In "Forza Horizon 2," southern Europe is your personal driving playground. To be released Sept. 30, this Xbox One and Xbox 360 racer has a bigger and more beautiful open world than its predecessor, and is packed with ways to play both alone and with friends. We received a private demo of "Forza Horizon 2" at E3 2014, where Playground Games creative director Ralph Fulton excitedly walked us through the game's rich feature set.
Featuring arcade-style racing gameplay, the "Horizon" series is both a spin-off of the core "Forza" racing-simulation series and a spiritual successor to Microsoft's classic "Project Gotham Racing" franchise. "Horizon 2" marks the first time that "Forza" fans will be weaving through traffic and exploring open environments on next-gen hardware.
Speaking of next-gen, "Forza Horizon 2" is nothing short of breathtaking on Xbox One. We watched as the sun reflected off a yellow Lamborghini Huracán, which was brimming with obsessive detail, from the paint job to the dashboard.
"Horizon 2" is the first game in the franchise to sport dynamic weather, and we were in awe of each realistic raindrop that beaded down the car's body. According to Fulton, lots of careful work was put into capturing the real-life behavior of light and water.
Set in southern Europe, the open world of "Forza Horizon 2" is three times bigger than that of its predecessor. Playground Games noted that the only physical boundaries in the game’s locales are the ones that exist in real life.
"If there's a vineyard in France that you can drive through in real life, you should be able to do it in game," said Filton.
That's exactly what we saw during our demo, as the yellow Lamborghini powered through a lush field of vines, complete with some realistic dirt effects to show for it.
"Forza Horizon 2" will once again reward players for driving dangerously, with a point system that rewards you for drifting around sharp turns and tightly weaving past fellow drivers. The game's perk system allows you unlock unique bonuses, which range from extra credits every time someone downloads your created content to a fast-travel mechanic that lets you quickly jump from city to city.
The Drivatar system from "Forza 5" returns, so you'll be able to race against AI versions of your friends, complete with their nuanced gameplay habits. This time around, the big draw to Drivatar is that the system will track what type of shortcuts and alternate paths a player uses across the game's sprawling tracks.
The game will allow you to seamlessly enter multiplayer sessions while driving around alone, and this time around, there's more to do than just compete. "Horizon 2" will feature car meets, which allow you and a group of online friends to engage in a cross-country road trip with no strict goals to worry about.
"Car culture is inherently social," said Fulton. "We had to make a game that does the same. We had to make a game that's constantly connected."
Getting bored with "Forza Horizon 2" should be quite the challenge, as the game will launch with over 200 cars and over 700 unique events. Even if you're the type to race alone offline, Playground promises that it should take you around 100 hours to complete everything.
We look forward to recklessly drifting through Playground Games' beautiful recreation of southern Europe when the game arrives this September. It will have some competition in Ubisoft's upcoming open world racer "The Crew," so we're curious to see how the two titles stack up.
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