Wednesday, April 1, 2015
XBLA review: Forza Horizon 2: Fast & Furious
No doubt the result of a quick marketing deal, Forza Horizon 2: Fast & Furious is a free-to-download standalone expansion to the Microsoft-exclusive Forza Horizon 2. While the relatively brief experience bears the Fast & Furious name, there is little in the way of story to tie this product to the film series. Ludacris does lend his voice talents to the menus and offers both pre and post-race commentary, an addition that provides decent context to the otherwise generic routine of competing with other racers for ownership of their prized rides. That said, this two-hour-plus experience lacks any other form of story content.
The routine of challenging other races in two-part competitions to win their cars is a predictable but fast-paced routine, and the game does provide plenty of varied locales and course setups to prevent things from becoming stale during its short runtime. A drift challenge, a timed return to your garage while keeping one of your latest acquisitions from receiving too much damage, and one particular race against a helicopter further spice up what might have otherwise become too predictable a game. Though the portion of the French countryside you are limited to is likely but a fraction of the area accessible in the full retail release of Forza Horizon 2, it is still quite expansive, stretching from a harbor town lined with old brick buildings out to hilly farmland, and on even further still to a long and winding stretch of highway that cuts over road leading to an airfield. Sunsets stream beams of an orange glow between structures, and even under the navy of night, the game’s lighting effects look phenomenal.
The same can be said for the cars, which look satisfyingly realistic. Though the Xbox One may be the console with higher graphical prowess than its 360 predecessor, these sporty cars look nonetheless incredible. Zipping down city streets at high speeds, buildings will mesh as blend of colors, offering an effective sensation of just how fast your vehicle is travelling. Slowing down to inspect these up close, however, will reveal flat, often blurry textures. The soundtrack, though limited to a handful of tunes, offers a decently-varied selection of current licensed hip-hop, rock, and technopop tracks. There is no option to customize the ten different main vehicles you collect over the course of the game, but considering how varied their makes and models are to begin with, as well as the fact that Forza Horizon 2: Fast & Furious is effectively a glorified demo, the lack of such a feature is none too surprising.
Of the ten different cars you collect on behalf of the Fast and Furious crew, the earliest ones handle clunkier than the late-game acquisitions. Practically every one of the automobiles has solid acceleration, while the top speeds only improve with each new vehicle added to your garage. The other consistency between nearly all of the cars, however, is the fact that the vast majority of them do not handle turns well. Drifting does not feel good from any but perhaps two of the vehicles, and while the frequency at which cars can spin out may be more realistic than other racing games, it also diminishes the fun factor. Even at the start of a race, cars will sometimes start veering off at an angle, despite you having not pushed the joystick sideways in the slightest. Regardless of whether you take a corner pushing ninety miles per hour or slow down to the crawl of twenty, your car is bound to slide all over the place in nonsensical fashion, as if the roads were covered in glare ice.
While most other racing games in this day and age adhere to the format of asking you to retry an entire race should you fail to place well or meet specific criteria, Forza Horizon 2: Fast & Furious allows you to make use of a rewind button between checkpoints. If you came into a turn too fast and spun out of control, a simple hit of the button will drag you and the competition back a few seconds so that you can better account for the zigs and zags of a particular course. It might lighten the challenge factor a bit, but it also lessens the frustration felt from the aforementioned not-so-great feedback the cars exhibit on anything other than a straight stretch of pavement. Offroad races are practically nonexistent, which is a shame, considering that the under-utilized Jeep Wrangler would be a perfect fit for romps down dirt roads or jump challenges over countryside hills.
Cars automatically repair at the start of a new race, which is appreciated, as scraping against or slamming into fences and trees can and will tear pieces off your car and scratch it up. While it may remove much in the way of repercussions for dinging up your ride, it keeps the relatively short-lived gaming experience to a fittingly fast formula. The game will predetermine which car you will be using for each race, and offer the use of nitro on only a couple of races, which only proves an annoyance late in the game, when you are restricted to one of the earliest, less elegant cars in your collection. Forza Horizon 2: Fast & Furious does offer up a moderate amount of extra content: a checklist for driving down every street, knocking over signboards, discovering one hidden car, and challenging time trials in ‘rival races’. Beyond that, there are speed zones where you can attempt to reach breakneck speeds in setting a record for the online leaderboards, the option to take photos of the cars in your collection, and the opportunity to try and beat your personal best chain combo of skill points, the latter of which are earned from doing just about anything and everything behind the wheel – drifting, reaching high speeds, performing burnouts, and dipping in for near-misses close to other vehicles.
My rating: 6 (out of 10)