Forza Horizon 5 Rally Adventure falls short of its potential

Forza Horizon 5 Rally Adventure falls short of its potential

Forza Horizon 5 Rally Adventure falls short of its potential

Forza Horizon 5’s second major expansion has been a long time coming. Usually, Forza Horizon games get two expansions within the first year of release. But Forza Horizon 5 players have had to wait much longer, with expansion two arriving around 16 months after the main game.

Compared to the craziness of last year's Hot Wheels expansion, expansion two brings the Horizon Festival back to reality. As the name suggests, Forza Horizon 5 Rally Adventure focuses on the gritty world of rally racing. This will be a familiar theme for long-time fans, harking back to Forza Horizon’s original Rally Expansion in 2012.

With increased competition from open-world racers like The Crew Motorfest, Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown, and LEGO 2K Drive, Rally Adventure arrives at a crucial time for the open-world racing franchise. Can Rally Adventure reinvigorate Forza Horizon 5?

Rugged rides

Rally Adventure adds ten new rugged vehicles to Forza Horizon 5’s ever-expanding car roster. It’s an eclectic mix, with Colin McRae’s iconic 2001 Ford Focus RS WRC to the Hoonigan Volkswagen Baja Beetle Class 5/1600 ‘Scumbug’ being the clear highlights.

Forza Horizon 5 Rally Adventure Colin McRae Ford Focus
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There’s also the racing game debut of the Ford F-150 Lighting, notable for being Ford’s first mass-produced electric pickup truck. It’s about as nimble to drive as you would expect for a pickup weighing over 3,000 kg.

Overall, though, the car list is underwhelming. For a rally-themed expansion, there's a glaring lack of true rally cars aside from Colin McRae's formidable Ford, with forgettable Baja buggies and trophy trucks padding out the roster.

Rally Adventure could have been a love letter to the history of rallying, but the lack of iconic WRC cars is a massive missed opportunity. Oddly, there are still no Lancias in Forza Horizon 5 either, despite the Italian automaker featuring in all four previous Forza Horizon games.

Licensing issues with Stellanitis are probably to blame (presumably this is also why Alfa Romeo is still absent), but it’s a shame not to see legendary cars like the Lancia Stratos, Delta Integrale Evo, and 037 Stradale return in Rally Adventure. Ironically, the original Forza Horizon Rally Expansion featured a more extensive rally car roster. 

Forza Horizon 5 Rally Adventure Ford F-150 Lightning
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New rally customisation parts partially make up for this. As part of the Midnights at Horizon update, more cars can be fitted with beefy rally body kits and anti-lag upgrades, allowing you to create your own rally monster. You don't need to own Rally Adventure to access these new parts, however.

Combine this with downloadable WRC rally liveries created by Forza’s talented community, and it’s possible to recreate iconic rally cars missing in the expansion like Colin McRae’s Subaru Impreza 22B-STi and Tommi Makinen’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI.

Welcome to Sierra Nueva

Rally Adventure takes place in Sierra Nueva, a new map filled with rally-focused events and diverse biomes to explore, from an abandoned quarry to a fully destructible palm tree forest.

As with Hot Wheels, Sierra Nueva is a separate location from the main map. This means you can't drive directly to the location. Instead, you must fast-travel from Mexico, which can take a long time to load if you’re playing on old Xbox One hardware.

Forza Horizon 5 Rally Adventure Sierra Nueva
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Sierra Nueva is small compared to the main map, but the location is diverse, well-designed, and a joy to drive around and explore. From twisty canyon roads and steep dunes to dirt tracks with tight hairpin turns and frequent surface changes, the new routes are some of Forza Horizon 5’s most enjoyable yet.

Exploring also reveals hidden locations such as a dam and even a bumpy dirt bike track, along with smashable Pinata Trucks and bonus boards to collect.

Sierra Nueva’s biomes provide plenty of variety. The problem, though, is that the environment’s scenery and rocky terrain looks identical to Mexico. As a result, Sierra Nueva feels like an extension of the main map rather than a new location.

This wouldn’t be an issue if it was connected to the base game’s map. This familiarity makes Sierra Nueva less distinctive than the Blizzard Mountain, Storm Island, and Fortune Island off-road expansions. These were set in drastically different locations outside the main map, giving them a stronger identity. 

Forza Horizon 5 Rally Adventure Sierra Nueva
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You’ll encounter more intense sand and rainstorms than in Mexico, but new weather effects such as snow would have added more visual variety while also fitting the rally theme.

As we’ve come to expect from Forza Horizon 5, the landscapes are visually spectacular. Cars kick up impressively thick clouds of dust and sand dunes deform as you drive through them, but this doesn’t have a noticeable effect on handling.

What’s most surprising, however, is that Sierra Nueva’s roads are predominately tarmac based, with rally dirt tracks taking up less than half of the map. It’s a strange design decision for a rally-themed expansion featuring purpose-built off-road vehicles.

Forza Horizon 5’s Hot Wheels expansion introduced a new progression system where events were restricted by car classes. This was a welcome change, giving Forza Horizon 5 a much-needed sense of progression rather than letting you jump into events with the fastest cars.

Sadly, Rally Adventure scraps this - any garage car can be entered into events with no class restrictions, making the expansion feel less structured. 

Forza Horizon 5 Rally Adventure
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Once you complete the three introductory events introducing each discipline, Rally Adventure sees you join one of three rally teams representing dirt, road, and night driving.

Winning races, completing side missions such as Danger Signs and Speed Zones, and earning reputation points increase your ranking for each team until you unlock the final head-to-head boss race against the team’s captain.

Defeating all three captains earns you a spot in the final extended Badlands Goliath event. With 28 races to complete, Rally Adventure has more events than any other Forza Horizon expansion. But with no Barn Finds or bonus vehicles to unlock and fewer collectables to find, there’s little to keep you coming back after finishing the campaign unless you're an achievement hunter.

Rally fusion

Each event can be tackled in point-to-point rallies or races against opponents. Horizon Races aren’t drastically different to Cross Country events, but point-to-point rallies provide a new way to experience Forza Horizon 5.

Here, the goal is to finish the stage in the fastest time possible, while speeding through split gates shows your position against competitors in real-time.

Forza Horizon 5 Rally Adventure
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Meanwhile, your trusty co-driver calls out pace notes from a helicopter hovering overhead, indicating the severity of corners, and warning you of upcoming hairpins, surface changes, and chickens. In a neat touch, the chopper’s spotlight also lights up the path during night stages.

Pace notes give the rallies an authentic atmosphere, but they are pointless when there's already a mini-map, coloured checkpoints, and a racing line to guide you. We recommend switching these assists off for a more authentic rally experience.

Forza Horizon 5’s forgiving handling provides a more casual rally experience than WRC Generations and DIRT Rally, evoking the spirit of Sega Rally and Rallisport Challenge. Since these once-popular franchises have long been dormant, Forza Horizon’s accessible approach to rallying is refreshing. It's likely the closest we'll get to a new Sega Rally title.

However, players hoping for a challenge will be disappointed. While the rally stages are narrower and bumpier than the regular courses, they lack the sense of danger that makes rally driving so edge-of-your-seat exciting. Most stages can be completed in a couple of minutes and the abundance of safety barriers prevents you from going off course.

Forza Horizon 5 Rally Adventure is a fun time and features some of the best driving roads in Mexico yet. But the familiar setting, some questionable design decisions, and an underwhelming car list make it fall short of its potential. It feels more like a generous Series update than a paid expansion.

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