When Forza Horizon 5 was unveiled in all its shiny 4K glory during the Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase on the 13th June 2021, it was confirmation of the leaks and rumours running up to the event were largely accurate.
The game existed, was set in Mexico and would be releasing this year. In many ways then, it wasn’t a quote-unquote, ‘big’ reveal. Except, it was because leaks are one thing, but seeing the near-finished result is quite another and in the case of Forza Horizon 5, it really is a case of seeing is believing.
With five short months until the fifth open-world Forza game is set free upon the world, we’ve poured over every detail available at this early stage, mixed them with a dash of spicy speculation, a put them inside a tortilla wrap to give you this tasty preview.
And that, I promise, will be the only Mexico-related analogy in this video…
The vast Mexican location
Let us kick things off with the big one – the location. Mexico offers a lot of variety for a video game setting, and it seems like the development team has set to work trying to encompass what makes this vast nation so intriguing into one game environment.
The central hub appears to be the town of Guanajuato, with its sun-drench rainbow of buildings, cobbled side streets littered with orange juice stands and dungy underground tunnels. It’s as if Microsoft watched Ken Block’s Gymkhana 10 and said, “we’ll have some of that, please”.
In previous Forza Horizon games, such as 4 and 3, there is one main permanent settlement and then the rest of the map seems to be more open, so we would expect the same in Horizon 5 too.
During an E3 presentation, Mike Brown, Creative Director at Playground Games explained: “This is the largest and most diverse open-world ever in a Forza Horizon game.”
The British area in Forza Horizon 4 was sizeable, and while we don’t know the exact size of the world in FH5, but it is confirmed as being 1.5x bigger than the previous instalment. In other words: massive.
What we can see from the gameplay shown so far is a mixture of lush, tropic, jungle areas – traversed in a Land Rover Defender – rocky regions that mix dirt roads and asphalt, barren desert wastelands, a volcano (marking the highest point on a Horizon map ever) and more dry gravel roads than a Finnish rally.
For fans of the satisfyingly destructible drystone walls in Horizon 4 or the bouncy tyre walls in Motorsport 7 – roadside furniture being a Forzatech game engine speciality – will not be disappointed. The Horizon 5 equivalent being destructible cacti. Lots and lots of destructible cacti.
This wouldn’t be a Forza Horizon game without the climate having a part to play, and it seems this is no exception. We can see giant sandstorms, dramatic storms and simply, baking-hot sunshine. The conditions are localised too, so one side of the map can be experiencing different weather from the other.
When it rains in Mexico, it really rains, like the clouds have been saving up their pocket money for one, massive, blowout. How this translates to wet-weather vehicle handling reminds us of the snow in the last instalment, and while it looked pretty, after a while it frustrated many players.
How the team has balanced cool-looking weather changes with approachable gameplay will be the key test. Are they an integrated part of the game? Can I turn them off after 20 hours? The return of seasons is confirmed, but what happens during each change? We’ll hopefully find out closer to release.
What is Events Lab?
You know how two years after launch Super7 mode was added to Forza Horizon 4, allowing you to create your own challenges and share them with the world?
Good! If you then combine all of the previously mentioned elements together it sounds like you get something similar to Forza Horizon 5’s Events Labs.
At least, that what we can make out from the scant 23 seconds of gameplay we’ve seen of this mode so far. A bright yellow Bronco, what appears to be several rival online racers, some giant bowling pins and wind pads that rise your car up high like a level in Fall Guys.
It’s described as a “toolset that allow you to create your own races, game modes and gameplay experiences.”
We’re told that you can even customise the rules of the game, which sounds very much like Motorstorm: Apocalypse’s Create Mode which allowed you to create entire disciplines.
If Events Lab cherry-picks all the best elements from the aforementioned games, then we could be onto a winner that elongates the shelf life of the game thanks to community-created content.
So many cars
Okay, so far, we’ve gone through the two obvious features from the reveal and there’s a good chance that you probably know most of those details already, but now we get to the nitty-gritty and where the speculation really begins.
You see that wide Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X in the trailer? Nice body kit, right?
Our immediate thought was “Yee-haw, in-depth car customisation is coming to Forza Horizon, goodbye Need for Speed!!”
We’ve been clamouring for years to be able to widen arches, slap a rear wing on the back and add neon running strips to the chassis. Well, maybe not the last point, it’s not 2003 anymore.
After all, the other massively popular open-world game currently on the market, The Crew 2, offers fewer vehicles but more customisation options and that seems to be the core to its success at present.
But, before we celebrate with some shots of tequila, we settled down and slept on the reveal information. That Evo could simply be a new Forza Edition car.
FE vehicles are modified versions of existing vehicles in the game, that are hard to get hold of and offer distinct visual changes. The Lancer Evo X is already in Forza Horizon 4, and the lead car in the reveal, the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE was introduced as a Forza Edition special. Ah.
Maybe our customisation dreams will have to wait until the sixth instalment, and we’ll go back to collecting cars as the main non-racing activity. 100 new customisation items have been confirmed, but what they are remains to be seen.
There is also a Chevrolet Corvette Stingray C8 wearing Streethunter modified body in the trailer, but it sounds as if that is either a separate model in the game or a one-time bold-on addition as opposed to pick-and-mix upgrades.
Hey, at least you can now paint your brake callipers…
In our full list of every car in Forza Horizon 5, we make it nine brand-new vehicles and two potential new FE variants so far.
One small detail that is easy to miss, but we got really excited about is that convertible cars will have the option of dropping the top in-game at your discretion. We can imagine rocking up to an online race with some friends in our McLaren, only to put down the roof upon arrival for maximum street cred.
