Forza Horizon 2 Xbox One Review: Exceeds Expectations Ten Folds
Forza Horizon 2, one of the most surprising racing games of 2012 returns with an absolutely amazing sequel that doesn't rest on its laurels. Considering this is only the second game to come from Playground Games and with only 4 months of promotion many expected the game to copy and paste what made the first game great and smack a 2 at the end of the name, but here we are with a game that more than exceeds what was needed and turns it up by ten.
Forza Horizon 2 Single Player
Using the word single player here would definitely be used in a loose sense as when you are playing in a race, or an off road race, a bucket list challenge or finding one of the barn finds it never feels like you are in a vast empty open world (and I want to point out it is HUGE) but connected to millions of other players all playing through their own unique driving career.
The social aspects really shine through as you are always being reminded where you rank with your friends in speed challenges (speed traps) or speed zones. Here instead of getting a top speed you need to keep your speed up to reach an average or maybe you were in a race with a friend who was 0.234sec faster than you, then you can replay and try to beat him for more XP and money. Content wise you will be hard pressed to find a problem as well, the map is beautiful and expensive.
The first time you drive to Nice and you enter the city it is unbelievable. The next gen power really shows as well thanks to the sky. You won't find any sky boxes here as the atmosphere is all simulated, how much water is in the air, how much can the clouds store and when it reaches the limit, Rain (for the first time in the forza series!) It affects the handling of the cars, the look of the world, but most of all it makes them look BETTER! The skies in Forza could definitely give Bungie a run for their money.
This is also boosted by some new tech used in consoles for the first time ever called Forward Plus – It has allowed for more kinds of lighting to be on screen at any one time (e.g.: Headlights, streetlights, windows, reflections) and again it just makes the game feel more alive and unique and a visual standout of the year so far.
On a final note, don't expect a story. While you would think this would hinder a game, I for one am thankful. Forza Horizon 1 tried a story and it didn't pay off. In Forza horizon 2 there is a very loose backbone (so there is an 'end game') where you are trying to become the Horizon Festival champion (you do this by winning 15 championships) amazingly this works and works better than a story. After you have completed this 'story' you still have hundreds more championships to complete.
Amazingly as well the story can be progressed in any car you like with the races changing to suit your vehicle, this makes it less of a chore and more of a 'play the story how you want' feel which so many other racing games do not allow making many forget the campaign after a handful of races. My only real complaint about how this works is that after completing the championships it can start to feel formulaic and too structured and it never deviates massively to make it stand out after the completion of the main Championships.
Forza Horizon 2 Multiplayer
The multiplayer of Forza horizon 2 is a refreshing change of pace to other racing game multiplayers. While in Forza 5 it was all about tuning and shaving those half a seconds from lap times in Forza horizon 2 it's all about you, a group of friends and the open world. While joining multiplayer it doesn't even take you out of the game as it synch's everything in the background allowing you to chase those collectibles while joining your friends.
Amazingly as well the content between multiplayer and single player is pretty consistent meaning even in multiplayer there is loads to do.
The bucket list challenges have multiplayer versions which are a stand out but I have to say the best multiplayer mode has to be Online Road Trips. In this mode you start at a point on the map and you all drive as fast as you can to the starting point and then play the game mode you raced to. You will play 4 'races' before the end of the mode as the races can vary from obviously, a race, king, Infected, off-road, RedvBlue and more. They are all extremely fun to play.
Even if you don't win the races you are still rewarded massively, so it never feels you are not achieving something after having a bad race.
Final thoughts on Forza Horizon 2
While it faults in some places with a very rigid formula for you to reach an 'end game' and the soundtrack isn't as memorable as Forza Horizon 1. When you beat an Ariel stunt team or cross the finish line Nano seconds before a steam train steams past, you know that the game gets everything right in gameplay.
In a year where racing games are making a comeback I feel Forza horizon 2 is going to be a standout game for the genre. With so much content and a great looking world (If you're into the stats it's 1080 at 30fps) Over 200 cars and more coming with DLC its going to be an ever expanding racing game you just don't want to miss.