Forza Horizon 2 Review
Forza Horizon 2 Box Art
System: Xbox One
Dev: Turn 10 Studios
Pub: Microsoft
Release: September 30, 2014
Players: 1 (2+ Online)
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p Mild Lyrics, Mild Suggestive Themes, Mild Violence
Understanding The Open World Formula
by Angelo M. D'Argenio

The concept of the open-world game is the ability to basically do whatever you want. While the programmers might be telling you “the game is this way” open world games reward you for wandering off into a field for hours, trying to make your own fun. This is actually why I have always been skeptical of the open world driving genre. No matter how far off the beaten path you travel, you are just going to be doing more driving. In other open world racing games, this meant you’d drive on a road, go through a field somewhere, then get to another road. It was as if the open world existed as little more than a way to travel from one actual race to another.

Forza Horizon 2, however, understands the actual spirit behind open world games. The reason why going off the beaten path is fun is because of the variety it offers. While you will have more than your fair share of asphalt roads to tear up, Forza Horizon’s small strip of Europe offers so much more.

Maybe your thing is driving through nearly haunted woods at night. Maybe driving through swamp is more your speed. How about tearing tracks up and down the coastline. There’s tons of other locales for you to experience. You can head to farms and tear your own crop circles in fields of wheat. You can head to abandoned air-field and ram yourself off shipping containers. You can absolutely ruin the majestic beauty of a bright and colorful field of flowers by plowing a van through them. You can race alongside a train, under a hot air balloon, around an air-plane and so much more. There is always something new to find, and that is the main reason for going off road in this game. You just want to see what location you’ll be able to drive through next.

And these locations aren’t just aesthetic. The Forza team really knows how to make each of these locations feel completely unique. One of the primary ways they do that is by playing with elevation. Racing through a forest will face you with tons of dips and hills for you to contend with. Racing on a mountain road always slopes your car slightly to one side. Even flat fields have more variations in their elevation than simple roads. The up and down jostling of your car, and the control compensation you’ll have to allow for as a driver, makes simply driving through each location a different beast, let alone racing through them.

Forza Horizon 2 Screenshot

Road type is also a big area of variety in this game. Cars handle completely different on dirt as they do on asphalt. Combined with the aforementioned elevation tricks, Forza Horizon 2 basically makes each different locale in the game a different driving experience. The cuts and drifts of a winding country road provide a gameplay experience with a completely different tempo and feel to driving through an open lot trying to get the most air off a ramp. In a way, Forza Horizon 2 actively seeks to reward you for seeking out the type of gameplay that you enjoy the most.

The differences in terrain in Forza Horizon 2 are most apparent in cross country races. As you would expect, these races are simply a mad dash to get from point A to point B. It’s up to you, the knowledge of your car, and your knowledge of the terrain to make it there. When you start these events you’ll usually try to do the natural thing: drive in a straight line, but soon you’ll learn how to terrain to your advantage. Yes, this means sick jumps. Oh man the sick jumps.

Forza Horizon 2 Screenshot

I’ve been talking a lot about how much fun it is to just go off the beaten path in Forza Horizon 2, and that’s because I feel like this is sort of the main focus of the game. But if you are more of the traditional racing type, there are over seven hundred events for you to partake in. You’ll take on courses designed to showcase different car models, stacked with different numbers of competitors, and strewn across different locales. You can go online and challenge your friends in one on one races or tournaments, or you can race offline against ghost A.I. opponents modeled after your friends. You can participate in “bucket list” challenges which involve speed goals, stunt goals and more. The game captures what makes games like GTA so much fun, in that you know there is a path to the game’s end, but you can just meander along doing whatever and you know you will be steadily making progress.

All of this is tied up together through the concept of skill points. Skill points were kind of a throwaway in the original Forza Horizon. However, this time around they unlock perks that change the way the game is played. You can pretty much surmise what most these perks are, discounts on car purchases, XP boosts, so on so forth. However, there are a handful of perks that actually change mechanics as well. I’ll admit I mostly ignored these perks in lieu of the “get better stuff faster” perks, but your mileage may vary.

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