Forza Horizon 5 Review

November 18, 2021

A little bit of Forzathon in my life, a little bit of Anna by my side!
A little bit of weather is all I need, a little bit of sandstorms are what I see.
A little bit of summer in the sun, a little bit of racing all night long.
A little bit of Mexico, here I am, a little bit of Forza makes me a fan!

The Horizon Festival heads south of the border for Forza Horizon 5, bringing the hot open-world arcade racing franchise to the new generation of gaming. This time around, we head to Mexico where Playground Games have brought their A-game, introducing a whopping eleven biomes, huge storm events, and other next-generation features while retaining some of the best features from previous games including co-operative events, seasonal changes, and a dynamic weather system that creates the complete package that is Forza Horizon 5.

Forza Horizon 5

It’s easy to forget just how far the Forza franchise has come. Forza Motorsport launched on the Xbox some sixteen years ago, and since then we’ve seen the Forza franchise flourish into the behemoth it is today. The Horizon Festival has gone from the US to the Mediterranean, then here down under, before travelling to the United Kingdom. It’s been all over the globe and now it’s back for another stint in America, this time with a map size that’s approximately 50% larger than its predecessor (over 100 square kilometers). There’s an active volcano, a dense jungle, sweeping desert dunes, gorgeous beaches and much more to explore but as always we’re not here just to explore – we’re here to race.

Five core race modes make up Forza Horizon 5. Road racing has arguably some of the best races on the map where you’re likely to use the fastest cars in the game to scream across the Mexican map at 400kph. Street racing on the other hand is more technical, involving plenty more corners and circuit races. Here you’ll use your Supras and Civics to race at both day and night (but mostly night). Drag racing is back but doesn’t play a massive role in the game. There are a few air strips around and some other locations to drag on, but the novelty of driving in a straight line combined with the fact they last less than a minute means this mode is the smallest in the game. Dirt racing is probably the biggest improvement in the series. So much so that once you start fiddling with the difficulty settings and/or connect a wheel, it can quickly turn into a full-blown rally game. We’ll get to the wheel usage later, but Playground Games have perfected their dirt racing this time around. Finally, Cross Country racing is filled with bumps and jumps, testing how well you can simply reach the next checkpoint. The off-road races need their own vehicle setups, but that’s all explained when you reach your first festival.

With almost 600 cars ready to drive at launch and many more on the way, Forza Horizon 5 delivers an abundance of variety as expected with everything from the latest 2021 models to classics from the 90’s to the 70’s and beyond. In keeping with market changes, the most expensive vehicles in Forza Horizon 5 are classics that will set you back up to $30 million credits. While there are ways to farm XP and credits, if players choose to play the game honestly then it will take hundreds of hours to own every car in the game.

Showcases are back and bigger than ever, this time organised into ‘expeditions’. As you earn XP and level up, you access a new Horizon Festival Adventure, allowing you to pick one of the expedition events to unlock. There are four events in each expedition, with the epic showcase events being included at the start and the end of each. If you’re not familiar with showcase events, this is where you get to race against bikes, jet skis, trains, and even planes and while the event itself is about as epic as events in Forza Horizon gets, typically you end up in 1st place even if you haven’t had a spectacular race.

Forza Horizon 5

Drivatars return in Forza Horizon 5, bringing your friends list to life and making you feel like you’ve always got company. There are normal AI vehicles as well, but drivatars will often speed past (and sometimes even crash into) you, making it more challenging to complete some of the open-world challenges including Speed Traps, Speed Zones, Drift Zones and Danger Signs. While the drivatars do get in the way a fair bit, they are also useful in their own way by being another way to get cash through challenging them to a race, and also snapping those important photos to get more promo points. Houses are also scattered across the map although they don’t seem to play as large of a role this time around, with just eight available at launch including a 5 million dollar castle (Hey, don’t complain. It’s half the price of Bamburgh and a third the price of Edinburgh).

