Forza Horizon 5 Review

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Here is our review of Forza Horizon 5, which takes players of the popular racing game franchise for a Mexican adventure.

Here is my review of Forza Horizon 5, as reviewed on PC (Steam) using a controller. RaceDepartment has a Forza Horizon 5 forum where RD users can share, ask, or just chat about this racing game.

The latest installment of the massive Forza franchise is releasing worldwide in the coming days. Forza Horizon 5 sets the familiar open world racing title in Mexico this time. Fun is once again the focus, with developer Playground Games challenging the player to race with others in a variety of multiplayer modes, beat the AI in the massive array of single player races, or just explore the large Mexican map to find new challenges and hidden items and locations. However you choose to play it, FH5 delivers on what millions of players around the world have come to expect.


Forza Horizon 5 is undeniably gorgeous. While many racing game fans consider the British setting of Forza Horizon 4 to be among the best-looking racing games ever released, it looks comparatively gray and dull next to the bright and colourful landscape of Mexico. To complement the stunning scenery, the 500+ cars available at release are all nicely detailed. The lighting is also impressive to look at, and FH5 will likely have you reaching for the screenshot key early and often.

Xbox users have voiced issues about FH5’s graphical limitations on console, as they are forced to choose between Quality mode which offers improved visuals at a lower frame rate, or Performance mode which offers the inverse. The PC version is instead highly customizable and limited by hardware. As tested on my 3900X/6800 XT system, I was able to achieve a consistent 72FPS on Ultra settings at 3440x1440 resolution. Steam recommends an Intel i5-8400 or AMD Ryzen 5 1500X CPU, 16 GB RAM, and an NVidia GTX 1070 OR AMD RX 590 GPU, so even the recommended hardware isn’t outrageous.

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A focus of Playground Games since the 4th Horizon has been to improve the sounds of the cars on offer. And while I haven’t had the chance to listen to the engine notes of even half of the over 500 cars on offer, the ones I have listened to sound good. I’ve yet to find a car that meets or exceeds the level of sound we might hear in RaceRoom Racing Experience or one of the many impressive sound mods for Assetto Corsa, but given the breadth of vehicles available in FH5, what Playground has achieved here is very nicely done.

Besides the engine notes, there are several other sounds that elevate the experience in Horizon 5. Much of your time in this game is spent with the car radio blasting music, occasionally interrupted by one of your virtual friends at the Horizon festival informing you of a new potential adventure. And thankfully neither becomes annoying. The music sets a fun tone, and the voice acting is well done. Finally, the environmental noises as you slide sideways around corners, smash through residential fencing, crossing rivers in the jungle, or just sit idle and catch your breath after a marathon session of any or all of the above are well done.

Driving Experience

Sim racing purists will need to pass on Horizon 5. Dropping out of an airplane in your Ford Bronco in the first minute of gameplay and hitting a jump that would have made Evel Knievel blush should be all you need to know about the realism of the driving experience here. Playground Games has clearly prioritized fun over accuracy in the Horizon franchise, and little has changed on that front since FH4.

There are, of course, fundamental vehicle physics that are well implemented. Sports cars outperform SUVs, off-road vehicles handle better on dirt surfaces than road cars, and so forth. But you’re never far removed from launching a passenger car off the side of a mountain and landing after several seconds of hang-time with only a cracked windshield. If players are to enjoy FH5, expectations of simulation-level physics will need to be suspended.

NOTE: some users are experiences errors when trying to map their inputs to a wheel and pedals set, and I was among them. I will edit this review at a later date with information about the force feedback once the game is patched.

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Gameplay Experience

From the first launch of the game, players are dropped into the deep end of the Mexican Horizon car festival. There is only an hour or so of exposition and plot-building, and then we're off to explore a big free roam. The menu system isn’t outstanding, but the small percentage of time spent out of your car is mostly spent referencing your map. Thankfully the map is easily accessible, but it definitely feels cluttered with the volume of quests available. Logically laid out sub menus in the game allow you to customize your graphics and sound experience, map custom controls, and manage your car fleet.

