Forza Horizon 2 Review

October 2, 2014

I’m a man of pretty simple tastes when it comes to racing games. While I appreciate good simulation titles like Gran Turismo, honestly all I want out of a racer is the ability to completely total my car and trash the course and be rewarded for it. It’s why I love games like Burnout 3: Takedown and Need for Speed Shift, and now Forza Horizon 2 has become my new favorite way to destroy Southern Europe.

The premise for Forza Horizon 2 is pretty simple. The game revolves around a street racing/music/general party event, the Horizon Festival, moving the action from Colorado in the first game, to Europe in the sequel. You join the racers as they road trip from Italy to France, exploring real locations in a (no doubt still condensed) larger game world than the original and finding hundreds of street events to take part in.

The single player campaign guides you through the many regions on offer, with a Geoff Keighley-lookalike host offering you a range of ‘championships’ in each region for you to take on. Often, you can choose what to participate in, from an Affordable Cars rally to a Retro Supercars showdown. It’s then up to you to complete a small number of events in this championship to advance to the next region, sometimes coming across special events that almost take the place of boss levels. These include races against trains, and even a squadron of jet fighters, that are charming in their ridiculousness, though not very tense in execution (as it’s often hard to tell how you’re lining up against your opponent on a totally different track)Reviews_01_WM_ForzaHorizon2

After a few hours of play you can easily slip into online mode whenever you want, by taking part in online road trips, races or checking out your friends stats in online clubs you can form, with their own ladders and leaderboards. Forza Horizon 2 makes use of the same Drivatar engine that Forza Motorsport 5 used, which also means that whenever you’re racing solo, you’ll still have your friends’ ‘driving profiles’ and names attached to every car in your race. As with that game, it’s still not entirely clear, to me at least, whether these Drivatar cars actually race like friends on my friends list, but the AI controlling them still does a decent job at making them a challenge. I just hope my own Drivatar hasn’t rammed too many people off the road in their games.

That’s because I’m not the world’s most precise driver. I love drifting around each and every corner, even when it isn’t appropriate or necessary, ramming into other cars to take them out of the race and sailing off of ramps to get the lead in a race. Forza Horizon 2 takes the solid racing mechanics I loved in Forza Motorsport 5 and places them into an open world racer that can totally be played as arcadey as I love to play. Not only can I careen through streets, wiping out tables in front of cafés, street lamps and garbage cans, I get constant XP rewards for it! Many of the championships and races even take place in cross-country events, where you’re required to cut corners, drive through the bush, destroy beautiful vineyards and wreck your car good and proper to reach the finish line. I can see how fans of the refined tracks and precision racing of Forza Motorsport 5 would be turned off by this approach, and for fans of the main series, they might be best off waiting for the inevitable sixth installment. I, on the other hand, love the raw fun that Forza Horizon 2 races bring, no matter how ridiculous they get.


Forza Horizon 2 provides a constant stream of rewards that really keep you addicted to upgrading your driver. Wins in races provide XP and cash payouts, while you’re always being monitored for small XP boosts for simple tasks, like taking out garbage cans lining the streets, near missing cars, or drafting. Upon reaching a new level, you’ll be presented with a prize wheel that can provide small to large cash prizes, and even new cars. You’re also given skill points to unlock ‘perks’ for your driver, with your own skill tree (well, a skill grid) to advance through for small modifiers to gameplay, and even discounts in the in-game store. Exploration is also rewarded, with wrecked ‘fixer-upper’ classic cars spread around the map to be discovered.

There’s a large library of over 200 cars to collect, which is a fun process even if you’re not a big car expert. Before every championship, the game recommends certain models for newbies to choose from that would be the best match for that style of racing, and there’s often some really cool options thrown in there, from Ferraris to Lamborghini Diablos, all often more affordable than you’d think. It’s very easy to get some sweet rides very quickly in this game, and the custom livery options return as upon purchasing your car, you’re able to see what the most popular user-created decals are online at the moment and instantly apply them in a very streamlined process.


Visually, on Xbox One the game is gorgeous, just as Forza Motorsport 5 was at launch. What’s new are the beautiful European landscapes, with old castles, long stretching vineyards and picturesque seaside towns, which are simply a joy to drive through. The developers have introduced a day/night cycle that really shows off the realistic lighting effects and shadows, and weather effects really do look amazing, especially when it rains and you see droplets cling to your windscreen in first person view. If I had one minor complaint, it would be the occasional pop-in that plagues the game, as props and scenery sometimes load a little too slowly when you’re tearing around at high speeds.

Beyond all this, Forza Horizon 2 is simply the most fun I’ve had playing a driving game in a long time, with the possible (tangential) exception of Mario Kart 8. The way the game delivers such a realistic environment, meticulously designed vehicles and great mechanics and then allows you to run rampant is refreshing, and the large number of events, collectibles and rewards are sure to keep you busy for a long time. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’ve found Gran Turismo and Forza too stuffy for you to get stuck into, then it’s definitely worth taking a drive through Forza Horizon 2’s challenging, surprising and most of all, fun, racing events.


Gorgeous graphics | Fun, arcadey racing | Tons of content | Lots of rewards, constant progression


Minor pop-in | Special event races are kind of gimmicky

Overall Score: