First Impressions of Microsoft’s New Forza Horizon 2

Making Amazing Use of the Xbox One Graphics Platform Forza Horizon 2 Improves On Nearly Every Aspect of It's Predecessor

500-905035-847__1To the untrained eye, Forza Horizon 2 looks like a racing game. It’s got fast cars. It contains a formalised system for deciding the fastest combination of car and driver over a specified distance. But it’s not a racing game, it’s a driving game. It just has racing in it. That was the main point of difference between the original Horizon and its progenitor, the Forza Motorsport series, and it’s even more pronounced this time around.

Suddenly, there’s a reason to drive slowly, cruising along the breathtakingly idyllic Tuscan countryside playing lazy games of cat and mouse with friends amidst the traffic or even, if you can believe it, stopping entirely just to admire each others’ tuning and paint shop handiwork. There’s a sense of identity and ownership in yours and other players’ vehicles that arguably hasn’t been seen since the long ago days of Test Drive Unlimited. Even if you’re not actively playing online at the time, you’ll see your friends’ Drivatars rumble past as you explore the world.

Just because the game encompasses the more leisurely side of driving, doesn’t mean there isn’t a feeling of momentum. The Online Road Trip mode uses chaotic point-to-point chases to string together a series of four challenges. There’s a championship table at the end, but you’ll likely already have clicked through to start the next road trip, such is the monosodium-glutamate tug of fooling around in fast cars on the open road.

forza_horizon_2_ferarriEvery single XP point you earn in single or multiplayer contributes to the same pool, so you’re not penalised for having a preference. Level up and you get to crank the handle on Forza Wheelspin, a tombola that offers the opportunity to win varying amounts of cash and even new cars. It’s an approach designed to encourage a bit more experimentation with the game’s more diverse car list. And what a car list.

With over 200 vehicles, the team at Playground Games has stripped out the fatty excess and swapped in a combination of rugged off-road weaponry alongside more quirky oddities that you’d never see in the Motorsport series. Case in point, the only place you’d expect to see a VW Camper Van at the Nürburgring is parked by the side of the track next to a barbecue. In Horizon 2 it perfectly encapsulates the road trip vibe, particularly if you do what comes naturally…and perform automotive surgery on said hippie-vanagen, swapping in something out forza_horizon_2_porscheback that’s a little more…exotic.

Whatever you’re driving, you’ll likely want to join a Car Club. Not only does membership confer XP and cash bonuses, it’s the easiest way to find and interact with others who share your love of Nissan Z cars, Godzilla, ’70s muscle cars or yes even VW campervans. Clubs can be named, customised and publicised, and there’ll be a noticeboard for organising get-togethers. New ‘car meets’ are the closest thing the game has to lobbies, offering a focal point for social activities, both in clubs and outside of them. It’s there that you and your friends can loiter around your cars, and drone on about camber settings and drag coefficients to your heart’s content. Or maybe that’s just us.

In spite of all this delicious multiplayer freedom, there’s still the odd moment where the game pulls off a scripted spectacle for the solo player. Horizon’s Showcase Events were just that, events that demonstrated the game at its most thrilling, including races against World War II fighter planes and hot air balloons. They’re back for Horizon 2 with a few tweaks; only five challenges this time around, but they are cleaner and less repetitive. We’re particularly enamoured with the idea of a race against a thundering steam train in a Lancia Fulvia rally car from the 1970s…because racecar.