Forza Horizon has always focused on the community and the online experience, and now more than ever there are so many ways to play with your friends online and it all starts with a convoy. The open-world Horizon Life mode allows you to meet up with friends and meet new players to explore the world and race around together in what is perhaps the friendliest mode of the game. A new feature allows you to gift cars to your friends, or even just random people and brings a new use to the barn find locations though we don’t recommend giving away too many of your cars early on. The Super 7 returns, a popular late addition to Forza Horizon 4. This mode is where you will face user-made challenges, some easier than others, but much like Super Mario Maker and other games like that, the user that uploaded it had to beat it themselves before it went online, so nothing’s impossible. Super 7 hard mode is where the best rewards are, but you can lose it all if you don’t cash out and lose all your lives before completing the seven random challenges.

Forza Horizon 5

Clubs are back, so is the popular auction house, and it’s important to remember that every single event can be done in PvP mode… if you can find a race. The more popular races seemed to always have queues, particularly the drag races, but some of the more obscure and harder to reach challenges sometimes didn’t have anyone else to challenge. Luckily with the use of Drivatars and a very broad difficulty scale, every Forza Horizon 5 event has the potential to be your greatest challenge.

As always, we put this racing game to the test using our Thrustmaster TX Racing Wheel Ferrari 458 Italia Edition wheel, and finally we are happy to report that Forza Horizon 5 is ready to go at launch with full wheel support across a range of brands including Thrustmaster, Fanatec and Logitech (providing you update your wheel’s drivers beforehand). The settings need some adjustments to work with your preferences, and the force feedback is definitely quite high at first, but once you make the necessary adjustments, the wheel can be a blessing on the open roads of Mexico, and we’re glad that racing sim enthusiasts can confidently use their beastly setups in this stellar arcade racing game.

Forza Horizon 5

If there’s one thing people can’t stop talking about in Forza Horizon 5 it’s the graphics. Right from its reveal at this year’s digital COVID-19 E3, fans had high hopes that Playground Games would deliver the best looking open-world racing game to date, and it’s become abundantly clear that they have done just this. So much so, that we’re contemplating whether Forza Motorsport 8’s delay was directly affected by just how good Forza Horizon 5 looks. On the Series X, Quality and Performance mode both render in 4K but at separate framerates. While Performance Mode locks at 60 frames per second, Quality mode aims for it but generally flat-lines at 30, opting to display more vibrant graphics including decorative foliage, jungle density, tyre smoke and other particle effects and let’s just say unless you’re an esports driver, you’re going to want to play this game in Quality mode. We did notice some minor graphical issues such as delays in textures loading and some average quality rendering of objects at a distance but as an overall package it’s hard to complain about the visuals in this game.

All your favourite Horizon radio stations are back including Horizon Pulse, Block Party, Base Arena, Hospital, XS and of course Timeless (classical), this time bringing a variety of Mexican music to the festival, along with a great range of other tunes. The system audio also offers a quick way to make the game focus more on music or car sounds, and you’re going to want to listen to the engine sounds in Forza Horizon 5 as they have been polished and fine-tuned to sound as authentic as possible. We could harp on about how every car engine sounds unique and how swapping out parts affects how it sounds, or we could hand it over to Fraser Strachan, the Lead Audio Designer of Forza Horizon 5 to run through a few engine sounds:


Since its foundation a little over a decade ago, Playground Games has released nothing but stellar open-world racing games. We’ve spent thousands of hours racing around the Horizon Festivals across the globe, and Forza Horizon 5 will be sure to add another couple of hundred at least, with plenty of post-launch content in the works. Given the location, we’re expecting a Baja expansion, or perhaps a Fast & Furious story (or at least some vehicles from Fast 9) in 2022. Congratulations are also in order for Microsoft in getting this game out just before Halo Infinite, as it’s certainly caught the eye of PC gamers, casual gamers, and even some die-hard PlayStation fans. Xbox is shaping up to have a very solid holiday period, and best of all it’s all free on the Xbox Game Pass.

Forza Horizon 5

Rocket Chainsaw reviewed Forza Horizon 5 on Xbox Series X with review code provided by the publisher. Forza Horizon 5 is also available on Windows PC and the previous generation Xbox. For more information, head to the official website.


- The most visually pleasing game of the Xbox Series X
- Lots of different race modes and biomes means there’s a race for everyone
- Wheel support at launch!


- Few minor graphical issues at launch
- Driving line still has some issues at intersections.

Overall Score: