Forza Horizon 2 gives you so much freedom that it’s the things you can’t do which you’ll notice. Speeding 174 miles per hour down the highway blasting the 1812 Overture, I hydroplaned my Lamborghini and crashed into the rail-guard. I should have careened through the pouring night sky and sailed over the edge into the Mediterranean Ocean. Instead, I bounced off of the impenetrable wall and the race continued as if nothing happened.
Forza Horizon 2 launch trailer
Forza Horizon 2 launch trailer
Just as in Forza Motorsport 5, each car in Forza Horizon 2 can be viewed from special angles which makes it look as though the car is in front of you in real life.
In leu of a traditional computer AI, Forza Horizon 2 utilizes “drivatars” just as Forza Motorsport 5 did. They’re cloud-powered drivers which are built on and mimic the actions of your real life friends while they drive in both Forza Motorsport 5 and Forza Horizon. A “new racer” Drivatar make many more mistakes than “average,” whereas “unbeatable” Drivatars are, well you guessed it. Luckily you can rewind your mistakes so that you can have the perfect race. You can change the skill level of the Drivatars through the difficulty menu. There’s many other assists to turn on and off, such as ABS, assisted steering, and damage which will determine how challenging the game is and the amount of credits you earn per race.
The predecessor brought open-world to racing games, however Forza Horizon 2 expands upon that greatly. In the original, I remember cruising down the Colorado highway and seeing the great expanse of desert and dirt which I couldn’t drive on. A “Rally” expansion pack later brought off-road racing to the game, however it’s a standard feature built into Forza Horizon 2. If the terrain looks like you can drive on it then there’s a good chance you can. In fact, many of the game’s signature races involve off-road races and you’ll find yourself wandering away from the asphalt to hunt down the game’s many elusive collectibles.
The old world map in Forza Horizon was a cluttered mess filled with events. In Forza Horizon 2 there’s some whopping 700 events to compete in, however you’ll only see races from the current championship you’ve entered alongside “bucket list” and “showcase” events. The solo campaign follows a basic formula: Purchase a car and take a scenic road trip to the location of the next leg of the festival. Once there, you’ll compete in four races from the bracket of your choice. Win the championship and it’s off the the next one, in a different ride. After 15 championships you’ll be invited to race in the Horizon Finale, a super-race across the entire map. The solo campaign doesn’t end after the finale, as you can repeat the process of qualifying for another Finale by beating another 15 championships ad-nauseam.
I’ve never been a huge fan of games that seek to use features just because they can. When the Xbox One made its debut, players were shaking off zombies with their controllers and answering in-game phone calls on their Smart Glass enabled devices. Forza Horizon 2‘s use of Kinect is subtle, however it’s also one of the best features in the game. You can simply ask the navigation Anna for directions to the nearest event or what the game recommends you do next. In fact, you never have to use the map if you don’t want to.
Forza Horizon 2 also makes the best use out of the controller’s rumble motors. Each car actually feels different to drive.
You’ll level up in two ways. Experience points are gained for pretty much everything you do. Each level you’re rewarded with a “wheel spin,” which rewards you with either credits or if you’re lucky another set of wheels. There’s also another skill based leveling system. Performing drifts, passes, creating wreckage, or simply traveling at an unbelievable speed will earn you points. So long as you don’t get into a major accident, you can chain skills together to increase the score and earn a multiplier. Acquire enough points, and you’ll earn a skill point which you’ll then use to unlock perks. Notable perks include fast travel (although you’ll have to pay for it), and discounts on purchasing new cars and upgrades. Some perks require multiple skill points. Additionally there’s 50 Travel Discount and 100 XP Bonus billboards throughout the game to help you level up quicker and reduce the cost of fast traveling.
If you’re artsy, then you can easily spend hours in the garage designing cars. You can completely customize each car with paint and graphics. Your creations can be shared and if popular you’ll earn credits from other users who download them.
Picture perfect graphics and sound
Among the upgrades include a full day and night cycle with simulated weather such as rain, drizzle, and fog. More than anything though, what really caught my eye were the reflections in puddles as I zipped my way across southern Europe. Combined with the sunlight, the game’s weather system can create some breathtaking settings, including double rainbows. Of course what better way to remember the moment than by taking a picture? A photo mode allows you to become a photographer and capture any moment from the angle of your choice. There’s complete options to edit your photo from shutter speed and exposure to adding effects. There’s a reward in the form of credits for showcasing your snapshot skill, along the ability to share the photos with friends.
Instead of three radio stations to choose from there’s seven, which you’ll unlock over time. That’s twice as much total music compared to Forza Horizon, almost 150 tracks in all. My favorite is the new Radio Levante, a classical station with Wagner, Vivaldi, Mozart, and more. After playing for almost 30 hours, I haven’t gotten tired of any the stations yet.
Bucket Lists, Showcase Events, and Barn Finds
“Bucket list” events are unique challenges tailored for a specific cars. “Showcase” events are similar, however they’re much more scripted and entertaining events boasting sweeter rides to win. The original Forza Horizon had ridiculous races against airplanes, and Forza Horizon 2‘s showcase events manage to go further. What makes these races so special is that they’re inconceivable in real life, yet both hilarous and adrenaline rushing to attempt. As you progress through the campaign you’ll hear rumors of “Barn Finds,” special hidden locations where you’ll discover abandoned rusty automobiles from yesteryear. Some of these cars are unavailable to purchase from the autoshow. Not only will you score a sweet ride, but at no cost to you.
There’s no traditional lobbies in Forza Horizon 2. Instead, you simply create an online road trip or free roam. The road trip works pretty much exactly like the championship, except it’s the player who gains the most experience points after four events who wins. Coming in first place doesn’t mean you’ll gain the most experience. In fact, you can come in last place performing an unbroken chain of skills along the way and actually gain more experience than the player who went from point a to point b fastest and crashing into things non-stop.
Two multiplayer variants will appear randomly in the road trip or can be selected in free roam: Infected and King. One car starts as Infected, and players try to survive as long as possible without getting touched by an infected car. Once you’ve become infected you’ll start hunting down the remaining survivors too. In King, the king tries to evade other players from crashing into him or her and losing their crown to the player who hit them. Whoever’s the king longest wins.
Online free roam allows you to complete challenges cooperatively, and each event rewards players individually instead of publicly displaying a running tally of competitor’s standings. It’s much more leisurely for casual players.
Unfortunately, once you’ve selected your car you can’t change it until the championship is over or the party leader chooses a new race event that’s in a different vehicle class. The inability to purchase new cars or make upgrades while waiting for the next race to begin seems like a big oversight.
Another feature is car clubs. Up to 1,000 players can be in each club, which have their own specific leader boards for every race track, speed trap, and ect. You’ll gain special credit and XP bonuses for being an active member in your club.
Forza Horizon 2: Driving Social
Forza Horizon 2: Driving Social
- Can’t change cars easily during multiplayer.
- Stunning graphics and diverse soundtrack.
- Wide variety of events and multitude of automobiles to compete and race in.
Our Score: 4 out of 5.
Forza Horizon 2 is absolutely gorgeous and fun to play. With over 100 hours of gameplay in the solo campaign alone, there’s a tremendous amount of content to dig into be it as a gift for yourself or a loved one this holiday season.
Please note that this review of Forza Horizon 2 was based off a free advance digital download copy of the retail game received from Microsoft Studios and is the personal opinion of this author.