All Cars Available At Game Launch On September 30th, 2014

1980 Abarth Fiat 131
2010 Abarth 500 esseesse
1968 Abarth 595 esseesse
2013 Abarth Punto Supersport
2002 Acura RSX Type-S
2007 Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione
1965 Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ2
2011 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde
1986 Alfa Romeo Spider Quadrifoglio Verde
1968 Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale
1971 AMC Javelin AMX
2013 Ariel Atom 500 V8
1964 Aston Martin DB5
1958 Aston Martin DBR1
2010 Aston Martin One-77
2011 Aston Martin V12 Zagato (Villa d’Este)
2012 Aston Martin Vanquish
2013 Audi R8 Coupé V10 plus 5.2 FSI quattro
1995 Audi RS 2 Avant
2011 Audi RS 3 Sportback
2006 Audi RS 4
2011 Audi RS 5 Coupé
2013 Audi S4
1983 Audi Sport quattro
2010 Audi TT RS Coupé
2013 Ferrari LaFerrari
1973 Ford Capri RS3100
1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth
1977 Ford Escort RS1800
1956 Ford F-100
2014 Ford Fiesta ST
2003 Ford Focus RS
2009 Ford Focus RS
2013 Ford Focus ST
2005 Ford GT
1966 Ford GT40 Mk II
1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302
2015 Ford Mustang GT
1985 Ford RS200 Evolution
2000 Ford SVT Cobra R
1993 Ford SVT Cobra R
2013 Ford Shelby GT500
1987 Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500
2011 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
2011 Ford Transit SuperSportVan
2012 Hennessey Venom GT
1997 Honda Civic Type R
2004 Honda Civic Type-R
1984 Honda Civic CRX Mugen
1992 Honda NSX-R
2009 Honda S2000 CR
2006 HUMMER H1 Alpha
2013 Mercedes-Benz G 65 AMG
2009 Mercedes-Benz SL 65 AMG Black Series
2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG
2005 Mercedes-Benz SLR
2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
1965 MINI Cooper S
2012 MINI John Cooper Works GP
1999 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI GSR
2004 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII MR
2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X GSR
1994 Nissan 240SX SE
2010 Nissan 370Z
2012 Nissan GT-R Black Edition
1970 Nissan Datsun 510
1969 Nissan Fairlady Z 432
1994 Nissan Fairlady Z Version S Twin Turbo
1992 Nissan Silvia CLUB K’s
2000 Nissan Silvia Spec-R
1971 Nissan Skyline 2000 GT-R
1993 Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec
2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed
2011 BMW 1 Series M Coupe
1973 BMW 2002 Turbo
1981 BMW M1
1997 BMW M3
1991 BMW M3
2008 BMW M3
2012 BMW M5
2011 BMW X5 M
2011 BMW Z4 sDrive35is
2012 Bowler EXR S
2011 Bugatti Veyron Super Sport
1987 Buick Regal GNX
2012 Cadillac Escalade ESV
2012 Caterham Superlight R500
1957 Chevrolet Bel Air
1990 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z
1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS Coupe
1970 Chevrolet Camaro Z28
1979 Chevrolet Camaro Z28
2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS-454
1960 Chevrolet Corvette
2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track
2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo
1956 Jaguar D-Type
1961 Jaguar E-type S1
1954 Jaguar XK120 SE
2012 Jaguar XKR-S
1945 Jeep Willys MB
2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
2011 Koenigsegg Agera
2013 KTM X-Bow R
2012 Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4
1988 Lamborghini Countach LP5000 QV
1997 Lamborghini Diablo SV
2014 Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4
1967 Lamborghini Miura P400
2010 Lamborghini Murciélago LP 670-4 SV
2013 Lamborghini Veneno
1982 Lancia 037 Stradale
1992 Lancia Delta HF Integrale EVO
1986 Lancia Delta S4
1968 Lancia Fulvia Coupé Rallye 1.6 HF
1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale
2002 Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec II
1968 Oldsmobile Hurst/Olds 442
2012 Pagani Huayra
2009 Pagani Zonda Cinque Roadster
1971 Plymouth Cuda 426 HEMI
1969 Pontiac GTO Judge
1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
1987 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am GTA
1973 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am SD-455
2013 Ram Runner
1980 Renault 5 Turbo
1973 Renault Alpine A110 1600S
1993 Renault Clio Williams
2003 Renault Sport Clio V6
2010 Renault Megane RS 250
1987 RUF CTR Yellowbird
1995 RUF CTR2
2011 RUF Rt 12 S
1965 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C
1965 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe
1999 SRT Viper GTS ACR
2013 Subaru BRZ
1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi
2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
1967 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 427
1970 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1
1995 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1
1964 Chevrolet Impala SS 409
1969 Dodge Charger R/T
1970 Dodge Challenger R/T
2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392
2012 Dodge Charger SRT8
1968 Dodge Dart HEMI Super Stock
1957 Ferrari 250 California
1962 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso
1962 Ferrari 250 GTO
1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa
2007 Ferrari 430 Scuderia
2009 Ferrari 458 Italia
1987 Ferrari F40
1995 Ferrari F50
2003 Ferrari Challenge Stradale
1969 Ferrari Dino 246 GT
2002 Ferrari Enzo Ferrari
1994 Ferrari F355 Berlinetta
2012 Ferrari F12berlinetta
1984 Ferrari GTO
1997 Land Rover Defender 90
2013 Lexus GS350 F Sport
2010 Lexus LFA
2014 Local Motors Rally Fighter
2009 Lotus 2-Eleven
1956 Lotus Eleven
2012 Lotus Exige S
2010 Maserati Gran Turismo S
2004 Maserati MC12
1961 Maserati Tipo 61 Birdcage
2013 Mazda MX-5
1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata
1997 Mazda RX-7
2011 Mazda RX-8 R3
2011 McLaren 12C
1993 McLaren F1
2013 McLaren P1
1990 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II
1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupé
2013 Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG
2012 Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG Coupé Black Series
2013 Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG
2005 Subaru Impreza WRX STI
2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STi
2011 Subaru WRX STI
1974 Toyota Celica GT
1994 Toyota Celica GT-Four ST205
2013 Toyota GT86
1995 Toyota MR2 GT
1985 Toyota Sprinter Trueno GT Apex
1998 Toyota Supra RZ
2005 TVR Sagaris
2012 Ultima GTR
2012 Vauxhall Astra VXR
2009 Vauxhall Corsa VXR
2013 SRT Viper GTS
1995 Volkswagen Corrado VR6
1992 Volkswagen Golf Gti 16v Mk2
2010 Volkswagen Golf R
2003 Volkswagen Golf R32
1963 Volkswagen Beetle
1984 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI
2011 Volkswagen Scirocco R
1981 Volkswagen Scirocco S
1963 Volkswagen Type 2 De Luxe