy perks. Skill points are earned through doing, well, things on the road that drivers probably shouldn’t do in real life. Traveling at break-neck speed, missing cars by a whisker, drifting, drafting and the like all add up on your meter and as long as you don’t crash, you’ll earn those skill points and that’ll enable you to buy perks.
All of the perks in Horizon 2 are different and some cost more than others, but they’re all helpful. One allows you to fast travel anywhere on the map, another allows you to gain an extra XP boost and so on. This system itself plays out like a risk and reward set up and it’s insanely addictive. I would continuously throw caution to the wind (even though you’re supposed to do that in racing games anyway) and just fly through areas as fast as possible while dodging cars and breaking things, allowing my skill meter to build up. If I crashed at any point in this valiant effort, I’d lose it all. I really loved this set up, and will continually attempt to utilize it in the future when I’m back in Horizon 2.
Horizon 2 makes use of inter-connectivity between friends and players online with ease. From competing against each others drivatars (the AI you race against in events) and discovering new roads, to speed zone times and Horizon Promo (taking a photo of every car in the game), everything is registered and stacked against friends seamlessly in Horizon 2, and it gives it an even more competitive edge than ever before. I would consistently search for more roads because one of my friends was sitting on 205 and I was on a saddening 189, needless to say I smashed that number pretty quickly – but it just goes to show that especially in a racing game, statistics like that bring out the seriously competitive side within us.
Within Horizon 2’s well designed world and addictive gameplay lies around 700 events to compete in. If I attempted math at this point in the review, I’d say that’d equate to about 175 championship events (4 races a piece in a different vehicle each). That’s a heck of a lot to do, and attempting to 100% this game is going to take a long time for those that are willing to attempt it.
Outside of Horizon 2’s expertly crafted single-player is its multiplayer, which is only ever a button press away for those of you that want to challenge your friends properly. I’ve never been one for racing online as frankly I get too nervous and fall away at the end (that’s even if I’m winning) so I only attempted it a couple of times and it worked quite well. I also really enjoyed engaging in a road trip together with friends too, tearing up the world however we saw fit was an intriguing experience to say the least, especially when one of us fell away and crashed.
Playground Games’ Forza Horizon 2 is an incredible experience for racing fans and non-racing fans alike. It has a large amount of replayability, it looks beautiful and it’s a hell of a lot of fun with friends. Competing with each others scores will forever remain a challenge and Horizon Promo kept me busy for hours on end. If I were to recommend a racing game to a friend who wasn’t a fan of racing games, it’d be Forza Horizon 2. It’s open world, sprawling gameplay is something to be admired by many, and I hope that future racing titles adopt some of Horizon’s tricks, as I’ve become quite a fan myself. It’s brought me closer to the racing genre, and now I’m excited to see what’s in store for the future.
Racing fans, non-racing fans and those of you in between, this is the racing game that everyone should pick up and enjoy.