One of my first reviews for But Why Tho? was Forza Horizon 5 by Playground Games and Xbox. For a platform with few first-party exclusives to-date, Playground Games came out the gate swinging. And each punch hit hard. Not only did I feel like it set the standard for what the Xbox Series X and S could do, it also showed just how Playground Games could evolve an already fantastic franchise. I even said that it would be next to impossible to improve Forza Horizon 5. Well, they found a way with their latest expansion, Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels.
Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels takes the Horizon festival to the skies. Up above the clouds, a child’s imagination has come to life. Three biomes full of what can only be described as a child with an obsession for Hot Wheels and an unlimited budget could think of. In a change to the story, you’re not just working on expanding the festival; you’re working on unlocking licenses to race higher-ranked cars.
This isn’t the first time Forza Horizon has partnered with the toy car brand. But it feels very clear why they partnered up again. This version feels more epic in just about every way. From the ever-amazing intro race down to just driving around, it feels epic. Things aren’t just bigger, either. The new track elements, like the magnetic track, water chutes, and fans, make driving around this wonderland more enjoyable, too.
But my all-time favorite improvement from the original expansion was the biomes. The original had six, which kind of makes the three islands here feel like a loss. But each one is detailed beyond belief. Of the three, like the lava-filled tundra, the viney jungle, and the mountainous desert, the jungle is my favorite. Everywhere I looked felt picturesque, and driving vertically alongside waterfalls was a blast. I mentioned they added new track elements, which are masterfully implemented throughout this map.
One example of this can be found in the tundra area. The volcanos and lava rivers aren’t just for show, they’re explorable thanks to track layouts. One, in particular, had me driving down a loop into a 90-degree drop into the heart of a volcano, then twist around the caldera to exit out the side. Nothing I can write here can help show how wild parts of the map are, you just need to drive it and experience it for yourself.
Even the races feel so well thought out. They aren’t just driving around this map. They feel themed, and not just themed like in the base game with off-road, drag, etc. They are tied to specific new track elements or specific portions of the new zones. My favorite one was an earlier one involving the water chutes. Those are so much fun to drive down, and the chaos of 12 cars going down one at once set up many opportunities to pass the competition. Another was all about those waterfalls I mentioned, driving all up and down them, trying to take advantage of speed to win or the 90-degree uphills to screw over those trying to pass.
What I slowly grew to love during the base Forza Horizon 5 was the story missions. The best one, though, is found in this expansion. The races and challenges are fun, but the narration makes it top of the list. It’s no BS about trying to build out the Forza world more. It’s all about Hot Wheels. As someone who LOVED Hot Wheels growing up, it was really fun to get a detailed history lesson on something integral to my childhood. Each of the five challenges discussed a specific part of the brand’s deep history, and I honestly learned a lot, too.
The final improvement is the speed. There is such an emphasis on speed beyond what you’d expect. Hitting 300+ miles per hour in the first 10 minutes and then building up to that by unlocking better car licenses sets a bar that I loved achieving. Then throw in loops or go off jumps over bottomless gaps? It creates a wild time. My only regret is, it almost spoils the base game in a way. Why go back to explore beautiful Mexico when driving around this expansion is just so much more fun?
Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels has again found a way to raise the bar for the Forza Horizon franchise and, in general, DLC. Its speed, races, and varied tracks make the base game not nearly as fun to experience. Yet they all add new things to the game to make the package an even more unforgettable experience. Regardless of what you hoped the licensed DLC would be, Hot Wheels now feels like the perfect choice, even if it isn’t new. But this circles back to one of my points that I know will be easily answered like always: “how can Playground Games improve on an experience that already feels just about perfect?”
Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels
Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels has again found a way to raise the bar for the Forza Horizon franchise and, in general, DLC. Its speed, races, and varied tracks almost make the base game not nearly as fun to experience.