Forza Horizon 2: Music meets metal in this visually stunning racerFiled inside: Reviews
The allure of the racing genre is something I look forward to each and every year in gaming. We wade through countless hours of fighting games, shooters, action titles, adventures, and casual releases. It can almost get to be a bit too much after a while—and to me racing games offer the perfect pallet cleanser. It wasn’t until Gran Turismo showed up on the scene that racing went through serious metamorphosis. We were used to driving stock styled cars up and down twisting roads, but the introduction of the “racing simulator” opened our eyes to a massive world of car types, tuning packages, upgrades, and paint jobs. But simulation racing wasn’t for everyone, and it seemed to be missing the arcade element that made most racing games such a heart pounding affair. Fast-forward to 2014 and racing games are even more evolved, case in point: Forza Horizon 2.
I’ve been anxiously awaiting this release, since developers were so adamant that it would look visually spectacular in the new age of consoles. Being a console gamer myself, I am sometimes jealous of the eye-candy that is produced by PC’s. For Forza Horizon 2, this was not the case. From the first time you load up the title, to every subsequent play afterward, one of the most notable qualities are the beautifully rendered graphics. No razor sharp edges here, or cut corners. Each model from car to tree is done with care and precision smoothing. It’s very “real world” and it’s the first time I’ve played a racing game that outwardly distracted me with its visuals as I raced against real and A.I. opponents. Forza Horizon 2 takes place on an “island” of sorts, located in a beautiful European countryside. The landscape provides a multitude of track types, ranging from rural vineyards, to tightly-packed city streets.
As I said, it isn’t just the environment that is so stunning to look at. Each vehicle is crafted with expert precision, mimicking its real world counterpart. There are tons of cars, varying in type to choose from, but the true visual entertainment happens after you choose your “weapon.” Each car comes with a few visual tweaks to the body and spoiler that can be purchased, and there is a slew of paint types to go through. But the Forza design studio really shines here, allowing you to slap a variety of vinyls onto your vehicle, mixing shapes and adding designs layered atop one another until you’re satisfied. You’re even free to share your creations with the world, and if you aren’t feeling particularly creative yourself you can simply grab a pre-created design from a nifty scroller that previews on your car in real time. This isn’t something new to the Forza franchise, but it is executed beautifully and finely tuned for Forza Horizon 2.
Once you come down off the visual high, you’ll be presented with some seriously entertaining gameplay. Forza Horizon 2 acts much like a grandiose event, pitting you against other drivers as you make your way towards ultimate horizon supremacy. To do this, you’ll have to prove yourself in a variety of championships. These races will take place all over the landscape, but you won’t be simply “fast traveling” to each location. The Forza Horizon 2 experience is an open-world affair, and will require you to travel to each destination. In fact, whenever you enter a new championship, you’ll have to embark on a lengthy road trip to discover that new area. This gives you a chance to get a grip on your new surroundings and learn the lay of the land, so to speak. It also gives you an opportunity to enjoy those beautiful graphics, since you’ll be on a leisurely drive, rather than an intense race, although there is a “time limit” so you’ll still need to move with a small sense of urgency.
There aren’t really computer players in Forza Horizon 2. Every racer you compete against is compiled by ghost data collected when those players completed the same track that you’re currently racing on. You’ll see player names popping up all over the countryside as you race through single player. Once you enter multiplayer though, you will be racing against other Forza fans in real time, competing in a variety of events including sprints, circuit races, and a type of “rally race” that has you tearing through fields and avoiding the road. The multiplayer is done very well, and adds another layer of depth to an already supremely well done game. You’ve also got a rather nice and plentiful soundtrack to cruise to. A lot of the horizon festival revolves around music, and its interesting how developers have blended some great songs into an already intense experience.
There isn’t much to complain about when it comes to Forza Horizon 2, and you’d be hard pressed to find any issues that would ruin your gameplay experience. I would highly recommend Forza Horizon 2 if you’re looking for a fun arcade experience but still want to get in on some simulation and heavy car tuning. It will be interesting to see how much interest this title holds when Ubisoft releases The Crew, but for now, Forza Horizon 2 reigns supreme over the racing world, and is definitely a must have for all you racing fans out there.