Forza Horizon 5 Review

Forza Horizon 5 for the Xbox Series X further innovates the open-world racing genre for the better. Read our review to find out why.

Published: November 4, 2021 3:05 AM /

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When it comes to next-generation hardware, few games have truly taken advantage of the power that comes bundled into these new consoles. Forza Horizon 5 is one of the games that, as the series has always done, fully embraced the Xbox Series X's powerful hardware to create a breathtaking world full of wildly beautiful locales. When you're not dropping your jaw at the gorgeous vistas Forza Horizon 5 has to offer, you're dashing through desert dunes, zipping through Mexican cities, and scaling immense, volcanic mountains - all of which are norms for the boundary-pushing Horizon festivals. Playground Games has taken everything that makes the Forza Horizon series special and pushed the bounds even further than before, offering a familiar take on what a "racing game" actually can be.

Forza Horizon Lamborghini

Each Forza Horizon release takes racers to a new locale. Locations like France, Italy, Australia, and the UK have all become settings for the car-filled Horizon festivals. In Forza Horizon 5, the audience is swept away from Europe and Oceania to instead bring them to Latin America - more specifically, Mexico, where Horizon has picked up once more. Exploring all of these regions in high-speed automobiles is always a blast, but in Horizon 5, Playground has once again improved upon the stellar graphical display.  As with most modern releases, Forza Horizon 5 offers two graphics modes: Quality, which offers higher graphical fidelity at 30 frames-per-second, and performance, which bumps framerate up to 60 with lesser graphical fidelity. The difference between the two quality-wise is varying and performance, in my opinion, offers a better experience - especially while racing through some of Horizon's more eye-catching environments.

A Mexican Paradise

The dense, urban city streets of Guanajuato where races full of drifting cars are mottled by beautifully textured roads, buildings, and street decorations. Sprawling desert dunes, with a systemic Baja that is foiled by troves of rally cars participating in cross-country rallies, make up another portion of Horizon's vast map. A seemingly, but not impossibly, insurmountable, volcanic mountain with winding roads dotted by off-road cars is sectioned off as another. The more you explore Forza Horizon 5's beautiful map, the more you'll realize that the developers of this racing experience put just as much effort into what you can find as they did with what you can drive.

Driving itself feels more-or-less the same as it always has in Forza Horizon, but that is, if anything, a positive. Playground has nailed what driving in an open-world, explorable racing game should feel like: a perfect balance between realism and arcade-like racing. Cars rarely feel like they operate on the whimsical irrealism of a game like Mario Kart, yet they function with just enough pseudo-physics to allow death-defying stunts. On top of this, cars look just as realistic as they can feel and sound just as beautiful as they look. From the roar of a rally car's powerful, country-trekking engine to the hum of a hypercar's superb, speed-focused design, each car sounds and feel variable enough to warrant switching cars frequently.

The more you explore Forza Horizon 5's beautiful map, the more you'll realize that the developers of this racing experience put just as much effort into what you can find as they did with what you can drive.

Many of the features I'm speaking about hold true for the Forza Horizon series as a whole, but Playground made sure to include a sizable chunk of new features in this Horizon experience. The big one here is the "Horizon Story," a structured and reward-filled campaign where players meet characters operating within the Horizon festival. This story is not nearly as exciting as it was painted by developers in game previews - but that's okay. The game's natural progression provides meaningful rewards that outshine any monotonous story dialogue. By completing races, open-world tasks, and challenges, players will abundantly collect Accolade Points, which unlocks new Horizon Adventure Chapters. Oftentimes, you'll be helping an NPC do a seemingly monotonous task, like collecting water samples from the volcanos' festering center or picking up passion project vehicles. Most of the characters you come across are cookie-cutter and largely uninteresting, but in the more eventful chapters, exotic events take place that outshines any boring characters.

Forza Horizon 5 Festival Map

In one moment, I found myself racing head-to-head against a brotherhood of backflipping monster trucks. Once I secured my victory, Horizon put me behind the wheel of said monster trucks, providing a bonus level where I held my own monster truck stunt rally. Moments like this are littered throughout Horizon and make the experience that much more memorable. Dashing through the tourist-filled beaches of the eastern side of the map in a parade float, the most uncanny of racecars, is another example of Horizon's zaniness. These odd but enjoyable Horizon Adventure Chapters make Horizon so much more than just a racing game; driving experience is the more favorable definition.

