I make no bones about the fact I am a gamer and have been since the 1970’s. Amidst all the fuss about fast reaction games, often with guns, like Call of Duty, Battlefront and Fortnite there is another genre of game that I find works really well, that is driving. The digital representation of the car, combined with the analogue nature of a steering wheel, accelerating and braking with pedals make for an exciting mix of gameplay experience. Even back in 1976 the Atari arcade game Night Driver provided a driving experience with a black screen, no scenery and a set of white bollards that animated to give the impression of a corner. This month saw the release of the latest in the Xbox driving series with Forza Horizon 5. I am also not alone in liking driving games as it became the biggest first week launch on the Xbox with 10 million players, and the Xbox (brand) is 20 years old, the first Forza was in 2005. This is pure virtual driving, but as I wrote last year there are other ways to get racing such as with Mario Kart AR.

It’s just cars isn’t it?

Forza Horizon 5 is the latest in this series of games that provides a rich and increasingly realistic virtual world in which to drive hundreds of highly detailed and different handling types of car. Unlike the Forza Racing series, which is focussed on track racing, Horizon mixes well-crafted simulation with an ability to drive almost anywhere on road, dirt, fields, rivers etc. across a multitude of events and stunts. This brand-new instalment is set in Mexico, with a huge and diverse set of biomes within it. Whilst the cars are incredible digital twins of the real thing the beauty of the scenery and its varying weather effects is pure virtual tourism. Here is just one view of the volcano off in the distance that you can drive to, up and then off the edge of should you choose too. It is a good few miles away as you can see.

https://flic.kr/p/2mLy3D4 – Forza Horizon 5
Music features heavily
Along with the variety of internal combustion engine and electric motor in car sounds another key element to this game is its music roster. A series of themed radio stations play a variety of music styles, including a classical music channel. They feature DJ’s like Mr Jam chatting between tracks in ways that are often relevant to the race just run or experience unlocked. For all the competitive racing and points gathering, single or multiplayer it can just be nice to jump in a car and drive along listening to the music. Choices like this are important an important factor in free roam games, FH5 gets the atmosphere just right for this sort of thing (as did its previous incarnations).

Yes, but what about the cars?

The cars are of course the stars of this creation, and they are the reason it exists. There are over 500 car models in the game, and each is created with incredible detail inside and out. As well as being able to drive the cars, stop and photograph them there is also the ability to explore them in a showroom, opening doors, bonnets and so on. AS you can see below the scenery combine perfectly, the cars get a little dirty too driving on the off road tracks.


https://flic.kr/p/2mLqB6H Volcano and wheels

The range of cars is not all about super cars but it is hard to resist those Top Gear moments of putting the fastest cars in the world against one another in a drag race. There are many other types of cars, old classics, American trucks even a Reliant Robin 3-wheeler. They all feel and respond very differently. However, there is one more trick up Forza’s sleeve.

 

https://flic.kr/p/2mJNwfp Fast drag race

Custom paint FTW

Virtual world and metaverse related customization of content is an important factor for engagement. In almost every virtual world presentation I have given since Forza came into existence, I have added a few screen shots of the game and described how I am able to do my own branding or product placement onto an in game asset such as a car. That car is not just in my environment but can appear in other people’s games and even been downloaded from a store as a design. This in world placement is something that brands and advertiser have yet to fully grasp. Forza has enabled us to add custom stickers to cars for almost all its generations. Horizon has kept these compatible through all its versions, meaning time spent building a decal is not wasted as it can be applied in the new versions too. It is not simply slapping a JPG image on the side of a car, each image is made adjusting graphic primitives, scaling and colouring them. It’s the same principle as the prims in Second Life for those that built with such things. I used to show our eightbar blog back in day, but now I show my Feeding Edge logo, or more recently my Reconfigure book cover and my Choi Kwang Do martial art logo. The bonnet is adorned with my Predator inspired twitter icon, originally a Nintendo Mii version for added lineage. These apply to any car, and then enjoy driving around with those both for my own buzz and knowing that others will see them in races around the world.

 


https://flic.kr/p/2mJNwg1 Scooby reconfigure


https://flic.kr/p/2mJNwfe Dougnuts

You mentioned stunts?

All these pictures look like a standard driving simulation, done well, but the game also features ludicrous stunts which are also fantastic (and safe) fun. As you can see below this is quite a jump off a waterfall after some stunt jet skis, where we scared the flamingos on landing. A perfectly normal drive in the country when in Forza Horizon.


https://flic.kr/p/2mJMdFS Waterfall jump

It goes on

The variety of activities, active and passive, cars to collect, drive or just look at and several new terrain releases to come, make this a really great experience. Cars may not be for everyone, but that’s why there are lots of genres of games, films and art. This for me is a perfect formula. The basic game is on Game Pass so bundled in the subscription, meaning many more people will just give it a go and get the bug. I should add I bought the full game and expansions also all the photos above are ones I took, as you may have noticed, I am a fan. One for the xmas list for you all I suggest, see you in Mexico.