Microsoft’s E3 2021 presentation proved that Redmond is playing for keeps this console generation. After gobbling up a small army of internal studios (now including Bethesda), Microsoft has amassed an incredible game lineup for the Xbox Series S/X consoles, as well as its excellent Xbox Game Pass subscription service. Halo Infinite! Starfield! Redfall! This November, the Xbox exclusive we can’t wait to test drive is Forza Horizon 5, our last hope for racing games that put fun above all else.
Burn Out, or Fade Away
To this day, Burnout Paradise remains the best racing game. It will most likely never be topped because it did things no modern racing game would dare to do. Instead of fetishizing actual cars, it lets you crash fake cars into a million pieces. No car brand would let you demolish their merchandise.
As a pure arcade experience, Burnout delivered an exhilarating sense of speed that made you feel like a rocket out of control, not some boring, career racecar driver. Instead of modeling its open-world map after a real-world location, it treated the world like a dense playground with secrets to discover around every turn. Burnout Paradise is the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild of racing games.
The Forza Horizon series…isn’t quite at this level. Or rather, it’s just doing different things. Don’t get me wrong, the games are honestly excellent and occasionally pretty wacky. Forza Horizon 4 featured a map made out of Lego blocks. But with real cars and no spectacular crashes, they’ll always feel a bit tame. The driving, while easy to immediately wrap your head around, still has one foot in the precision-heavy, simulation racing world of the mainline Forza Motorsport series. If Forza Horizon could purge that lingering, dull influence, it would be an absolutely unstoppable arcade racer.
Unfortunately, the Burnout series is dead and buried. Criterion made some fine Need for Speed games, but those weren’t the same. Some Criterion vets formed their own company to make a Burnout spiritual successor called Dangerous Driving, but that also wasn’t the same. At least we got Burnout Paradise Remastered. So until Burnout truly returns, Forza Horizon is more than a worthy replacement.
Gotta Go Fast
Besides, if you don’t have Burnout bias like me, Forza Horizon 5 looks like an incredible racing game, period. This time, you’ll race through Mexico, with its lush jungles, hot desserts, volcano peaks, and Mayan architecture. It’s a big change compared to Horizon 4’s Great Britain locale, and should appeal to fans of Forza Horizon 3’s Australian outback environments. Playground Games claims this is the largest and most diverse Forza yet. The team also promises a new level of detailed realism and cultural authenticity, with real-world photography reference points and artwork commissioned from local Mexican creators.
Forza is about racing through places, not just touring them. On Xbox Series S/X, the driving looks more thrilling than ever thanks to its 4K resolution, 60 frames-per-second movement, and ray-tracing tech. The game is also coming to Xbox One, and Xbox Game Pass on launch day. You can tackle the campaign, play a piñata-smashing mini-game, or build your own activities (like bowling!) in the Event Lab. Race alone or with friends in multiplayer.
Finally, there are the cars themselves. I know I’m in the minority when I say I don’t care about real car brands, such as Ferrari or Porsche, in my racing games. Forza Horizon 5 cares about actual cars. During E3 2021, Xbox highlighted the fancy AMG Project One Forza Edition concept car featured in the game. I’m sure that’s very exciting to the gearheads out there. It would be exciting to me if I could smash that vehicle to bits.
Quarter Mile at a Time
Forza Horizon 5 launches this November. After that, we can expect the next mainline Forza Motorsport game, a simulation racing game. But for me, Forza Horizon is already the main Forza franchise. It may not reach Burnout’s dizzying heights, but when it comes to exciting, open-world racing games anyone can enjoy, no games today come close to keeping up.
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