Forza Horizon 2 First Look: Hitting the Open Road

Playground Games is behind the wheel of this beautiful Xbox One sequel.

Not content to let Forza Motorsport 5 have all the fun, Microsoft and Playground Games unveiled the Xbox One exclusive Forza Horizon 2 to players at last week’s E3 event in Los Angeles. Like the 2012 original, Forza Horizon 2 focuses on open-world driving, giving you ample competition to choose from across a series of events. For good measure, you’ll drive 200 gorgeous cars.

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The game utilizes a similar engine to the previous Horizon, but custom-built with the Xbox One in mind. Horizon 2 concentrates more on racing through Southern Europe, and while that’s different from the original location of Colorado, it provides a more diverse selection of terrain to cover.

As you progress your way through the Horizon festival, where the world’s best get together to prove their racing prowess, you’ll level up and eventually unlock new events to take part in. Along the way, you’ll have challenges galore, including speed trials, quick challenges for online rivals and more. As you progress, the world begins to open up, as do the car shops, where you can invest in new rides to stick in your garage.

Like Forza 5, Horizon 2 will have a fair share of real cars to drive in the game. From the 2015 Lamborghini Huracan LP 610-4 to the 2012 Nissan GT-R Black Edition to the 2012 Pagani Huayra, there’s no shortage of high-speed toys to play around with.

So what’s new in Forza Horizon 2? First, there’s exploration. This plays a huge factor, as you’ll sometimes need to drive through the back hills for certain events or competitions. By tracking these down, you’re able to level up quicker and maybe earn an exclusive reward or two for good measure. You can also go joyriding if you prefer, getting the hang of your new ride.

There’s also a well-implemented lockdown system where other players won’t be able to enter an event to sabotage you once it begins. It’s simply a matter of who shows up to take part in the race, then starting without any late arrivals trying to spoil the party. This should balance things for those who just want to race. For those looking to compete with friends, don’t worry – there’s more than enough opportunity to do this with the hundreds of events scattered throughout Europe.

Along with traditional road races, Forza Horizon 2 also brings back the enjoyable rally events, where you can race in rugged trucks or similar vehicles and kick up your tires over speed bumps and around corners. Endurance and cross-country races also return, should you be up for the challenge.

A variation of the Kudos system, which originated in Project Gotham Racing so long ago, makes a return of sorts in Forza Horizon 2. Performing stunts during each race will allow you to rack up points, which you can turn around to buy perks. These include increasing performance in your vehicle in a number of categories, as well as getting additional credit towards purchasing new tuning and paint jobs.

In addition to the 700 events and 200 cars in the main mode, Forza Horizon 2 will include online integration, just like the original. Fellow and renegade drivers will be able to pop in and challenge you, or join up for a particular event, should you feel like having some company tag along for a cross-country race. It’s also fun to simply goof off and explore the terrain, which ballooned three times in size over the original Horizon. No wonder Playground Games felt like changing the venue – it clearly needed something bigger.

Although the game was custom built for Xbox One, Microsoft doesn’t intend to leave Xbox 360 owners in the cold. It worked closely with Sumo Digital on that particular version of the game, and while it won’t be as visually supercharged, most of its features and events should remain intact. Sadly, it doesn’t look like there will be cross-platform play, although both versions should have a suitable audience of racers to choose from. Don’t worry – there’s someone to challenge out there.

Forza Horizon 2 received a lot of attention at E3, and for good reason. Playground Games wants to bring back everything that worked so well with the first title and improve upon it with more content, events and stability that will make it just as much of a household name to racing fans as Forza Motorsport 5. We’ll see how the final ride holds up when it pulls into garages September 30th.

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Prima Games Staff
The staff at Prima Games.