Certain cars have received new widebody kits and aero pieces, though these regrettably still don’t make up a significant chunk of the roster. Brake calipers can finally be painted, making good on a feature update originally planned for FH4. At last, players that obsess over their builds will no longer be forced to choose between better stopping power or calipers that aren’t red.

Yet for every new capability in the garage, a bunch of carried-over quirks from bygone Forzas still remain. I said it in my preview, and I’ll reiterate it here — the color picker in these games is terrible and has been for ages. For some reason, you can’t simply choose an existing color swatch for a matte or metallic finish. Instead, you have to fiddle with a trio of sliders, and there’s no option to save the swatches you create for later use on other cars. It’s especially annoying to settle upon a color I’m happy with, only to lose it by pressing the “B” button to retreat a menu, when I should’ve pressed “A” to confirm.

Image for article titled Forza Horizon 5's Automotive Wonderland Is What You Make Of It
Screenshot: Adam Ismail/Xbox Game Studios

Playground claims it’s modified the livery editor for a user interface “more in line with modern image-manipulation software.” Aside from a change from word- to icon-based menus, I’m not seeing it. For one, modern image manipulation software lets you import vector images, rather than clumsily trying to create them from scratch with primitive shapes. (Gran Turismo 7, for example, will let you do that.) For a franchise that revolutionized the genre with its novel consideration for liveries and car art back in 2005, Forza never bothered to keep the ball rolling.

Finally, when you’ve got a car roster as numerous as FH5's, you’re inevitably going to run into some quality inconsistencies. Some newer additions to the franchise, like the Mercedes-AMG Project One, are exquisitely crafted and even allow the player to raise and lower the car’s rear wing at will, so long as the car is stopped. However, you can’t do the same with, say, the top on a Miata or a Bronco before or after leaving the garage. Of course, these aren’t motorized in the same way the Project One’s wing is, but in lieu of animations, a temporary black screen would suffice. These are minor nits to pick, but for a game often marketed on the strength of its accuracy, they deserve the attention.


Honestly, I struggled to summarize my feelings about Forza Horizon 5 before writing this review. How do you rate a game that is technically proficient at so many things and looks astonishing doing them, but never really pushes the envelope, never deviates from its very predictable, tried-and-tested formula?

It’s tough. Game design is so complex, expensive and time-consuming nowadays, developers can’t wipe the slate clean with every release. Maybe the furniture will be rearranged, maybe some complaints from the player base might finally be addressed — but many are sure to remain. If you’re new to the series, you may not notice or care that the Photo Mode is kind of a pain to use. If you’ve been here many times before, that sort of thing will be harder to ignore.

It’s also true that player habits are different now. The grindy routine of winning painfully hard races so you can afford a better turbo to win even harder races doesn’t seem to be what most people are after anymore; not when they’re older and busier and lack the free time and patience for the rigmarole. Some just want it now, and the real prize is cruising alongside their friends. I can understand that.

If you view Forza Horizon 5 through that paradigm — as a paradise inhabited by your favorite cars and people — it’s an unequivocal triumph. (And make no mistake: your friends, even the ones that don’t care for cars, will play this game. Why not when it’s on Game Pass?) But if you’re waiting for it to surprise you with a more focused and rewarding career, or meaningful changes to decade-long habits and quirks — well, don’t. The sooner you accept it for what it is, the sooner you can start drinking in the scenery.