One of the few facets of Forza Horizon 5 that I found annoying, and the only one worth mentioning in this review, are the loading screens. The load times are longer than many titles on the market, but excusable given the massive map the runs seamlessly once you're in game. The issue I had with the loading screens was the boring visuals. While in game, pressing the up arrow on your controller brings you to a photo mode that creates stunning images at nearly any moment of time in FH5. But Playground Games has limited the loading screens to a few repeating images that make load times feel even longer.

On the multiplayer front, Horizon’s simple, fun and popular experience is hard to beat. There are multiple modes, including simply challenging a fellow player to a race, playing tag, elimination races, and group races. Sales of the Horizon series have been incredible in the four preceding titles, and FH5 should enjoy a similar level of popularity and give players a great online racing experience with others around the globe for years to come.

For those that prefer solo play, Horizon 5’s map is littered with races, quests and exploration areas. It does feel more like a collection of interesting things to do than a career or storyline at times, but there are at least three things that keep things perpetually interesting in FH5.

Firstly, the prospect of saving enough credits to buy your dream car. Maybe your first car will be that stunning red Ferrari you've always had your eyes on. And then your dream Lamborghini. And that cool new Project One. And on it goes. Buying and testing the 500+ car on offer is one of the best features here.

Secondly, customizing those cars. The upgrade and customization options in FH5 are comprehensive, and it makes the already large car selection feel almost limitless. Most of the major components of your vehicles can be changed out and upgraded, along with the paint and decal scheme of each vehicle.

Lastly, once you have a garage filled with cars you’ve always wanted to say you own, and then customized them to your liking, it’s time to drive. Forza Horizon 5’s large and detailed map holds so much potential for fun just in exploring. Whether you break the 200mph barrier in your hypercar, use a pickup truck to scale the side of a volcano, or cruise through the beautifully rendered towns, just driving in FH5 is fun enough unto itself.

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Forza Horizon 5 carries on the well-established traditions we’ve come to love in the series. Everything is set up to ensure that you find fun in the game early and often. For those looking to channel an inner action hero instead of an inner racing driver, FH5 provides a perfect solution. It’s undeniably entertaining, thoroughly gorgeous to look at, and the enhancements to the sounds and vehicle customization represent progress in a series that could rightfully be apprehensive to change their recipe.

Hours of enjoyment lie ahead for anyone with a taste for racing and cars. Whether you play against other real players, AI, or just cruise around in your fantasy dream car, this is a great game. It may not be groundbreaking, but Forza Horizon 5 still ranks among the best racing games I’ve ever owned.

  • Gorgeous visuals
  • Massive open world map
  • Huge car selection
  • Fun. Fun. Fun.
  • Bugged control setup
  • Boring load screens
Help the community and leave your own review

As always, we want to hear the reviews of the community. If you own FH5, click this link directly or the hit the Submit your Review button at the top or bottom of this article and share your review with us. Good, bad or indifferent, let the community know your thoughts on the newest Forza Horizon title.

Or, leave a comment below with thoughts and questions about this racing game.
About author
Mike Smith
I have been obsessed with sim racing and racing games since the 1980's. My first taste of live auto racing was in 1988, and I couldn't get enough ever since. Lead writer for RaceDepartment, and owner of SimRacing604 and its YouTube channel. Favourite sims include Assetto Corsa Competizione, Assetto Corsa, rFactor 2, Automobilista 2, DiRT Rally 2 - On Twitter as @simracing604

Latest reviews

Pros: - Looks fine
Cons: - Cringe story and characters
- Feels like a FH4 DLC
- Awful, stiff physics
- Repetitive and boring. A carbon copy of the older games
- Online is the usual Forza affair. I hate it. Some love it. Hit and miss
I hate the game. Under the coat of flashy visuals, it's boring and repetitive.
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Ole Marius Myrvold
Pros: - Open world that feels larger than the previous game. Dunes are nice, though hard to get the "Dakar/Baja" feel. Addition of drift roads are nice, good gravel roads, and a very tight and twisty main city. Good variety
- Looks fine. Not a huge step up to put it that way, but still looks fine.
- It's fun. S2-cars geared for circuit racing sticks to the ground, S1 RX-style cars can be drifted around on the RX-style tracks. Scandi-flick is possible.
- Nice that it's possible to pick up for 25min to have just a fun little race or two.
- Great to get actual progression of the game while in a convoy, means that it's possible to progress through the game with your mates. Makes it a social easy to pick-up game in a day who may be stressful.
Cons: - BUGS. And a lot of them... For a game which basically are Horizon 4, with expansion one in a new setting, there is a lot of bugs that really shouldn't be there.
- Apparent controller issues. Myself, I just use an xbox controller for games like this, but noticed issues when the gearbox and/or pedals were connected to the PC. Had to disconnect them.
- At times it feels like an unpolished map-expansion to FH4.
- Lancia and Alfa gone, but Lancia needed to complete all accolades in the game.
- Framerate issues after 1-hour+ of gaming, but only on high graphical settings.
- Random freezes and crashes (similar to FH3 and FH4).
- "Story" quests cannot be taken co-op anymore. It could in FH4. (and 3 I think).
The game that wanted, the game that promised, the game that bugged off.

