Forza Horizon 2 – Private Playground

Don’t tell anyone, but Forza Horizon 2 is still open. You won’t find it on the Xbox Store anymore, but the disc still works. Once installed with a light 2GB patch, you’ll find yourself in a delisted wonderland. Why is it delisted? Playground Games have moved onto Forza Horizon 3 and 4 and I guess Microsoft want you to buy those instead. It could also be licensing issues with the soundtrack, a fate that buried the Tony Hawk classics and threatens the longevity and relevance of GTA games. Here we are though, in Europe. This is the setting of Forza Horizon 2 and it’s absolutely beautiful.

This is the second game in the series I’ve played, after getting Horizon 4 with my Xbox One console. So is it a downgrade? It’s older right? You could have fooled me. This game actually looks better. On a base Xbox One, this runs at a smoother framerate than FH4 at 1080p with great image quality. This game was originally released on Xbox 360, but you wouldn’t even know. There’s no lack of detail or anything that makes this look “last gen”. Even if there was, I wouldn’t mind.

This game feels quite relaxing compared to the chaos of Horizon 4, which is an accurate contrast of Europe and the UK right now. You just kinda rock up and drive and do what you want. There’s festivals going on but instead of everything being the biggest event ever, it feels like the normal way of life. The roads are huge, there’s less traffic. Perhaps this is a graphical limitation but it makes the game more enjoyable. The map is still huge, with a couple of cities reflecting France and Italy, and lots of nature in-between. The dense green forests make the air smell nice, and the mountains in the distance block all the outside stress. It’s truly a wonderful place to drive and feels like an area I would like to live in.

Oh right, this is a racing game. That’s easy to forget when you’re just cruising around in awe. I spent most of my time exploring and doing random challenges. There IS a lot of racing, but you don’t have to do everything in a bullet point checkbox style progression in tradition exhausting fashion. You can choose your car class and driving style and pick the championships that suit you. You only need to do 14 championships out of 180 to be the Horizon Champion and “beat” the game. A very reasonable proposition, with very little grinding required. The rest of the gameplay involves finding collectible signs you can run over, doing specifically designed “Bucket List” challenges, and just having fun. My favourite thing to do in Horizon games is to simply explore everything on the map. There’s a lot of empty space but it’s a good place to find yourself, and perhaps some interesting ruins or buildings hidden away in the trees.

Being delisted unfortunately means the online stuff is a bit broken. This game has DLC in the form of “Storm Island” that just gives me an error when I even try to buy it. It’s a bit jarring seeing a big STORM ISLAND icon on the map when it’s not accessible. I believe it’s still possible to get if you manage to find a retailer with a unique redeemable code for the DLC, but good luck with that. It’s a bit of a shame but I guess I can live without it. It just seems like a waste that such unique content on a brand new island would be locked away forever. Maybe a billionaire bought it for themselves so they can drive around while the world burns. A sign of the times.

The driving model is very stable in this game. It’s more “arcadey” than Horizon 4 and thus it’s easier to keep your car on the road. I find this suits the game better because most of the time I’m not actually racing, just exploring and doing little events. There are still some instances where your car can flip easily but that’s the nature of offroad driving. I recommend playing with the settings and turning traction control on or off depending on what you’re doing. Turn it on when you’re driving normally, or off if you are offroad or wanting to do some drifts in a skill event. For skill events the most important thing is to keep a combo going for as long as possible.

Forza Horizon 2 may be closed for business, but it still exists and I wanted to reveal that it’s a fantastic game. A relaxing, wholesome world map with accessible driving make it quite the holiday if you want a break from other racing games. Horizon 3 is the next one I’m going to play and… oh boy. This baby is set in Australia which is my homeland and I will surely have a lot to say about it when I stream and do a writeup in the coming weeks. Stay tuned. Before that… I just need to make one last trip to the gelato shop.

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