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Forza Horizon 5

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Playground Games
Release Date: Nov. 9, 2021


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PC Review - 'Forza Horizon 5' Hot Wheels DLC

by Adam Pavlacka on Sept. 5, 2022 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

In Forza Horizon 5, players explore the vibrant and ever-evolving open-world landscapes of Mexico with limitless, fun driving action in hundreds of the world's greatest cars.

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Hot Wheels and racing games are no strangers to each other. The small metal cars were the basis for one of the two major Forza Horizon 3 expansions, Forza Horizon 4 had a Hot Wheels Legends car pack, and more recently, Hot Wheels Unleashed was a pretty decent game in its own right. With Forza Horizon 5, Hot Wheels takes center stage as the first major expansion for the game, bringing miles of new track, three distinct biomes, and a new set of cars to unlock.

It goes without saying that you'll need the base game to play the Hot Wheels expansion, but if you're a Game Pass subscriber, the standard edition of Forza Horizon 5 is included in your subscription. After downloading the DLC, you have immediate access to Hot Wheels Park. If it is your first time booting up Forza Horizon 5, you only need to play the intro sequence (which doesn't take very long), and then you can head over to the DLC area. Because the expansion has its own progression system, there are no prerequisites to playing.

An initial race introduces you to the park and the Hot Wheels Academy. The academy offers a set of missions, each tied to the performance levels of the allowed cars. When you begin, you have access to the B level academy, so all the available races, PR stunts, etc., must be completed with B class (or lower) cars. Each mission earns medals. Collect enough medals, and you unlock the qualifying race for the next academy class.

One nice plus about the academy setup is that it is designed to ease beginners into the slightly more extreme world of Hot Wheels racing without making the progression requirements overly onerous. You only need to collect a portion of the total medals available at each level to unlock the qualifier for the next level. This allows you to focus on the events that you enjoy the most and save the others for completion later on. Never once did I feel that I was being forced to play certain content to progress.

Most of your time spent racing in Hot Wheels Park will be on the official track pieces. The bulk of those are orange, which are the standard plastic Hot Wheels track pieces, but you'll also drive across normal ground and magnetic blue tracks that look like something inspired by TRON. Just because this is Hot Wheel Park doesn't mean you're confined to the Hot Wheels courses. Each of the three biomes has plenty of off-road opportunities, so you can tear it up in the rainforest, race across the desert, and skid your way through the snow.

Staying on the track may seem like a potentially frustrating endeavor, but the side rails keep you from flying off into the great beyond should you miss a turn. During the dozen or so hours I spent playing the Hot Wheels expansion, the only time I flew off the track was when I intended to do so. Hot Wheels Park may look risky, but the tracks are designed to keep you racing, not frustrate you.

Really, the only frustration I encountered while playing the expansion were remnants of the base game — a starting grid that always places you in the back and the lead car pulling away from the pack at higher difficulty levels, while the other AI cars don't hesitate to bump into you (and slow you down) if you get in their way. This isn't directly a Hot Wheels issue, though; it's something the expansion inherits from the base game.

You'll unlock all but two of the Hot Wheels-branded cars while playing through the academy, so the expansion doubles as a car pack. The Hot Wheels rides run the gamut in type and performance, but my favorite was unquestionably the Bad to the Blade epic car. A high-performance S2 class car, Bad to the Blade isn't unlocked until near the end of the academy missions, but it hugs the track like a glove, even at high speeds. There are faster cars, but if you want one that's easy to control, especially if you're playing with a controller and not a wheel, this is it.

I did have one minor complaint about the history of Hot Wheels courses that appear as missions in the park. They are meant to provide some insight into the brand, and there are some cool facts at hand, but the audio mix on both PC and console made it difficult to hear at times. Instead of the voice-over overriding everything (as it would if you were hearing it in an earpiece while driving), it is simply mixed with all the other track and racing sounds, so it comes across as muffled. Some players might think of a history lesson as a bit too self-serving for the brand, but I liked the concept. I just wish it was better executed.

Performance-wise, the Hot Wheels expansion runs the same as the base game. You'll get the best performance on PC, with a solid 60 fps on a typical gaming rig. Switching over to an older console, I also played for a bit on an Xbox One X, where the frame rate was at 30 fps. I did run into the occasional game crash on the Xbox One X, and I suspect it was due to an out-of-memory error, but I can't say for certain. On the PC, the game was solid, but it deserves credit for scaling down well to the older console hardware. DLC expansions don't always get the same optimization passes as base games, so it's nice to see that done here.

For the custom track creators, the Hot Wheels expansion introduces more than 80 pieces of track and props for you to use while crafting original creations in the Eventlab. Hot Wheels Park has a handful of "stub" tracks that you can use as starting points, with the system automatically connecting two pieces when you get them close together. The virtual "click" feature means you don't have to worry about perfect alignment of individual pieces.

My sole disappointment with the Eventlab Hot Wheels pieces is that you only have access to standard track parts. The magnetic track pieces aren't an option. Neither are the water track pieces. This isn't a deal-breaker, but it would have been great to have access to those pieces.

One bit that isn't immediately obvious about the Hot Wheels track pieces is how big they are, at least not until you start building custom Hot Wheels courses in Mexico proper (yes, you can use the new Hot Wheels track parts and props to create courses on the main map). I was messing around in the editor, and a standard loop towered over the main Horizon Festival location.

The Hot Wheels expansion for Forza Horizon 5 is a solid addition that almost feels like it could be a stand-alone game. The team has done a great job of providing a fun sandbox and plenty of different cars to use while playing in that sandbox. It doesn't matter if you're a big kid at heart or an actual kid; if you love playing with toy cars, you're going to have fun driving them around in Hot Wheels Park and across the Mexican landscape.

Score: 8.5/10

Reviewed on: Intel Core i7-9700K CPU, 16 GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2800 Super

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