Like Forza Horizon, only better!
Never have truer words been spoken by a friend of mine who saw the game, loved Forza Horizon 1 and went out to pick up a copy of 2 not long after watching me do some pretty crazy driving with very few restrictions. It's a ringing endorsement that speaks volumes to me as a person who plays games, who loves a wide variety of games and gets to write about them as part of this freelance thing I do - basically hearing those words can convince me to buy a game I might be hesitant to buy even after reading the reviews online. I am quite a convert to the Forza Motorsport series of games, since Forza 2 actually, so when I got my hands on 5 for the Xbox One I was really pleased with what they brought to the table, especially the Driveatars.
Now Playground Games has returned with Turn 10's help and crafted a lovingly made sequel to Horizon 1. With more bells, whistles and game modes than the previous game and a seamless online play that lets you mix it up with real people in a massive map of Europe that covers St. Martin and places like Nice. It's beautiful stuff and so addictive that it keeps you coming back for more, or at least that's what it did with me.
If you're familiar with Forza Horizon, this game is like putting on a comfortable pair of driving gloves as you sit behind the wheel of a very customisable racing experience. In other words, if you played 1 you'll be immediately at home with 2, setting your options to change a variety of variables such as assists and rewind on/off. Each thing you alter adds or takes away from your in-game cash generation, rewarding those daring players who play on the harder difficulties and tougher Driveatar settings with much more lucre than they could reasonably hold in a pocket.
Everything in 2 revolves around your player choices, where to race, what kind of car to drive, what kind of events do you want to do. At the start it hand-holds you a little until you get your bearings and then you're off to make a name for yourself at the Dubstep Loaded, Hip and Trendy, Slick Horizon Festival. You can compete in all kinds of events tailored to your specific ride and if you're sick of that car, buy a new one and try some different events with that motor.
You'll level up, you'll get points to put into perks that improve your overall money generation, score multipliers and even more as you take on Road Trips from place to place, compete all over the European flavoured map and have a ton of fun just exploring all the hidden roads and places. Everything you do on these gloriously open roads nets you experience points and raises your level, get a new level and you get a spin to win mini-game, where you can net money, new cars, and other rewards.
Do really well with your crazy driving antics and you'll net the points to buy a perk from the list as your skill level rises.
Driving around couldn't be easier either, the game's designed for ease of use and navigation with a plethora of options and things to do. All of it accessible by a map screen, then it's back to the pure joy of hurtling down the road in third person or first, enjoying the gorgeous interiors and the shiny new graphics engine that's been designed for new-gen.
The handling for each car feels different, and if you're a Forza Motorsport 5 fan, you'll pick up on the nuances right away - it just feels like someone took away the walls from Forza 5 and let you run rampant trashing fields and crashing through fences like you were in an off-road chase scene from a Hollywood movie.
Then you have dynamic weather, day/night cycles and a host of other under-the-hood features that power the fun in Horizon 2. They're probably all really cool to talk about too, but this is the age of the new review and you're really interested in the racing - not the per-pixel polycount on the Ferrari's hood ornament.
I could go into detail about specular light reflection and the way a car reverses the polarity of the neutron flow, but really all you need to know is: it looks bloody gorgeous and runs at a heck of a clip, with no stutters or issues that I detected even when a hectic race with traffic involved turned into a huge free for all as the Driveatars of my friends decided that they hated each other more than me at 140mph.
Then of course you have those Driveatars, a great concept ported over from Forza 5 and it works beautifully here too. You feel like you're racing against your friends, random people from across the world and a small Yappy Terrier dog who has somehow managed to gain enough manual dexterity with his paws to at least borrow a joypad and play the game when no one's looking. I won't tell you which friend of mine that is, but he weaves across the road as his Driveatar more than a whole guild of basket weavers did in the Middle Ages.
It just makes racing even more interesting though!
The open road allows you to challenge random racers, find special Barn Finds, and more. The events are punctuated by Road Trips that take you to the next area you'll find events in and of course there are Showcase Events where you're racing against a jet powered display team or a train through check points...there's the Bucketlist too, where you get to drive a specific car and try and do the task(s) that it asks you in the time alloted.
It all adds up to huge amounts of fun even in single player.
All the things from Horizon 1 are there, and the elements that make Forza a great racing series are also packed into 2. All the customisation, the cars, the paint jobs, the tuning and so on... all there as you climb the ranks to the Horizon Festival Finale.
Then you have online at the touch of a button, free roam, structured play, open or private - all the options are easy to get to and simple to setup. Take a Road Trip with some random drivers and engage in various race modes, King of the Hill, Infected (a lot of fun) and more await you out there in the wilds of the map.
My personal favourite single player and online race type has to be the off road variants where there are a set of checkpoints, you race against a diverse lineup of Driveatars and shortcuts/breakneck speed/fields and wreckage are the order of the day. There's something primal about tearing around the countryside churning up fields and flowers in order to scoop up victory with a well placed last-minute breakneck short-cut.
Forza Horizon 2, with 200 or so cars at the get-go, superb online and single player racing is one of those games that will delight Forza fans old and new looking for something a bit different than going round the same tracks over again and again. It has a superb graphics engine with nicely detailed vehicles, buttery-smooth gameplay and a beautiful day/night cycle including ambient lighting and dynamic weather. With a mix of old and new events it's a great way to break the racing mould and yet stay true to what made Horizon 1 so good.
Well worth a grab!