Forza Horizon 2 Review (XONE)

Forza Horizon 2 is the Best Racer on XONE

Forza Horizon 2 screen 1. Microsoft

Forza Horizon 2 is a culmination of everything Playground Games learned from the first Forza Horizon, as well as a few things Microsoft learned from Forza 5.  Our only real complaint with Horizon 1 was that there wasn't enough stuff to do, which isn't a problem here.  Seriously, it'll take dozens and dozens of hours to beat everything this time around.  And, best of all, it doesn't have any Car Tokens or other micro transaction nonsense.  Forza Horizon 2 is a huge, fully featured, great looking and sounding, crazy fun game to play that is one of the best racing games ever and easily one of the must own titles on Xbox One.   

Game Details

  • Publisher:  Microsoft        
  • Developer: Playground Games
  • ESRB Rating: “E10" for Everyone 10+
  • Genre: Racing
  • Pros:  Great visuals; awesome sound; excellent driving mechanics; tons of content; seamless online integration
  • Cons:  Cross country events; occasional pop in; Xbox One's music options

Xbox 360 Version

Please note that this review only covers the Xbox One version of Forza Horizon 2.  The Xbox 360 version was developed by a different team, Sumo Digital (of Sonic All-Stars Racing fame), and has a few key differences compared to the XONE version.  We plan on covering the 360 version of Horizon 2 as soon as we can, so if you're looking forward to that one, please stay tuned. Update:  Here's our Forza Horizon 2 Xbox 360 review (this version didn't turn out so good, unfortunately).  

Features and Modes

Just like the first game, Forza Horizon 2 is set up as a big car enthusiast / concert / party meetup for all the cool kids.  Instead of Colorado, however, Horizon 2 takes place in a heavenly (and imaginary) slice of Southern Europe along the border of France and Italy.  The terrain you race in is surprisingly varied and includes winding coastal roads, rolling plains, vinyards as far as the eye can see, several cities and towns, mountains, forests, and more.  There are very few walls blocking your way between point A and point B this time around, so you can (and will) just drive straight across fields and wilderness to get to where you want to go. 

The structure of the game is slightly different from Horizon 1.  In Horizon 2 you need to win 15 championships (out of 168 total to choose from) to advance to the Horizon Finale.  During the story portion of the game, you road trip from city to city to compete in each championship, and the drive through the countryside on these road trips is really enjoyable.  Each championship has multiple races so they each take a while.  All in all, if you only did the 15 championships, plus showcase events where you race your car against a train or something, it takes a solid 12 hours or so to beat the "story" and get the achievement for being the Horizon Champion.  Then the process starts again - win 15 titles and do a finale.  It is enjoyable.

The game is huge overall.  Once you win your first overall Horizin title, you still have 150 more championships to play through.  Plus 150 discount and XP signs to find.  And 30 "Bucket List" challenges hidden around the map where you do specific challenges in certain cars.  And 10 cars to find hidden in barns.  You can buy and take pictures of all 200+ cars.  There is an airport with a speed trap at the end of the runway so you can see how fast your cars are where you can spend hours tweaking and tuning to try to squeeze more speed out of your ride.  Don't get me started on how fun and enjoyable just driving around the massive game world is.  The first Forza Horizon could be 100% completed in 25 hours.  Forza Horizon 2 will be more like 125+ hours (likely more), which doesn't even begin to count any online races and road trips and free roam you can do with your friends.  The amount of content in Forza Horizon 2 is awesome.  


The gameplay tying all of this together is incredibly solid and among the best sim / arcade racing available.  It is hard to assign to a genre, really.  It is more realistic than Need for Speed Rivals, but nowhere near a simulation like Forza 5.  Its in-between.  Which means it is fun since you can throw your car around corners and powerslide and go pretty crazy, but also very satisfying since there is a definite limit to how far you can push and still be in control so you are always straddling that line.  Every car feels different to drive as well, so you are constantly learning and re-learning and adjusting to every new vehicle.  There are a number of options available as well to let you adjust the difficulty and damage to make it as realistic or arcadey as you like. 

