|Developer||Playground Games, Turn 10 Studios, Sumo Digital (Xbox 360 version)|
Forza Motorsport’s rowdier open-world cousin gets a follow-up, this time set across a swath of southern Europe that includes the coast of France and Tuscany. Once again, you’ll be competing in nail-biting events and pulling off stylish driving moves amidst the backdrop of a music and racing festival. One big shift? Far fewer guardrails and walls hem you in, so you’re much freer to veer off-road if you just feel like doing a bit of exploring (or obliterating some poor vintner’s grape harvest). As a result, the total driveable area of Horizon 2 is more than three times that of the first game. Not a shabby upgrade, that.
In all honesty, I’d happily slap an “Awesome” on this bad boy if I’d seen more of the game, but the demo I was treated to was about as tantalizingly brief as first tastes get. I can vouch that the game looks quite stunning running on the Xbox One—especially the new dynamic weather effects, which lead to stupidly beautiful details like individual raindrops collecting on the wheels—and I can safely say that the improved Drivatars do take advantage of the open world with offroad shortcuts, but that’s about it.
Case in point: Music (and, to a lesser extent, story) played a big role in Horizon, but all I got on the show floor was an assurance that they’ll be similarly important in the sequel. And while I was told that the first entry’s showcase events, which pitted you against such unconventional opponents as a P-51 Mustang and a hot-air balloon, will be back and improved, I didn’t get to witness them firsthand. In fact, I didn’t even get to see a race with more than a single opponent, and that was a dynamic challenge rather than a part of the game’s main story. Given the pedigree of Horizon, I’m fairly confident those pieces will come together in a satisfying way, but until I’ve got more to judge, I’m going to reserve my excitement.