This year, we’ve been treated to games that make you feel a range of emotions. Halo Infinite makes you feel competitive and nostalgic. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy gets you pumped up. But how many games this year made you feel free? For me, the only game to achieve that feeling is Forza Horizon 5.
While it may not be much of an innovator, largely building off the solid foundations of Forza Horizon 4, it is undoubtedly the most beautiful and diverse open world game of the year. All other things aside, Playground Games’ stunning recreation of Mexico automatically thrusts Forza Horizon 5 into game of the year contention.
This gorgeous racer has perfected all the core elements of its predecessor. The story, while admittedly a bit cringey in places, is now much more extensive. The events, both permanent and seasonal, are also far more interesting and varied. And the actual racing still hits a sweet spot that Forza Horizon 4 also nailed, but with a bit more polish to the handling of cars on surfaces that aren’t tarmac.
While some fan-favourites from Horizon 4 are sadly missing, Forza Horizon 5 boasts an even bigger collection of vehicles, and each one looks amazing no matter where you drive them – or park them in fact, to pose for a stunning snap in the photo mode.
On top of all of this, Forza Horizon 5 has a range of accessibility features that make sure as many players as possible can enjoy the experience.
All of the above is extremely relevant when judging a game on whether it is one of the best of 2021, but I feel like I may still have nominated Forza Horizon 5 as one of The Loadout’s top games of the year even if the story, challenges, gameplay mechanics, and everything else in between are subpar.
There’s something both soothing and fascinating about this world that Playground Games has created – specifically, how it seamlessly ebbs from massive concrete highways, to the twisting narrow streets of Guanajuato, to dense jungle, to the top of a volcano. I’m also a sucker for a view, and looking out from any vantage point – in particular, the aforementioned volcano – looks incredible.
Because of the way this world is put together, and how every inch of it looks spectacular from any angle, it is the perfect arena not just for racing, but for simply driving. No speed traps, no checkpoints, no finish line – just driving.
While I’m certainly not addicted to Forza Horizon 5, nor am I racking up hundreds of hours of game time by clearing the generous amount of content the game continues to pump out, it has become my go-to game for relaxation.
Nothing clears your mind better than a drive. Right now in the UK, the light fades by 5PM. It’s cold, often wet too, and your windscreen will constantly fog up. The glorious Wiltshire scenery that I know is all around me is, more often than not, shrouded in cloud or darkness during this time of year. So where better to go for that freeing drive than in Forza Horizon 5?
This game is not only brilliant, but it’s therapy. It’s more than just an excellent racing game crammed with cars and content – Forza Horizon 5 boasts one of the best open worlds in recent gaming history.