Drivatars also appear in Forza Horizon 2, and just like in Forza 5, represent other real-life players and the way those real people drive.  There are still some A.I. traffic cars out on the roads, but every racer you see is based on the driving style of another real player and you see their gamertag above the other cars.  This is seriously cool, and seeing your friends names over rival cars in races or out on the roads really makes you race differently.  Beating your friends, even A.I. based on them, is just so darn satisfying.  You can also challenge drivatars in free roam to street races, and their payouts are different depending on their skill level.  Seeing a friend labeled as a "Pro Drivatar" Just makes you want to beat them even more.

One of the main problems with Forza 5 was that it had a wonky economy and a slimy reliance on "Car Tokens" you could buy with real money to make up for the low race payouts.  People complained, and Microsoft and Turn 10 actually fixed it.  Forza Horizon 2, thankfully, doesn't have any such problems.  Microsoft learned its lesson (like it has on so many things with Xbox One over the last year) and there are no car tokens or other micro transaction nonsense at all here.  The game also throws money and XP at you for pretty much everything you do, too, so you can buy and upgrade just about any car you want.  Sure, you  might have to save up your winnings from several events to buy a Bugatti Veyron or one of the other expensive cars, but at least it is fairly reasonable this time around and not almost impossible like in Forza 5.  And like I said, you earn credits for pretty much everything you do in Forza Horizon 2, so saving up your cash goes fast, and is usually pretty fun.

Race events are fairly standard circuit, point to point, etc. type of races you'd expect.  Because of the open nature of the world - very few fences and walls, remember - there are now Cross Country events where you drive through fields and through river beds and more from checkpoint to checkpoint offroad.  Driving through a bunch of trees or a vineyard or field is all fun and games when you don't have to actually see where you're going, but (in the in-car view at least) it is hard to see where you're supposed to go and where the next checkpoint is during actual events.  You see better in the third-person camera angles behind the car so it isn't as much of a problem, but I feel like the game plays much better in first-person so it is always a conflict between being able to actually see versus being able to actually drive well.  Lets just say I'm not a fan of these events.  The rest of the activities in the game, however, are pretty much all wonderful.

Graphics & Sound

The presentation is absolutely fantastic in Forza Horizon 2 on Xbox One.  The game is undeniably gorgeous with more than 200 incredible looking and crazy detailed cars to choose from, racing through realistic looking environments at breakneck speeds.  The game also has day / night cycles with excellent lighting effects, as well as great looking weather effects for rain and thunderstorms.  For the most part the game holds up really well, too, with a rock solid framerate.  Occasionally, but only in the really fast cars, there will be some pop-in as vehicles will materialize on the road in front of you, but they are 200+ yards away so it doesn't really affect gameplay at all.  And it does only happen when you're going super fast in free roam.  Not a problem, just something you'll notice.

The sound is also quite good.  Engine sounds are absolutely fantastic and are easily the best of any game on the market.  The game features several radio stations to choose from, including an awesome classical music station.  I wish it were easier to listen to my own music in-game, however.  You can, theoretically, snap Internet Explorer and have Pandora or something open, or use the Xbox Music app, but I don't want to have something snapped on the side of my screen with the gameplay screen all shrunk down.  Why can't I just stream music in the background on Xbox One like I can on Xbox 360?  This obviously isn't a problem with Forza Horizon 2, but with the Xbox One itself, but this is the first game where its really annoyed me, which is why I'm mentioning it. 


One final tidbit about the presentation is the way Kinect voice commands are used.  You can talk to your GPS so it can point you to nearby events, suggest what you should do next, and more all with voice commands.  It actually works really well, and the commands are fairly intuitive. 

Bottom Line

In the end, Forza Horizon 2 gets just about everything right.  It looks amazing and sounds awesome.  It captures that perfect blend of sim and arcade-style gameplay, but also offers loads of options so you can tweak it to play exactly the way you want it to.  And it has a ridiculous amount of content.  There is no better racing game on Xbox One (or any other current-gen system, for that matter) than Forza Horizon 2.  This is a must play for race fans and we highly recommend it. 

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.