Social Features Galore

Horizon Arcade provides another driving experience, one that blurs the line of racing even further. I engaged in a Horizon Arcade with a few of Playground games' developers for a multiplayer preview of the feature. We dashed through Horizon-staple speed traps, zoomed through speed zones, and wrecked our way through forests in a foray of different vehicles. These Horizon Arcade challenges are cooperative and offer different challenges, cumulating points and resulting in the participants being rewarded #Forzathon points. These points are season-based and allow players to buy unique, rare, and distinctive items from the Horizon Forzathon shop.

These multiplayer challenges can be both cooperative and competitive. The Eliminator series is a standout game mode that allows players to engage in what Forza Horizon considers the battle royale of racecars. Everyone starts in a level one vehicle within a large, closed arena. The arena shrinks as players "eliminate" each other in head-to-head races. By collecting airdrops, you can snag more powerful rides to up your advantage on other players in challenges. The idea is to survive until the final race, where the remaining players dash in their best vehicles to the finale. This game mode is genuinely adrenaline-rushing and works surprisingly well for a battle royale. As with any of Forza Horizon 5's game modes, you'll exit with an abundance of rewards, incentivizing additional matches.

Every moment of Forza Horizon 5 is a moment players find themselves being rewarded for simply playing the game. Whether it be a drag, rally, drift, or cross-country race, rewards are bountiful and plenty. Level-up and acquire a wheel spin. Buy a home and get a super wheel spin. Win a race and be showered with credits. Barrel through the desert like a rocket-speed, aluminum-clad tumbleweed and be rewarded with wreckage points. Use the accolades collected for more rewards. Whether you're a racer who prefers their single-player experience or you're one who likes to show off their skills in social play, Horizon rewards you plentifully.

Cars, Customization, Competition

If players find themselves tired of the wave of emotes, voice lines, car horns, outfits, credits, and #Forzathon points being thrown at them, there is an abundance of vehicles to set sights on and collect. Barn finds makes a return in this game and are as wacky as ever, but a new feature allows players to "pay it forward" by leaving one of their own vehicles in the dingy shed for other players to collect. Features like this, along with Horizon's constant open-world cooperate events, add to the interactivity between players available in Forza Horizon 5. EventLab, another additional community-based feature, is a building tool that allows players to create their own tracks. These races can be full of Horizon's insane set-pieces, like bowling pins and massive ramps.

Forza Horizon WWII Jeep

The customization doesn't end with races, as Forza Horizon 5 overhauls vehicle customization with an abundance of performance upgrades available to varying vehicles. Only in Horizon is it possible to take a 1945 Willy MB Jeep, a vehicle commonly used in WWII, and turn it into a supercar through engine swapping and aesthetic upgrades. It's the ability to accomplish things like this that make Forza Horizon and unique as it is.

The ability to customize the aesthetics of cars makes a return as well. Vinyl groups are smaller vinyl that players can create and share with others to stick to their cars. Want to include a vinyl of My Neighbor Totoro on your car? Someone made that. Interested in stamping your van with the Amazon logo to roleplay as a delivery driver? Someone made that as well. Livery designs exist as specific vinyl for specific rides. After a diligent search through the creator's hub, I was able to turn my bright yellow Lamborghini Huracán into a blue Nyan Cat-themed supercar, courtesy of user Skreamies. The creativity that exists with the Forza community is inspiring and breathes life into the game for years after its release.

Forza Horizon 5 Review | Final Verdict

I've played the Forza Horizon series since Forza Horizon's original release on the Xbox 360. Since then, the series has evolved and changed, but Playground found its footing with the series in Forza Horizon 3 and has built upon that formula since. Each iteration of Forza Horizon is similar enough to keep what is good about Forza but different enough to warrant a new release. With Forza Horizon 5, things are more of the same, but in the best way possible. A beautiful graphical display, apt social features, and a boat-load of exotic cars make the Forza Horizon festival everything it already was and more.

TechRaptor reviewed Forza Horizon 5 on Xbox Series X using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC and Xbox One.

Review Summary

Forza Horizon 5 is the greatest the open-world racing series has to offer. (Review Policy)


  • Beautiful Environments
  • Massive Car Catalogue
  • Ample Social Features
  • Innumerous Activities
  • Rewarding Gameplay Loops
  • Superb Sound Design


  • Uninteresting Dialogue
  • Forgettable Characters

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Paul Lombardo
| Former Staff Writer

Paul is a student at the University of Florida seeking a Bachelor of Science in Journalism. Being a gamer for as long as he could remember, Paul made it a… More about Paul

More Info About This Game
Learn more about Forza Horizon 5
Game Page Forza Horizon 5
Playground Games
Xbox Game Studios
Release Date
November 5, 2021 (Calendar)
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