How Forza Horizon has evolved through the series

From Colorado in the original Forza Horizon to Mexico for Forza Horizon 5, the travelling cars-and-music festival has changed heavily through the years.

We've revisited the first three games to remind ourselves of how the gameplay has transformed.

Forza Horizon: the party starts

The first entry in the Forza Horizon series sees the festival kick-off in Colorado. The goal is to eventually race and defeat fictional driver Darius Flynt and earn the title of Horizon Champion.

Driving a VW Corrado as your starter car, further cars are unlocked as you complete events. The tuning system wasn't yet in place. Auto upgrades were your only option, but this at least prevented the well-known glitch tunings of Forza Horizon 4.

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OG: The original was a long way from what we know today

I started afresh in the original Forza Horizon. It was striking how many of the core concepts of the series are there from the beginning. There are speed traps, speed zones, and bonus boards to keep you busy in free roam. DJ Rob Da Bank curated the three radio stations that went on to be Horizon staples: Pulse, Rocks, and Bass Arena.

Forza Horizon 2: bigger and better

The second Forza Horizon game was the first for the Xbox One series of consoles. It had a much larger map than the first game. We were also introduced to the Bucket List challenges. They became a key part of this and the third Horizon games.

Exploring the area around Nice, we were introduced to other key concepts such as Wheelspins as rewards. Also, the Drivatar system makes an appearance in free roam for offline play. These AI players learned from the way actual Forza Horizon players travelled across the map. They rush around like absolute maniacs and can make casual exploration somewhat challenging!

Forza Horizon 2 featured over 700 individual events you could participate in. These included the cross country races that again featured in the following games.

Forza Horizon 3: Horizon grows up

The major change for Forza Horizon 3 was that you were now ostensibly in charge of the Festival. Driving around Australia you could choose where you wanted to expand the event. You could also decide which radio stations to include as you unlocked thee. Hiring and firing other Forza Horizon 3 players for roles in your festival was possible! Your friends could earn in-game cash for this.

The world of Forza Horizon 3 was a lot more open than the previous edition. You could now smash through most barriers and drive across the beaches and other areas you couldn't previously reach.

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Forza Horizon 3 was a larger world than before...and more of it was accessible

Online play was now a much bigger feature of the game. Since the servers are still active, you can still drive around the Gold Coast with friends and take part in races together. Correspondingly, the AI Drivatars were toned down slightly. You could explore the environment offline without constantly being barged out of the way.

A free roam head to head race mode was introduced. This meant that you could drive up behind a drivatar (or a real player in online play) and challenge them to a race point to point. A consequence of this was that in offline play you'd find that all the drivatars were in the same car type and class as your own current vehicle to make this fairer.

As well as collecting credits to buy cars, you also wanted to gain "fans" which enabled you to level up and grow the festival. This unlocked further races and events.

Forza Horizon 4: a very British affair

The Horizon festival next moved to Great Britain. In keeping with the location, we had a Top Gear storyline and a James Bond car pack. We also saw the introduction of seasonal weather, where every week we'd shift between spring, summer, autumn, or winter.

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Seasonal weather was a new feature. Not everyone loved winter.

Influence is the key currency at Horizon 4, which I guess is fitting in this age of streamers and Tik Tok. Collecting Influence was the equivalent of Fans from the previous instalment, but this time it was divided into many categories. For example, winning all the drag race events gained you influence in that feature. The idea was that you could play the game in the way that you wanted to and focus on the events and developing the skills you were interested in.

What we expect from Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 5 will take the concepts of Forza Horizon 4 a step further. A goal for the developers was to make the game "snackable" so you can dip in and out of events you fancy and always achieve something.

The seasonality will remain but the Mexican climate will mean that winter won't make everywhere drowned in snow. Instead, we're only expecting to see snow on the volcano.

The Influence concept from Horizon 4 will be replaced with "Accolades" which can be used to unlock new satellite festival sites. In this aspect, it has clearly drawn from Forza Horizon 3. Each site will represent one type of racing, for example, Horizon Apex is focused on road racing.

We're also expecting to see the return of Horizon Stories. These appear to have been written to emphasise the environment. Instead of the Top Gear and the LaRacer stories of Horizon 4, we expect to be set tasks involving observing storms and volcanic activity.

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