Forza Horizon 2 Preview: Vroom with friends

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I genuinely don’t know when’s the last time I sat down and played a racing game. Need For Speed Carbon perhaps? It was a long time ago. Basically, I entered the Forza Horizon 2 preview with a completely blank slate. Here’s what you can expect from the game.

The presentation was given by Forza Horizon 2 creative director, Ralph Fulton. He told myself and some other press members that he and his team have been working very hard on the game since E3. They have also been listening very closely to all the feedback they have been getting. The game has 4 core values: Beauty, Fun, Freedom, and Connected Experiences.

Beauty is of course all about the visuals of the game and its environments. From what I saw, it runs at a nice solid frame rate, and it looks rather beautiful. There is a full 24 hour day cycle, with the sun conveniently setting during the demonstration. The most impressive way to show off the visuals and the shine of everything is obviously by means of rain, which just happens to pour down too. It’s all part of  a dynamic weather system. Fulton tells us that all this as well as the dynamic lighting is all possible thanks to the new-gen processing power provided by the Xbox One.

Fun is provided by the various game modes as well as all the vehicles. There are 200 cars available right out of the box. You can drive the likes of the latest Lambo, or even an old school 1963 VW Camper Van. A nice addition is that you can choose from just about any car you want right from the get go. Thankfully, this means no slow progression, where you are stuck with the slow cars until you have progressed enough to unlock the mean machines.

Part of the fun can come in the form of the freedom of exploration. There are many cities and locales to explore, all of which can be driven around freely. Packed into these locations are over 700 events, which roughly translates into 100+ hours of gameplay. These events consist of traditional races, as well as some other challenges.

One big focus in this package is the connected experience. Much like car culture in real life, the game has a social side to it. Drivers can seamlessly transition from solo to online, all without taking their hands off the steering wheel (at least not for long anyway). The demonstration showed the driver pulling into a visible online event. Once entered, the lobby showed off what cars each player had. You can chat to them before the race starts.

Another neat feature I saw was a matchmaking of sorts. You simply show your intention of going online, and the game will then search around you for cars that match your own. This was shown in a video, where the driver hopped online looking for a simple road trip. He soon sees nearby cars, and proceeds to make his way over to them. They are simply driving to the next destination, together, for fun. This is no race. It could actually be a really cool way to simply socialise with your mates online.

This online component is further complimented by clubs. Clubs can be formed for various reasons. They can be top-notch, with the intention of only recruiting the best drivers to smash records. Or they can be simply social, consisting of just family and friends.

This is just a small taste of the many features the game has. I’m really not a racing fan, but I do think the enthusiasts will appreciate this next entry into Forza. The first Horizon may have been more casual, but there are options to tweak the difficulty and customise your car to match your requirements in number 2. It’s a racing game to keep both eyes on.

Last Updated: August 14, 2014

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