Forza Horizon 2 bursts out of the screen with buckets of arrogance. Opening with an ASMR-inducing cutscene that puts your back up, it presents you with a lead character that?ll make you grind your teeth out. It then continues to show off for the next hour or so, with its stunning visuals, vast array of cars and its constant reminder that it wont drop the phrase 'Drivatar'.
It doesn?t even refer to itself as a game. No, Forza Horizon 2
is an ?event?. If it was a 21-year-old boy in a fancy nightclub with his dad?s credit card paying for the drink in his hand, you?d want to avoid him like the plague. Staring from a distance as he takes to the dance floor. However, if it was
that guy he?d turn to you, smile and say ?Hey mate, do you want a drink??
For all of Horizon 2
?s arrogance, it?s completely backed up with an exceptional game and what seemed like needless swagger soon turns into endearing charm.
This game looks good. The cars themselves reflect their real-life counterparts with seamless ease and when you notice beads of water on your bonnet after a race in the rain, their place sits within the world perfectly. The environments you drive around are quite simply jaw-dropping, and create a sense of place that I?ve not felt in an open-world game outside of Rockstar?s genius.
But it never settles. While picking up my jaw from the ground and questioning how this is all possible, it decides to fly red-arrows inches above my car.
I think that?s the moment when you understand where Forza Horizon 2
is coming from. It?s that moment where you realise that this game, for all its flashy production, is simply focused on fun.
It may not be the most realistic racer you?ve ever played, but Horizon 2
shows no attempt to even try and replicate that side of the driving genre. Heading off-road in an Audi R8 wont leave you spinning around as you?d expect. Developer Playground understands that you just want to get back on the road and rejoin the race.
Unlike Need For Speed
or Burnout Paradise
there are no cutscenes when you crash. The game just slows you down slightly and you move on. Just enough of a punishment for careless driving so that you?ll miss out on your best time, but not enough to frustrate you into a tap-out.
There are no police. You?re not asked to suddenly ditch what you?re doing and deal with an un-wanted car chase. Instead, you blitz around the play space alongside drivers with your friends' namee above their heads, and the game lets you get on with whatever it is you want to do.
I don?t think we?ll ever fully understand the effect of Drivatars. If they do truly exist as Microsoft say, then they?re ineffectual. I don?t notice a difference in driving style over conventional AI. They mostly follow driving lines with mechanical precision. Put it this way - if you ever see my Drivatar driving around like that the let me know, because if that?s the case then the idea isn?t a reality.
I drive like a crazy man. Thankfully Horizon 2
allows you to drive like that. Punishment for risky driving is low. Cutting corners across a field is seen as taking initiative instead of cheating and it reinforces the focus on fun. However, if you?re not familiar with the map, you may find yourself behind a crash barrier, watching your rivals whiz by while your position drops like a rock.
Although Drivatars don?t feel real to me, there is no doubt that by simply placing your friends' names above cars is enough to make everything seem a little more personal. It creates some comical moments. As I was driving to a new location alongside various other sports cars I was cut up by a beaten up old truck. Funny as it was, the icing on the cake was seeing a mate's name above the roof. I laughed more, took a photo and sent it to him. Simple, but effective.
The racing is great - with the focus being on championships made up of a string of conventional races where you build up points by finishing higher - but there?s so much more to do in Forza Horizon 2
. Most of which you?ve seen before. Speed cameras, rival races and crashing through bill-boards are all out of the textbook, but this game has a few tricks up it sleeves to offer you more than just deja vu.