Horizon Chase 2 Review: Pure Arcade Racing at its Best

a purple car is driving down a race track with a bridge in the background .

a purple car is driving down a race track with a bridge in the background .

Horizon Chase World Tour took arcade racing by storm when it sped onto mobiles in 2015. With its low-poly retro aesthetic and fast-paced racing, Horizon Chase was a terrific throwback to simple 16-bit racers like Top Gear, which gained a cult following in developer Aquiris Game Studio's home country in Brazil.

We’re now spoiled for choice for retro-inspired indie racers like Formula Retro Racing World Tour, Hotshot Racing, and Slipstream, but Horizon Chase started this craze.

Since then, the series has spawned the Horizon Chase Turbo PC and console port before a full sequel arrived in 2022. There was a catch, though – Horizon Chase 2 launched as an Apple Arcade exclusive, limiting the player base. Nearly two years later, Horizon Chase 2 is finally available on PlayStation and Xbox following last year’s PC and Switch ports, making the arcade racer accessible to players on all modern platforms.

Version tested: PS5.

New horizons

Like the original, Horizon Chase 2 is a pure arcade racer that throws realism out the window. Cars can be chucked around corners at crazy speeds, so braking is rarely necessary.

However, that doesn't mean you need to turn your brain off. You’ll need lightning-quick reflexes and master the smooth and snappy handling as you hurtle around corners and weave past opponents. Nailing a tight turn and tactically using nitrous boosts at the right time gives you an adrenaline rush.

Horizon Chase 2 screenshot
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As a pure arcade racer, Horizon Chase 2 is faithful to its predecessor, but there are a few notable gameplay changes. Horizon Chase Turbo’s fuel system has been removed, so you no longer need to collect fuel canisters. So many races were lost in the original, not from being outpaced by opponents but from running out of fuel just before crossing the finish line.

Collisions are also more forgiving: you’ll no longer slow to a halt when hitting opponents like in the original. Overall, these changes make the racing more approachable, and while some players may find the overall difficulty too easy, it’s less frustrating and keeps the focus on the racing.

You can tell Horizon Chase 2 was originally a mobile game, as each race only lasts one or two minutes. Mixing it up with a few longer races would have been welcome, but the frenetic pace gives that one-more-go feeling. It’s deliciously moreish.

a car is driving down a cobblestone street in a video game .
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Visually, Horizon Chase 2 is a huge step up. The original game’s flat-shaded, low-poly look is replaced with a new 3D art style with significantly more detailed cars and environments. Some may prefer the original game’s simple charm, but the vibrant visuals are a feast for the eyes. While the Switch version suffered from performance issues, the PS5 runs flawlessly, providing an eye-popping sense of speed.

Track designs are also superior. While the tracks in the original game were predominately flat and barren, Horizon Chase 2’s have a much larger scale, revealing vast landscapes and denser trackside detail – not that you have time to admire the stunning scenery as you hurtle past at breakneck speed. The layouts are more complex too, with frequent elevation changes and sweeping turns that are a joy to race on.

Race across the world

Like the original game, the campaign is made up of World Tour events. Horizon Chase 2 sees you race across six locations: USA, Brazil, Morocco, Italy, Thailand, and Japan, plus an unlockable hidden location if you complete every World Tour event 100%. Completing every event in each country unlocks a new car.

There’s plenty of variety in the locations, The World Tour takes you through seaside towns, forests, deserts, and even a final race around an active volcano. Each circuit has a distinct aesthetic and infectious synthwave soundtrack, once again composed by the legendary Barry Leitch who also helmed soundtracks for the original Horizon Chase and classic Top Gear games.

Horizon Chase 2 World Tour map
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Outside of the standard races, Time Trial events shake up the campaign. Rather than using the best racing line, you have to drive over boost pads and collect time tokens that remove a second off the clock to get the fastest time possible. These events add a unique twist to traditional time trials that will test your skills and are often more challenging than the standard races. However, it's a shame there aren't a few extra race modes like elimination events to add more variety.

Later stages are noticeably narrower, making it easy to misjudge a corner and slam into the barriers. Tougher opponents and weather effects that reduce visibility also increase the difficulty as the World Tour evolves.

However, experienced racers will probably breeze through the short campaign in a few hours and have no trouble getting gold medals on the first try. Adding some difficulty options would have been welcome as returning players may find the sequel’s World Tour campaign too easy.

With only six main locations compared to Horizon Chase Turbo’s 12 and a smaller car roster, Horizon Chase 2’s scope feels smaller than the original – something you don’t expect for a sequel. That’s also not including the original game’s DLC such as the excellent Senna Forever expansion inspired by the late Ayrton Senna.

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Horizon Chase 2 screenshot
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Conversely, no content updates have been released for Horizon Chase 2 since it launched nearly two years ago. Now that it’s out on all platforms, Aquiris can hopefully focus on adding more cars and locations.

An improved sense of progression and extra gameplay modes help make up for these shortcomings. Collecting tokens scattered around the track unlocks car upgrades, giving an incentive to revisit the campaign for those who want to get 100% completion in every event. These upgrades improve your car’s acceleration and handling and are essential for defeating the faster opponents in later events. 

Progressing through the campaign also unlocks a new Tournament mode. Each tournament includes four consecutive races with a cup-style scoring system, with each tournament getting progressively difficult. Circuits and locations are repeated from the World Tour, but the extra difficulty provides some replay value after completing the campaign.

Horizon Chase 2 screenshot
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Unlike the original, Horizon Chase 2 features online multiplayer in the form of the new Playground mode. Alongside standard races, rotating special events keep the multiplayer fresh thanks to unique modifiers and challenges such as using a certain number of nitro boosts.

Along with daily login bonuses, completing these challenges unlocks cosmetic rewards for returning players. Crossplay support makes it easy to find other players to race with, and there’s also local multiplayer for up to four players.

Overall, Horizon Chase 2 delivers everything you could want from an arcade racer. It looks stunning, and the racing is fast-paced yet accessible. While the World Tour campaign doesn't quite reach the same heights as the first game, the sequel improves on it with more detailed visuals, improved track designs, a better sense of progression, and online multiplayer.

Its refreshingly simple and moreish gameplay, gorgeous graphics, and exhilarating racing prove that arcade racers still deserve a place in modern gaming alongside realistic racers.

Horizon Chase 2
With its slick visuals, satisfying controls, and a superb sense of speed, Horizon Chase 2 delivers simple, unadulterated arcade racing fun. The campaign is shorter and less challenging than the original, but if you enjoy old-school arcade racers, Horizon Chase 2 is highly recommended and should be in your collection.
arcade racer
8 out of 10

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