Monday, 6 October 2014

Forza Horizon 2: XBox One Review

Forza Horizon 2: XBox One Review

Publisher: Playground Games
Platform: XBox One

It seems it's the season for driving games.

What with this and Driveclub on the way for PlayStation, the racing is back as a de rigeur destination for the gamer. Mixing arcade and simulation, along with open-world driving, Forza Horizon 2 is a follow up to the 2012 title of a similar name.

And it's utterly addictive and totally indispensable.

With the Horizon car festival relocating to the south of Europe this time around, the team has decided to mix up the fun and laissez faire feel of the first with the next generation graphics of the current console generations. Lead by Sean Maguire's relatively perfectly rendered Ben, you're inducted into the Horizon festival without any real hubbub and set loose upon the roads to face a series of challenges, with a range of different cars to rely upon.

What a lot of cars there are too - around a hundred at the launch, with even more on the way. So there's not likely to be a lack of choice anytime soon. But the biggest problem with these driving games and one which has put me off somewhat in the past is the way the less able drivers (cough, myself) are penalised for being unable to perfect the turns, take the speeds and avoid hitting things. It's almost as if the developers have taken a page out of the Need For Speed pure bubblegum elements and realised the way to open this up to all is to embrace all levels of drivers. So, Forza Horizon 2 rewards you for drifting around corners and taking them too fast, for smashing through signs and through plowing through fields. Granted, you won't win races for such displays of driving, but you won't be penalised either, with your XP meter rising up for every last little move you make.

As well as the races for each region's championship ( 4 of each) there are plenty of other challenges to face too - from the Bucket List tasks thrust around the open world routes where you're tasked with a range of challenges from getting to a certain speed or wrecking a golf course to various XP boards around which need smashing for points, there's plenty to help you wile away the time. And that's the thing with Forza Horizon 2, you can spend days engrossed with the driving and challenging other drivers in races or head-to-heads or you can pick it up and simply hoon about, fill up your Credits to help you buy cars or your XP to boost your meter. There's a disposability to this game that makes it utterly commanding of any time you spend with it.

Even while you're offline, the Drivatar element which has been brought over from Forza Motorsport 5 helps you out with your car taking part in races while you're asleep or stuck in the office, so you're never left behind. From unlockable perks to a random wheel spin, there are elements designed to help you progress through the ranks; speed traps and cameras to race through and unlock XP - the list really does go on.

Graphically, this game soars too - with the cars looking beyond perfection and the open world environment looking like a picture postcard trip in south Europe. It's superlative on the eyes and it's beautifully rendered - along with the weather environments too, which have been brought in to help perfect the idea that you're in the world and that world reacts around you with the unpredictability and beauty that nature holds.

Forza Horizon 2 is a triumph - a driving game that rewards any level of racer and engrosses any gamer who's wanting to be immersed in a world and part of it. It's easily one of the games of the year for the XBox One and a sign that the next generation, when done right, is damn near close to player perfection.


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