I didn't plan to buy FH5, as I felt it was a map-expansion to FH4, and way too costly. But when every other in my local group of gaming-friends bought it, I wasn't able to resist. (weak me).
I put in way more hours than any of my friends as I knew I would work a lot the next couple of weeks. So when I write this, I have 33 hours in-game.

It still feels like a map expansion, as the game takes the good parts from FH4, and the first expansion, merging it with Mexico. Some cars are missing, but not as much missing as other numbered sequels (yes The Sims, I am looking at you).

When the game works, and especially in convoys with friends, doing racing and fun shenanigans around on the map, it's really fun. It's good for sharing a laugh and cool stuff. We haven't experienced much issues in convoys either. Except from surprisingly many times where not every car loads in. And the occasional "Hey, everyone are just standing still" bugs in races. Those have been rare in 30+ hours of gaming though.

The one bug that is worse than any other, is the "disconnected" bug. This bug just stops your car at a blink of an eye, and you lose every kind of progress you had. A hotfix was rolled out during the early play for premium buyers, which would fix this. Well. It removed the message for "disconnected" - which didn't make sense, as every time that message came, the online racing worked fine, we could all see each other in the convoy etc. So what was disconnected, we never know.

The message was removed, the bug is still there. It's irritating at the best of times. But when one accolade you need is to score a 2million skill points chain, then a sudden random stop with no error is just game-ruining.

The bug is proudly presented here:

It sadly ruins any kind of fun experience when stuff like that happens. To channel my inner Sebastian Vettel... "Honestly, what are we doing here??"

The game has proper potential. But needs urgent bug fixing, an addition of some cars and the first expansion to the game should be larger than in FH4.


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Pros: Graphics look great
Sound is good
Telemetry is available
As of 11/17/21 Wheels and related peripherals finally work. I am using an Accuforce Pro V2 wheel, Fanatec CSP V3 pedals, Fanatec Handbrake, Thrustmaster TH8a shifter, and Next Level Racing Motion Platform V3. The combination is outstanding.
Cons: Couldn't play premium edition from 11/5 to 11/17 due to Controller disconnected/Please reconnect issue.
Updated: Controller disconnected. Please reconnect issue solved with 11/17 FH5 Patch.
No VR: I think the developer could make up for the lack of wheel support and other miscellaneous PC bugs by adding VR in, the same way they did it with MSFS.
Now that the title with increased wheel support actually supports wheels on a PC, I have upgraded the review score to 4 stars. I am now positive I will spend hundreds of hours in this game.
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Ben O'Bro
Pros: - Beautiful and rich world. Just as advertised.
- Even has some Union Island vibe :D
- Better difference road / offroad handling compared to FH4
- Simpler interface compared to FH4
- Liberty to explore
- Liberty to compete almost any events with the car you like
- Lot to collect, should suit the taste of everybody, and feels rewarding
- Challenging driving without assistance
- Photo mode feels like i'm Larry Chen
- No need to finish 1st at everything in order to progress
Cons: - "You have been disconnected" noise...
- major one : the coop is a mess. "convoy" is the only solution to drive with a mate. Who keeps disappearing in freeroam, and there's no common gps
- no split screen
- Few minor bugs, nothing ruining the experience so far. One fatal crash in 8 hours.
- not many old cars
- auto exposure a bit broken in cockpit view, outside appearing too bright in some cars
- Everything feels a bit too fast (or am i getting old ?!) the finishing line animation for example, or the progression & cars available at the very beginning - but as mentioned in pros, feel free to compete with slower cars, for a more progressive experience and a "start at the bottom" kinda thing
- just like FH4, slow to process auctions. It should be background request queue rather than few seconds loading each click.
- can't remove "drivatars" in freeroam offline
- mandatory microsoft account
And a few ideas to improve :
- speed traps and lap times, should have a result per class
- odometer in external view
- dark mode interface

I think the cons/pros sum it up pretty much.

