While the open world is quieter than we would like it is perfect for cruising around and enjoying yourself. What it isn't perfect for though, is racing...
The actual racing in Forza Horizon 5 is very samey, both within the game and compared to FH4. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, Horizon is the more arcade franchise of the Forza brand, but having the same style to the racing causes repetition problems.
With a slow rear pack, a middle group and two cars that breakaway, the field strings out relatively quickly. Then in the last 10% of a race or so the AI slows down to the point at which you can overcome a huge gap to win.
That might make you feel like Lewis Hamilton, but when you do several races in a row you quickly see a pattern, and it detracts from any desire to keep racing.
Combine that with the empty streets that make the Street Scene races feel like the Road Racing series and suddenly you are running out of reasons to keep racing.
Fighting to the top
In Forza Horizon 4 you had to race and win to prove yourself. It's not the most compelling of reasons, but at least it is a reason. With each racing series tracking your progress separately rather than cumulatively, you also had to dive into each one to keep advancing.
FH5 does away with that. Not only do you arrive in Mexico as an established superstar, but all the races are put into the same Accolades bucket so you don't have to run a single off-road event if you don't want to.
As a result, there is no overarching narrative to the racing, or reason to keep pushing season after season.
The original Forza Horizon game all built up to one final race, but in FH5 there is nothing. You hit the Accolade level to enter the Hall of Fame but really that doesn't mean anything. You're already a superstar, already proven. There is no arc of falling down and having to rebuild. Nothing.
Now I know what some of you are thinking, this isn't Need For Speed. The EA franchise seems to have cornered the market for open-world racing with an overarching narrative. But why couldn't a Horizon game feature a rival up-and-coming superstar we want to beat? Couldn't there be an established name we need to topple?
The lack of a reason to race makes it hard to call Forza Horizon 5 a top-quality racing game, even if the driving is great fun.
What happens now
As much as we may want one, there is no narrative arc coming to Forza Horizon 5 in an expansion or DLC. That's not how Playground Games has designed FH5, and that's fine.
With FH6 not expected for another few years at least there will be no all-encompassing adventure for us to undertake any time soon.
Unless the delayed Need For Speed that is expected in 2022 borrows liberally from the world of Forza Horizon while blending in the usual cops & robbers story.
That may be wishful thinking, but it could be possible. The world of NFS Heat is not all that dissimilar to a Horizon map, even if the driving isn't quite as enjoyable.
Some of you may love FH5's more casual approach to the racing. Some may strictly race others in multiplayer (servers allowing), but there can be no denying that as the series has progressed the reasons to race in a Forza game have dropped away, and that's not a good thing.