Forza Link AI Assistant
Speaking of playing online, ranked online racing is all the rage these days. The primary function of iRacing and GT Sport, now we’ve seen every current racing game under the sun try to implement something similar and now the Forza Horizon series has jumped aboard.
But how would that work in an open-world, bombastic, game like this where rubbing is very much racing?
Well, it wouldn’t.
So, instead, Forza Link pairs you up with like-minded online players, as opposed to similarly skilled or clean online players. So, if you’re a fan of the more serious dirt racing events, it will find a lobby or online event filled with people who generally race more of that type of event.
The example we see in the E3 showcase was a game of ‘Piñata pop’ arcade minigame, but we think that this could be applied to asphalt races with hypercars or drift races around the volcano. The whole system works on the fly, akin to Burnout Paradise based upon initial descriptions.
Of note, if you look closely at the gameplay footage, the system looks to have in-build button prompts and chat options for those not in a Party Chat or Discord group, so in theory, you should be able to find players and converse about what you’d like to play in an easy and accessible way without having to form a league or official event. Nice.
Forza Horizon 5’s performance specs
A brand-new volumetric lighting system that delivers those all-important god rays, real Mexican skies captured in HDR at 12K providing lifelike results and dynamic lighting and individual cacti needles. Words such as “lush”, “beautiful” and “the power of the Xbox Series consoles” are thrown about with abandon.
There’s no doubting that Forza Horizon 5 looks beautiful in the footage shown, a step-forward from previous Horizon titles.
But… what specification of device was this footage captured on? We do not know. While the Xbox Series is mentioned audibly, it doesn’t say ‘captured on Series X’ anywhere. It does say ‘all in-game 4K footage’ though, so this is most likely nothing to be worried about – there no ‘in engine’ trickery here like the Forza Motorsport trailer.
The game will run at 4K and 60 frames per second with ray tracking on Series X and top-end PCs. Tick, tick, tick.
Although, there are some caveats.
It should be noted that, unlike some other racing games such as F1 2021 on a top-end PC or an open-world non-racing game like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, ray tracing is limited to Forza Vista and not during gameplay.
By default on a Series X, it runs at 4K and a lacklustre 30 frames per second – an expression we thought was left behind with the Xbox One. 4K/60 is available in ‘performance mode’ however, happy days, but it’s not clear yet what the compromise will be in order to achieve that smoother delivery. Those with a Series S are locked out of 4K, running at 1080p 30 fps by default, and 1080p 60 fps in the performance setting.
Somewhat surprisingly, the game is arriving on Xbox One too, which is locked to 30 frames per second regardless of options or which type Xbox One you own.
Mark our words, what you saw at E3 is not representative of the Xbox One version, or even, we suspect, a mid-tier PC. Performance is one key element we can’t wait to try out when the game releases.
Ah yes, the release. 9th of November 2021 for Xbox Series S|X, Xbox One and PC via Steam. Pretty soon, right? Let’s all join the hype machine, whoop, whoop!
It’s also coming to Microsoft’s Game Pass on launch day, so if you’re a subscriber you can join in the fun for no additional charge.
But wait, what’s that? There are different game editions? Oh yes, and it’s a little confusing so standby…
The standard edition is available on launch day and is the version on Game Pass. If you’re buying the game outright, that’s $59.99/£54.99.
But then there’s the Deluxe Edition which includes the Car Pass and that’s $79.99/£69.99. The Car Pass includes eight Formula Drift cars to start with, then 42 extra cars arriving once per week. Thus, confirming that paid additional cars are arriving in FH5.
Then, there’s the Premium Addition. This one is a gargantuan $99.99/£84.99 and includes the Car Pass alongside a Welcome Pack. This includes five special pre-tuned cars (TBC), a Player House, a one-time voucher to purchase any car available from the game’s Autoshow and three vouchers for the purchase of any Common or Rare clothing item.
Also included is VIP Membership which bundles together three exclusive Forza Edition cars, Crown Flair, Vanity Items, an Emote and a Car Horn, a gift Player House, 2x Credit race rewards and weekly bonus Super Wheelspins – yes, hate them or feel ambivalent about them, Wheelspins return.
Finally, you also get two game expansions when they become available – in Forza Horizon 4 these would have been the Fortune Island and Lego Speed Champions add-ons, for example – and three days early, so you can play from the 6th November. You affluent sods.
That’s a bevy of additional content right there. But hang about, what about Game Pass subscribers?
Well, there’s Premium Add-ons Bundle which is available as a separate purchase and includes the Welcome Pack, Car Pass, VIP Membership and the first two game expansions for $49.99/£39.99, or $44.99/£35.99 with an active Game Pass subscription. Either way though, this works out more expensive than the Premium Edition.
Here’s a tip. Game Pass is considered by many as great value, but if you are truly going to get the most out of Forza Horizon 5 and the DLC seems like it could be a worthy purchase, it may be worthwhile simply buying the game outright, but let us know your opinion in the comments. Unless, of course, you’re already a committed subscriber, in which case, crack on.
There will also be a physical edition of the game, which is handy as Microsoft has a habit of delisting the Horizon games, so at the very least in five years’ time, there will be some record of this game’s existence.
These are just six elements that we think are the big-ticket items to explore, but with so much to cover on Forza Horizon 5 and a lot of the information disseminated across many pre-order landing pages, video descriptions and interviews, it’s easy to overlook small items.
We haven’t even touched upon the new campaign which looks to be much more engaging than previous efforts, customised story voices, gifting cars with friends, the return of the battle royale Eliminator mode, the accidental inclusion of mod support in a features list that was a mistake, flamingos and the return of multiple festival sites like Forza Horizon 3.
Well, we did just know, but you get the gist…
We want to hear what you think are the biggest new features in the comments below, hit us up.