For years, Forza has been a bit of a punch line for gamers. Travel back to any Microsoft E3 presentation and you’ll find gamers rolling their eyes at the inevitable Forza segment. Racing games have long been a niche in video games and have struggled to win over the so-called “hardcore” fan base.
Forza Horizon 5 looks like it’s finally going to break through the cynicism barrier. Microsoft’s upcoming game isn’t your traditional racing game driven by the kind of auto jargon that only a die-hard would love. Like its predecessors, it’s more of an open-world adventure game that takes the genre off-road. It provides a more creative set of ideas and objectives for those who just don’t find driving around in a circle that exciting.
I caught a new glimpse of the game ahead of Tuesday’s Gamescom Opening Night Live stream and found myself entirely bought in on what Forza Horizon 5 had to offer. At first, I wasn’t sure why it had me so excited. Then it hit me: It’s essentially a Fast and Furious video game.
The short clip I saw showed four different cars exploring Forza Horizon 5’s Mexican landscapes. The video doesn’t begin on a racetrack or a backroad. Instead, we’re on an airplane high up in the sky. The backdoor opens and a Ford Bronco carefully rolls out, plummeting through the air. A parachute opens, it touches down on a dirt road, and then takes off. A second car quickly crosses its path, initiating a sort of unofficial “street” race.
The Bronco keeps racing forward until it reaches a metal guardrail. It blasts through it, hurtling through the air and landing perfectly in the middle of a race that’s already in progress. It’s the kind of action movie sequence that you won’t see in something like the F1 series.
My brain immediately raced to the Fast and Furious film franchise, which has taken on many forms during its 20-year run. While the series started as a mid-budget drama about street racing, it’s upped the ante with every film since. Fast Five is a full-on heist film where cars steal a vault and drag it through city streets on a run from the cops. This year’s Fast 9 features some out-of-this-world stunts — literally — that destroy its own rules.
That’s the same vibe I get when watching Forza’s cars plummet out of airplanes or make 20-foot leaps and come out unscathed. By the end of the clip, I’d seen a Corvette Stingray barrel through a massive dust storm and a Porsche Desert Flyer zip through a jungle. The latter is quite literally the set piece that opens Fast 9, as Dominic Toretto and his family of drivers evade cars while weaving through trees.
Forza Horizon 5 isn’t quite as unhinged as the Fast saga — at least not yet. It’s still mostly grounded in reality, bearing more similarities to the first three films in the Fast and Furious series than the past six. The focus is firmly on spotlighting cool cars (like the Mercedes AMG One), scenic locations, and various races. However, the Forza Horizon series has shown that it’s willing to get a little silly. Forza Horizon 4 famously featured a full Lego expansion that added blocky cars to the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a Halo Warthog join the race within a year.
Watching the new footage, I’m already thinking three Forza Horizon games ahead. I can see a world where Microsoft tries to up the ante with the series, delivering more spectacle with each game and setting it apart from the more straitlaced Forza Motorsport series. When I see a car parachute out of an airplane, I’m imagining one making an impossible leap between skyscrapers like in Furious 7.
In my mind, that’ll be how Microsoft will ultimately overcome a decade of disinterest from cynics. Forza Horizon 5 can combine the tight mechanics of a niche genre with the broad appeal of a silly blockbuster to convert the unimpressed. All it needs is Vin Diesel.
Forza Horizon 5 launches on November 9 for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC. It’ll be available on Xbox Game Pass at launch.
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