Game Review: Forza Horizon 2

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Playground Games looks to be upon the successful Forza Horizon with their next entry in the series, Forza Horizon 2. Check out our thoughts inside!

The Forza Motorsport series has been a longstanding staple of the Xbox brand and one of the premier racing series in gaming. In 2012, a spinoff series, Forza Horizon came to the Xbox 360. I was instantly excited about this new game because it was a departure from the tracks and linear racing of the Motorsport series. I like freedom in a driving game, I like to be able to explore. Forza Horizon gave me that and so much more.

Forza Horizon did well enough to warrant a sequel and in 2014, Forza Horizon 2 came to the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One. If Forza Horizon was a step in the right direction, Forza Horizon 2 provided the giant leap that I was looking for. This is a game that is easily one of the best alternatives to actually going out on the open road.

Forza Horizon 2
Horizon 2 shines at night.

Forza Horizon did a lot of things right. It simplified racing and made it enjoyable again. Too many racing games end up being mundane and kind of boring after about and hour. I never feel that way with this series. Forza Horizon 2 improves that already solid formula set by its predecessor by offering over 200 cars with a distinct feel to each one. If you’re driving an SUV, it kind of chugs along while a supercar slices through tracks like the wind. It’s everything you expect from cars in the Forza series.

While the first Horizon game has you settle into the scenic Colorado landscape, Horizon 2 takes you to Europe on the border of northern Italy and southern France. It’s a great setting that works out well for the type of exploration that Horizon fans are used to. It’s a bit bigger than Colorado, but it’s not a 1:1 recreation of the area. There are many places to see like beautiful seaside locations the airstrip where players can practice their drifting skills.

Forza Horizon 2
The entire map is filled with beauty.

Speaking of drifting skills, Horizon 2 definitely makes better use of skill points than its predecessor. In the previous game, these points were utilized for popularity which didn’t really give players as much incentive to reach new heights with their combos. Now, skill points unlock different types of perks like discounts, extra XP, and a ton more. It’s a regular skill tree where the better perks can’t be unlocked until you buy the cheaper ones. That part is slightly annoying, but certainly not that big of a deal.

The game has a ludicrously large amount of events (around 700 or so). Showcases return in addition to the regular class-based championship races that have become a series staple. The big change here is that races are no longer confined to the roads. You can take your car through the countryside or the forest through each checkpoint in certain races. It adds some variety and keeps everything feeling fresh. Cars rip through the foliage with pretty unrealistic handling, but it’s a small thing to note while taking in the amazing scenery.

Forza Horizon 2
There are tons of hills and bends to keep you on your toes in every race.

Forza Horizon 2 adss Bucket List Challenges to add a new dimension to the game. These challenges range from reaching a certain speed with a certain car to a stunt challenge on the golf course. Barn find also make their return and there are 10 cars to restore to their former glory (5 of those being new to the Forza franchise). It’s still so gratifying to find that rusted out car that end up being a prize in your collection later on. These are somewhat an extension of the later 1000 Club update in the first game.

The bread and butter of the game are the championship race series that you have to go through to advance through the coloured wristbands and get to the Horizon Finale. The good part about this game is that you can pick from a selection of a few different championships so you’re never forced into something you don’t want to play.

The thing I’ve always really liked about Horizon is the switch from single player to online is seamless. One press of a button and you’re racing against people around the world. I feel like the online offering is more of a diversion because the single player modes are so detailed, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had to beat your friend’s times and playingfun modes like Infected and King. It’s a great way to see more of the great landscapes and try out all the different cars in your garage.

Forza Horizon 2
Showcases make their return in Forza Horizon 2.

As amazing as Horizon looked, Horizon 2 takes it to a whole new level. The vast forest, fields, and waterways have never looked better. This is one of the nicer looking racing games I’ve played. Everything feels vibrant and living. Night time is where Horizon 2 really shines. Fireworks go off in the distance and rides from the festival brighten the night sky. Add in the new water effect with the possibility of rain and Horizon 2 really starts to stand out. Water puddles reflect the world while the rain glistens off your car as you speed down the road. Strangely, the water on your windshield isn’t very dynamic and tends to not flow along the windshield. It’s a small negative to an otherwise wonderful addition to the series. The sound is equally as good with everything coming out perfectly. I have no complaints presentation-wise.

Forza Horizon 2 is one of the best racing games out there today. The amount of events and things to do around the map are astounding and there really is something for every type of racing fan. I thoroughly enjoyed this game and the series as a whole thus far. I really don’t see much of a negative with this one. Definitely take the time to check it out if you haven’t. It’s immersive in the best sense of the word.

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