Forza Horizon 5 review – Mexico map takes series to another level

forza horizon 5 corvettteMicrosoft

As the sun glares down on the tropical plains of Mexico with flamingos resting in their natural habitat, tranquility erupts into engine-roaring chaos in Forza Horizon 5 and we wouldn’t have it any other way. 

It’s been a three-year wait for another Horizon game from Playground Games, and for many – following the Forza Motorsport trailer from July 2020 – Horizon 5’s reveal was a shock in June.

To have the game revealed and released within the same six months sent anticipation through the roof, and the developers have delivered.

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The last two installments in the franchise have taken players to a fictional part of Britain, as well as Australia. While a change of scenery was always expected, the wide variety of challenging terrain, dynamic courses, and beautiful scenery in Mexico make this map the best the series has ever created.

Forza Horizon 5 – Key Details

  • Price (Standard Edition): $59.99 / £54.99 / AU$75
  • Developer: Playground Games
  • Release date: November 9, 2021
  • Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One & PC
  • Review copy: Xbox Series S

Forza Horizon 5 trailer

As this is the fifth installment of the Horizon series, regular players will know the structure and gameplay style by now – so we’re going to focus on the new content. There’s no shortage of notable changes, either.

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Rivaled only by Cyberpunk 2077 for its inclusivity in character creation, Forza Horizon 5 sets a new standard with the option to have your player identify as genderfluid.

On top of that, Playground Games have also included a feature to choose prosthetic limbs for your driver – meaning this year the character creation tools are more representative of society than ever.

forza horizon 5 player customizationMicrosoft
Creating your driver is much better this time.

Next up, vehicle customization.

There are different perks available to purchase for each of your cars, which vary based on model and manufacturer.

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A lot of the tried-and-tested customization options for parts or decals remain the same, which will be good news for returning players. The ‘drag and drop’ nature of picking up community designs remains, and it’s really easy to use.

forza horizon 5 vehicle customizationMicrosoft
Customizing vehicles is made simple in Horizon 5, from upgrading parts to giving your car a spray.

The performance chart (right) is also really handy if you’re new to the game, and would like to see how each upgrade will bolster your vehicle. So, whether you’re looking for a new spray, complicated design, or to make your car better in specific areas, the My Cars menu is the place to go.

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Forza Horizon 5 Mexico map

forza horizon 5 planeMicrosoft
Dropping into the Forza Horizon 5 map is an experience.

The Forza series has always produced beautiful environments from a graphical standpoint – in fact, it’s known for delivering the most picturesque of all Xbox games on Game Pass. Your trip to Mexico on Xbox Series X|S will not disappoint, either.

Your introduction to the Forza Horizon 5 map will certainly be a memorable moment in your journey. Planes come crashing down towards the ground, dropping off a handful of vehicles for you to test out, and you’re thrown into the deep end having to handle so many fast cars in challenging terrain.

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From sandy beaches to bumpy jungles, the surroundings have never felt so immersive or as realistic as this.

forza horizon 5 mapMicrosoft
The Forza Horizon 5 map looked incredible in the trailers, and it’s even better in-game.

Unlike the Australia map (which was still graphically excellent at the time), there is no cardboard cutout approach to some elements of terrain.

At speed, you used to hit trees and they would fly out the way like they were made from styrofoam. With Horizon 5, the margin for error is a lot narrower, because hitting these bushes, trees, or hitting the floor at the wrong angle after a jump will hamper you big-time.

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Oh, there are also new weather effects as well – check out this dust storm:

Forza Horizon 5 weatherMicrosoft
Here’s how Forza Horizon 5’s dust storms affect the screen.

In choosing the land of extremes – high rugged mountains, low coastal plains, and difficult deserts – Playground Games have served up the perfect cocktail.


Gameplay has never been a problem for Forza, though with next-gen comes fine-tuned upgrades that reinforce the feeling of realism.

In terms of handling, the skill level requirement has increased with the addition of so many unforgiving race tracks.

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Previously, the gameplay has had a very arcadey style which makes the task of mountain races, driving across deserts and beaches a little easier. Conversely, this year every bump on the road needs to be managed to perfection on some tracks. It will ultimately make us better drivers (in-game of course, I haven’t got my license).

forza horizon 5 terrain and truckMicrosoft
It might look like Jurassic Park at first glance, but this screenshot shows the challenging conditions in Horizon 5.

Handling for faster vehicles appears to be more controlled, even with base specs on your car of choice. Though the great thing about the plethora of biomes available to play on is that no one car is suitable for every race, so varying your collection has never felt more crucial.

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Often in Horizon 4, the fastest cars or upgraded versions of slower vehicles would be a little wild and difficult to control. In relation to understeer and oversteer, Forza Horizon 5 allows you to recover at speed in a smoother way – though you do have more obstacles to dodge, naturally because of the map choice.

For Horizon Festivals, these will take you from place to place on the Mexico map. By completing each of them (and the side races that come alongside), these packages are very rewarding for players. From a progression standpoint, Horizon 5 – as expected – rewards you tremendously for becoming a great driver.

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horizon festivalsMicrosoft
Each Forza Horizon festival you set up can be upgraded based on personal Accolades.

The new Photo Mode tasks, Car Skill Points, and Accolades keep things fresh, progressing your story from festival to festival.

While we don’t intend on spoiling anything for you in this review, the journey progresses similarly to Horizon 4 with a few really cool moments along the way.

Verdict – 10/10

Forza Horizon 5 sets a new industry gold standard for racing game visuals, gameplay, and map design.

Our expectations of map design just leveled up with Horizon 5, and it’s another massive victory for Game Pass members who will get it on release day.

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The good news for players is that there’s future DLC content to come, which will only add to what is comfortably the most exciting next-gen racing game released so far.

Reviewed on Xbox Series S

Where to buy Forza 5

You can purchase Forza 5 by following these links to Amazon or Best Buy, but please note that if you click on a product link on this page, we may earn a small affiliate commission.

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