In the eternal leadup to Forza Horizon 5, I got a chance to check out some new details revealed during Gamescom that I can’t wait to beam into my eyeballs and ear holes at 4K HDR (and in Dolby Atmos) respectively. The more I see and hear of this game, the more it seems to be shaping up into every driving game fan’s wildest dream.
Seriously, the amount of work Playground Games has done to present world class cars inside a vibrant paradise is staggering. But the one thing I hope doesn’t get lost in that glorious shuffle is something that’s cooler to me than any hypercar or sandstorm that Mercedes or Darude could ever imagine: Mexico and the brilliant art, culture, and people that beautiful country has given us. From what I got a chance to see, though, it does feel like both are being handled with a shared level of love that gets me even more excited to jump in.
Mike Brown, Creative Director at Playground, was animated when explaining to me and a virtual room full of other video game weirdos that the hefty three years of work that went into reworking the game’s physics, their newly rebuilt suspension model, and brand-spankin’ braking system brings the game to another level. From what I saw of said demo, it sure as hell seems like they mean business. Seeing a Corvette Stingray airdropped Fast and Furious-style onto the map and seeing it absolutely swim through that world at speeds that would make Lewis Hamilton nervous makes me want to ugly cry in absolute delight. But you won’t necessarily have to be an esports athlete to get a handle on these cars, either.
A lot of those upgrades to the game’s engine are also meant to usher in new players who might not just be car perverts like me, but for the game to shine in the way it always has: as an open world exploration game on wheels. In fact, Brown mentioned racing is going to be pretty optional and easy to “avoid” if you don’t have that particular desire for speed. Wait… That’s not right. Anyway, Brown also reassured us that, this time around, their take on Mexico would be crafted with Eliminator (Forza Horizon’s criminally slept-on take on a battle royale game) in mind. That’s also promising to hear. Especially when you consider the game features an impressive 11 biomes that behave with their own respective weather patterns.
See that massive sandstorm? You can drive through it. Obviously.
Playground Games also outlined in previous Let’s ¡Go! live streams that the team has gone out of its way to ensure that cacti in certain areas of the map have the accurate amount of needles. Oh, and don’t get them started on the NASA-level camera rig that took over 400 hours worth of photos — amounting to over 75 terabytes of data for absolutely sublime in-game skies. I mean, even the idea that ray tracing is used to accurately simulate the way sound bounces off different surfaces sounds scrumptious. But the footage eventually showed cars speeding through Ek’ Balam, an archeological site that was once the heart of the Mayan kingdom. I got excited all over again, if not apprehensive at the same time.
On a previous livestream, Playground introduced us to Farid Rueda, a Mexican artist whose murals feature heavily in the game in all their eye-popping glory. When I asked if we’d get to see more Mexican art or culture inside of the game, Brown said we absolutely would. In addition to the brilliant Rueda, there are a number of other mural artists whose work will be featured in the game. Besides street art, Brown says the game’s credits will feature plenty of Mexican script writers, actors, and musicians. That means music from artists on the handful of radio stations— some of which was composed just for the game.
During our Q&A session, Brown reassured us that the team is aware of the responsibility, saying the game’s world is “made with care and love. We’ve taken it very seriously.” How true that is will remain to be seen in the final game, but if they put in half the work they did to capture accurate sounds from a Toyota Supra, then I’m honestly very hopeful. The team also claims that so much of the legwork to get everything in the game couldn’t have been done without the contacts they made in Mexico who have been instrumental especially during lockdown.
So, while I’m excited to take a Subaru BRZ through Guanajuato City, I’ll also be watching and listening to the game on another level. As much as the sounds of the car exhaust need to be accurate for all of the car nerds out there, I’m truly hoping some of the characters’ accents sound on point, too. The bar is super low for games in this respect, but Playground Games has dazzled me before with its impeccable attention to detail. While this game is still one of my most anticipated releases of the fall, I’ll be paying extra special attention to every corner of the world as I drift around them.