It never rains but it pours
Forza Horizon 2’s weather is dynamic, meaning it can start to pour at any time, but the illusion is spoiled rather if you then begin a race that’s not meant to include a shower and the clouds miraculously disappear as you hit the start line.
Rain only has a minimal effect on the way your car handles (although it does make the road surface look a bit like a sea lion’s back) but for those wondering if Horizon 2 is too 'My First Forza' for them, put the steering in simulation mode, turn off traction control and ABS, and you’ve got a racing game that’s perfectly pitched for those who don’t want to powerslide round every corner at 120mph but also like a bit of a challenge. The tuning menu is there, so those who want to can still tweak tyre pressure, brake balance and the like to their oil-filled heart’s content.
Drivatar-powered opponents can be a bit overly aggressive (OK, we’ll admit we can be too) but seeing your friends’ names over the top of passing cars really does work to ignite the competitive spirit. Despite knowing full well the car in front isn’t really being driven by Stuff’s reviews editor Tom Parsons I still can’t help but want to beat it more than if it was just some nameless drone.
READ MORE: First Play - Driveclub
Forza Horizon 2 might also be available for Xbox 360 but it’s not quite the same game. There’s no weather or Drivatars and the world is slightly smaller. If you pick up the Xbox One version it’s worth making sure your Kinect is plugged in. Anna, your voice-activated sat-nav, is a genuinely useful feature, responding consistently and accurately to your commands, allowing you to navigate your way around without having to stop to look at a pause menu.
Horizon 2 has also beaten Sony’s Driveclub to the chequered flag when it comes to social gaming with its, er, very similar ‘Clubs’, which you can either start or join with your friends. Each one can take up to 1000 members, which means Playground Games must have a vastly different opinion on what a gamer’s friendship circle looks like to the rest of us. Other club members will even earn you rewards while you’re not playing.
In general it’s not a game that makes it hard to pocket cash. Doing well in races earns you credits and XP and even with the difficulty ramped up it’s not too difficult to regularly finish on the podium. Until the latter stages few of the other drivers are ever consistent enough to give you a real battle in the championship, so anyone looking for more of a challenge should turn off rewinds and switch on full damage.
Each time you level up you’ll get a Horizon Wheelspin – a virtual fruit machine that offers prizes of either credits or new cars. Around nine times out of ten it’s the former but when they all go towards buying new wheels anyway, who’s complaining? Your Drivatar will also pocket credits for you even when your Xbox is turned off. It’s clearly a game that wants you to earn, earn, earn so you can spend, spend, spend, although with the very top cars priced into the millions, you’ll have to save significantly in order to get behind the wheel.
Forza Horizon 2 is everything an open-world driving game should be. There’s loads to do and it captures the feeling of driving very fast better than any other game, to the point where it could soon eclipse its older brother once and for all. In fact, right now, if it were a choice between this and Forza 5, we'd pick Horizon 2 every time.