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Forza Horizon 5 preview: An arcade racer leans on Sim, with solid results

La Gran Caldera, Forza Horizon 5s Stratovolcano, takes both the player and the game’s decades-long promise – if you can see it, you can go there – to new heights. And it’s not just the postcard views from the summit; The ride on either side gives a good idea of ​​what’s under the hood of Playground Games’ newest festival.

From the west you climb La Gran Caldera on a dirt road in wide, slippery curves; From the east you come on an asphalt route with narrow serpentines. It takes about 15 minutes, round trip – up one side and down the other – from the central hub world. The whole time has been a seamless transition.

From rolling farmland to forested mountain slopes, overcast skies, glorious sunshine, green grass at the foot and sulfur-yellow earth at the top, nothing indicated that, hard stop, I would leave one area for another. A bit like officiating at a football game, some of Forza Horizon 5The best functions of mine are the ones that struck me the least. I didn’t realize how cohesive the sprawling and diverse world of this game really was until I took notes in a hands-on preview last week of my time in a hands-on preview.

“One of the bigger things is because we have a much bigger world, the longer draw distance,” remarked Don Arceta, the game’s art director, in a phone call with previewers last week. “Since we see many of our details far into the distance, further into the distance than you could ever see before, we have [had to] improve a lot of our rendering across the board, our shadows, our lighting. “

A large wheeled Ford truck rolls through hills over a beach in Forza Horizon 5

Image: Playground Games / Xbox Game Studios

The fact that Forza Horizon 5 Loading from the Xbox Series X solid-state hard drive also gives developers a lot more freedom, said Creative Director Mike Brown. The traditional race-to-festival game opening now features four vehicles driving four different courses, and the set piece that immediately follows starts in the center of the race, going through farmland, then through a mountain village, up the mountain and down on which it goes and ends in a jungle. You cannot lose any of the races, which means that both are passed off as letters of intent from the Playground staff.

(Gamers on Xbox One, of course, won’t see as much fidelity in the graphics and will have more load times in situations where you’d expect them, Brown said.)

but Forza Horizon 5 also didn’t seem like a collection of eye-catching images and technical amenities. The vehicle handling feels in its own way like a seamless transition from more rigorous racing games in simulation quality. I recommend the game’s simulation steering option (as opposed to the standard, light assistance, or heavy assistance settings), with traction control enabled and stability control disabled, even for casual riders.

On the one hand, it is the only way to feel the active aerodynamics of the Mercedes-AMG One in the large backdrop that the festival begins. Second, the normal arcade controls make some simple drifts harder to start and harder to hold. The emphasis on smaller and faster stick movements also means that small mistakes can lead to overcorrections of fishtailing pretty quickly. Simulation turn in Forza Horizon 5 gave me faster times versus harsher AI at the half dozen events I attended and was a must for my impromptu rallies, both on the volcano and through the map’s sultry wetlands.

And when I drove up and down the volcano, I saw how committed Playground Games is to its visual and driving values. Both climbs meet at a knot of back roads in the volcano’s bowl, but you can still storm up the remainder of an almost vertical rim – perhaps a little too easy to avoid the random curiosity of a large audience. But hey, it’s there and you can climb it. The transport over the western gravel road provided a sweeping, almost 180 degree drift turn, a perfect blind start into the big air and a safe landing and many other serotonin flushes.

A Corvette Stingray (white) speeds through a shady street in a historic Mexican town

Image: Playground Games / Xbox Game Studios

“Without playing full arcade and making it seem unrealistic, we’ve made a few small tweaks to the handling that might not make them handle exactly the way they would in real life, but they shave the edges so that they react the way a player would rather react, ”said Brown. Forza Horizon 5 is supplemented once again by a complex tuning system for drivers who know what they are doing and want to bend the curves or shock absorbers of a car more according to their inclinations.

“The other things we’ve done in this title that are almost a little counter-intuitive is that we’ve made huge investments in the physical performance of our suspensions and brakes,” said Brown. “In both cases we tried to make them behave more authentically. The brakes are no longer on and off, but have a much more gradual grip of the discs on the brake. So you can really adapt when you squeeze that trigger. It’s a much slower application of braking. “

When driving with an Xbox Elite Series 2 controller (at default settings) I can confirm the better feel of improved braking; Also, I can confirm that the simulation control setting is again the best way to highlight this feature. The binary on / off braking that Brown described from previous Horizons results in a lot of spring action, quick steering movements, and other sharp, tiny movements common in arcade racing in my experience. This makes the car hyper-reactive. Forza Horizon 5‘s more natural steering, braking and suspension let me keep my hands on the wheel and stay more involved in a curve, especially the hairpin turns and rectangles that require additional technique at high speed.

“If there was a watch face that switched between Sim and Arcade, we actually moved it more towards the Sim,” Brown said, “but it actually made it more accessible and easier to drive.”

As always, there’s a lot of competitive driving in Forza horizon 5 – Street races, rallies, dirt circuits and the like. However, the challenging AI climbs again quite significantly from average to above average, so that many overtaking maneuvers at higher levels of difficulty are inevitably associated with contacts. I always found this to be at odds with the theme of a car culture festival where people supposedly gather to waste their drives with attention rather than destroy them. There is always a generous rewind buffer to undo mistakes in single player racing. If you’re a thoroughbred neurotic like me, just turn the damage off completely.

the futuristic interior of the Mercedes-AMG One with a rectangular steering wheel and tablet-shaped dashboard in Forza Horizon 5

The interior of the hypercar Mercedes-AMG One. You need to turn on the simulation steering if you want to feel the difference in the handling of this car.
Image: Playground Games / Xbox Game Studios

All of this is a very welcoming presentation of Mexico, both geographically and culturally. The world designers at Playground Games have done a strong job delivering interpreted, fictionalized locations that still have their own sense of place. Fans of the very first Forza horizon (I am one) will feel really at home with this landscape, a close brother of the Colorado of this game, but much better looking. Seasonal weather (introduced in 2018 Forza Horizon 4).

Again, as I pulled up the side of La Gran Caldera, small jets of dust from my hood let me know I was in a system that would later trigger a dust storm. Above, patches of snow were sublimated in the bright sunlight, showing a sulfur-yellow earth below. It was raining very lightly, just a few spots from a downpour, and then the sky was bright again. Like the braking of the vehicles, the weather in Forza Horizon 5 is also more subtle and gradual than on-or-off.

Forza Horizon 5 will be released on November 9th for Windows PC (via Steam and the Microsoft Store), Xbox Series X and Xbox One. It also launches the same day on Xbox Game Pass, for both console and PC subscribers.

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