I really hope they fix this. The coop is messy, is a deal breaker for me. There's your missing star :(
Not having split screen is absurd in 2021. The good memories with friends on the nintendo 64, and having social interactions is behind us !
Despite a few minor issues and few visual glitches, it remains the perfect relaxing game with a controller and a couch


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Not my type of game usually but been watching a lot of Fail Race recently and fh4 looked like a lot of fun. Might get it for the lunch breaks and those moments while Mrs Worrell is getting ready.
Ole Marius Myrvold
  • Basically Horizon 4 with exp.packs set in Mexico.
  • Not doing like EA with The Sims, and removes exp.packs from earlier games to re-release them.
Very Bad:
  • Loads of "connection issues" while still staying online. Causes the car to come to a complete stop, and lose all skills points etc.
  • Some sort of memory leak with high graphic settings. On three different, fairly new PC's with RTX2080, RTX3080 and RTX3080ti after a bit over 1hr of playing, There's constant framedrops, and gradually worse performance. This is fixed by a restart of the game. Then it works for a bit over 1hr again. This is not a problem with low graphical settings.
    Not a temperature issue, nor maxing out RAM, VRAM, GPU or CPU usage.
I must say I had a lot of fun with FH2. I liked the setting and the general vibe wasn't trying too hard to be cool. FH3 seemed a bit over the top for me and I didn't really like the map tbh.

Don't really have much time for this sort of game at the moment as I'd rather spend the time I do have on sims but if I had a lot of free time I'd like to give this a shot as I can take these things for what they are and not be bothered that's its physics are off or whatever.
Kevin Troschinski
As an variety to sims i play - the Forza Series is a welcome fun. My biggest issue with it is the lack of a long term goal. I can try this and try that out and have about 50h fun, but afterthat the game gets boring and will be deleted.

Beside that my 2070super will not bring it on ultra quality this time and i will not upgrade soon. So after i played the last 2 Horizons and the last Motorsport, i will renounce this time.
A good looking open-world game and I wonder how is Test Drive Unlimted Solar Crown going to be?
Ben O'Bro
can't seem to edit the review
i just got to try coop with a mate
what a mess...

you have to create a convoy, add you through microsoft gaming stuff, not steam, and then we kept disappearing on the map.. that's a sad sunday evening :(
Ben O'Bro
Even if bugs get fixed, somehow I'm not as blown away by the visual leap, as I was in FH4.

Personally I don't like the setting, Mexico is such a weird choice (sorry Mexicans). Dunno, the idea of rich white kids partying on a music festival and driving Ferraris and Lambos around Mexico sounds like... an armed robbery waiting to happen. Am I racist for thinking this. Would've preferred Japan or revisiting Italy

The improved FFB is tempting though.
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so they basically use the premium buyers as beta testers, nice
Well, you get expansions pass and other goodies, but yeah while early access is a nice bonus on paper, it's a guinea pig contract in disguise.
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The improved FFB is tempting though.
The physics is simplified to suit the genre, but the FFB is quite informative, tarmac and off road. Reminds me closely FFB in Wreckfest, may be even touch better. T10 is known to polish titles after the release so even considering slightly broken state of the Early Access it should be a safe buy.

Oh-oh-oh, and SimHub released update to support FH5 telemetry, it's basic but road texture and engine come through tactile just fine.
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I think most people who have a wheel or a sim rig are still going to be playing this on a controller, its a lean back in your chair game rather than a sit up and focus one.. Apart from a few graphical glitches and the network disconnect issue it's been fine for me and it's good switch your brain of racing fun. It doesn't hurt that with everything maxed out it can look absolutely gorgeous.

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Mike Smith
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