Beginning with Forza Horizon 2, each sequel in the Playground Games-developed racing series used the previous title as a fun-filled foundation to build upon, and Forza Horizon 5 is no different. The fifth title in Xbox Game Studios' racing-and-music festival has the thrilling modes, energetic atmosphere, music, and big stunts you'd expect from the premiere car series, but this time out the additions and changes are more evolutionary than revolutionary. That's not at all a bad thing. Longtime series fans will still sink hours into Forza Horizon 5, as its varied Mexico setting, ridiculously stuffed modes, and new features (EventLab, in particular) make it a game worth returning to on a regular basis. Newcomers, on the other hand, will be floored by the PC game's creative riches. In short, Forza Horizon remains the best racing game series, and this Editors' Choice entry is yet another example of why it's so beloved.Our Experts Have Tested 62 Products in the PC Games Category in the Past YearSince 1982, PCMag has tested and rated thousands of products to help you make better buying decisions. (Read our editorial mission.)
Our Forza Horizon 4 review went deep into the game's many parts, so you should check it out if you want to learn about Forza Horizon 5's basics, as many elements from that game carry over into this title. A.N.N.A the AI assistant returns, as do Barn Finds, Credits, Skills, Convoys, Wheelspins, Drivatars, car and character customizations, numerous zany stunts (you race a cargo plane in the game's intro!), and many other expected and fun Forza Horizon features.
This time, however, you'll enjoy those elements while zipping across a fictionalized Mexico, instead of a fictionalized Great Britain. Forza Horizon 5's Mexican environment makes for a far more intriguing video game backdrop, as it has 11 distinct biomes, including lush jungles, crumbling ruins, towering mountain ranges, and active volcanoes. As usual, Playground Games' graphics engine produces colorful, photorealistic visuals that complement the setting well.
Forza Horizon 5 is more evolution than revolution. Dynamic weather, a feature originally introduced in the previous edition, now lets you see storms in the distance, and drive into them/out of them. It gives the Mexican landscape an energetic, unpredictable feel that Forza Horizon 4 lacked.
Another new addition is Horizon Arcade, a mode that consists of several short co-op and competitive multiplayer games. One of the featured contests is Piñata Pop, a mini-game that tasks you with smashing the piñatas that fill the landscape in order to rack up big points. These challenges rope in other drivers who happen to be in your Freeroam area, so you don't have to dig through menus or suffer loading screens to have a good time.
Forza Link is a cool new AI assistant that tracks your status and helps you connect with other people for online play. For example, if you and an online player both need to complete a particular trial, Forza Link will prompt you to hook up and complete the task together. It's a cool way to potentially meet other racers in the vast Mexican open world that's 50 percent larger than the map in Forza Horizon 4.
The big new addition here is EventLab, a tool that lets you create custom races, stunts, challenges, and game modes, and it also lets you share them with others. In fact, EventLab includes many of the same tools that Playground Games uses to design in-game events.
In my time with EventLab, I downloaded a few custom tracks, including Jeep-tastic Park, a course that resembled a dark, foreboding roadway from the first Jurassic Park flick. It even featured dinosaur roars in the background! Once the player base digs into the mode, EventLab will give Forza Horizon 5 even greater longevity; the track potential is boundless. Thankfully, you can upvote/downvote tracks you like/dislike, respectively. That way, the Forza Horizon community can elevate the track wheat from the track chaff.
Forza Horizon 5 features more than 500 licensed cars to race, collect, and tweak, which bests Forza Horizon 4's starting vehicle count by more than 50 whips. You'll find new and classic cars from prestigious manufacturers, such as Aston Martin, BMW, Cadillac, Ford, Lamborghini, and Mercedes-Benz. Unfortunately, there's a dark side to this stable of vehicles.
The problem is that these licensed cars mean that Forza Horizon 5 will likely vanish from digital marketplaces in a few years' time when the automobile licenses expire, much as we saw with Forza Horizon, Forza Horizon 2, and Forza Horizon 3. It's a games preservation issue that needs to be addressed, and one reason that I value unlicensed racing games that can stand the test of time, such as Burnout Paradise and Split/Second.
Likewise, Forza Horizon's multi-genre soundtrack is filled with licensed music. As you cruise Mexico's streets and rural areas, tracks from Beastie Boys ("Intergalactic"), Dua Lipa ("Levitating"), Foo Fighters ("No Son of Mine"), The Killers ("Caution"), and Lil Nas X & Jack Harlow ("Industry Baby") fill your ears. Honestly, this is the first time that a Forza Horizon soundtrack felt foreign to me, as I was unfamiliar with the many of the featured artists. That's more an issue with my middle-aged music sensibilities than the tracks themselves. Still, I wish custom soundtracks would make a return.
As expected, Forza Horizon 5's cars look and feel fantastic. Both gearheads and dirty casuals will get a kick out of racing exotic and mundane vehicles. Even better, you can fancy up the cars in your virtual garage by purchasing designs created by the Forza community using in-game Credits, applying new paint jobs, or digging in with the built-in editing tool to create your own logos and patterns. A $100,000 car hurtling down a hillside with a Supreme logo emblazoned across the hood just feels right.
Forza Horizon 5 is a console racer designed first and foremost for play on an Xbox One or Xbox Series X/S console, so it should come as no surprise that its corresponding PC specs aren't particularly demanding. To blaze through Mexico, your gaming PC needs at least an AMD Ryzen 3 1200 or Intel Core i5-4460 CPU, an AMD Radeon RX 470 or Nvidia GTX 970 GPU, 8GB of RAM, 110GB of storage, and the Windows 10 operating system (2019 update). If you've bought or built a gaming rig in the last few years, you should have no problem putting the pedal to the metal. In a nice touch, Forza Horizon 5 includes HDR and ray-tracing tech (the latter is only in the ForzaVista car-viewing mode), so you can enjoy extra eye candy if you have compatible gear.
The racing game doesn't let you play with uncapped frame rates, but you can set the game to run at a locked 20, 30, or 60 frames per second. My gaming desktop, which includes a 3.2GHz Intel i5-4460 CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GPU, 8GB of RAM, and 2TB of storage, ran Forza Horizon 5 with ease. The sexy cars and lush environments moved at 60fps, though the game occasionally locked up for a few seconds at a time. Please note that a 20GB patch followed the 100GB game download, so it may take a while before you can first boot Forza Horizon 5.
Forza Horizon 5 is a Play Anywhere title, so if you buy it on PC via the Xbox app, you also play it on Xbox with no additional cost. Microsoft's unified video game platform means that the racer features crossplay between PC and console. It's also a day-one Xbox Game Pass title. A Steam version is available for people who prefer to leverage Valve's game store and launcher. In a nice touch, Forza Horizon 5 features many accessibility options.
With Forza Horizon 5, Playground Games gives you even more tools to craft custom festival vibes. The overall gameplay changes aren't quite as radical as in past years, but once the community gets their hands on EventLab, you'll enjoy a steady, fresh supply of new racing content. Plus, the fictionalized Mexico setting is simply awesome, with its varied, eye-catching biomes. Whether you're a newcomer or a longtime series fan, Forza Horizon 5 has lets you cruise streets, blaze down steep hills, or participate in wacky contents as you unlock cars, character gear, and walled-off areas.
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With Forza Horizon 5, the racing series makes its first stop in Mexico. It delivers breathtaking vistas, fast action, and the hook: the new EventLab mode that lets the community create cool, custom challenges.
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