Forza Horizon 5 took the racing world by storm when it hit the market back in late 2021. From then until now, it has become the fastest-selling entry in the Forza franchise, along with becoming one of the biggest launches ever for an Xbox first-party title. The icing on this success cake is none other than the immense amount of praise the game received from critics and fans alike, leading to several high review scores and awards.
It’s easy to see why Forza Horizon 5 gets all the fanfare. Due to an abnormal three-year development cycle, the longest in the Forza Horizon series, the team over at Playground Games was able to use the extra time to produce a more refined, expansive, and technically impressive experience. The result is Playground’s largest title to date, and one of the most comprehensive racing games ever.
The tech gurus over at Digital Foundry sat down with members from Playground to go in-depth into all of the tech that powers Forza Horizon 5, showing us what’s really under its proverbial hood.
Even more “Forza“
“Forza” is actually Italian for “power.” It’s quite fitting that Playground tapped into newfound elements of power thanks to the arrival of the Xbox Series family of systems. The next-gen consoles allowed the team to properly optimize Forza Horizon 5 to take advantage of new graphical processing techniques.
The Forza Horizon series has always been a technical showcase just like its track-based sibling, Forza Motorsport. After all, many of the high-fidelity car models are shared between games. However, due to Forza Horizon’s open-world design, Playground also seeks to capture the essence of the landscape in addition to the vehicles.
Making the most of it
In Digital Foundry’s deep-dive, the developers explain how, just as with past Forza Horizon entries, a team was sent down to Mexico to capture as much data as possible. This included getting high-quality digital scans of things such as vegetation, weather, footage of the sky, architectural data, and topographical and geographical data— all throughout different times of the year.
Since Forza Horizon 5 incorporates an even more complex dynamically-changing seasons mechanic than what was first introduced in Forza Horizon 4, this gave the team the challenging task of capturing more data than before, especially due to the fact that the game would be bigger and more advanced thanks to new hardware.
Reaching new heights
As was highlighted since the title was first revealed back in summer 2021, Forza Horizon 5 features an incredibly large map. It’s the largest in the series to date, and easily one of the largest in any racing game. As also explained in the video, doing this gave the game’s designers the added challenge of not only building a larger map, but also making the map complex and still efficient enough to be rendered at distance. This was primarily done to compensate for the volcano that sits near the north of the map. Its peak is not only accessible, but also high enough to offer a panoramic view of Forza Horizon 5’s Mexico practically from edge to edge.
Another challenge was incorporating all of Mexico’s varied terrain and regional differences into a single, expansive area that was also seamless. The different biomes needed to look truly authentic and offer a unique visual identity from one another in order to make the game’s virtual world feel more realistic and immersive.
Again, this gave both the scenery designers and technical team a workout. As mentioned in the video, new techniques such as procedural generation were needed in order to allow the artists to craft beautiful set pieces without being overwhelmed by the map’s large size. Still, the technical team had the massive undertaking of making sure that all of the rendered scenery could efficiently scale across a wide range of hardware.
The next-gen effect
The higher performance ceiling provided by the Xbox Series consoles also benefited PC players. The rendering techniques used to ensure proper scalability all the way from the original Xbox One up to Xbox Series X have also been incorporated into the PC edition of Forza Horizon 5 to make sure of providing an impressive experience, no matter the hardware configuration.
Compared to a lot of modern titles, Forza Horizon 5 has some relatively modest system requirements. On high-end machines, the game looks absolutely astounding. But, even more modest rigs can handle the game well enough with things still looking good and playing smoothly.
A great example of this is the fact that Forza Horizon 5 plays relatively well on Valve’s Steam Deck, which is the epitome of a PC with unique limitations. Again, this all flows back to the work done to ensure cross-gen compatibility. This is similar to what happened with Microsoft Flight Simulator, where the arrival of the sim on Xbox Series consoles back in summer 2021 also brought with it a big update on PC that dramatically improved performance and greatly enhanced the optimization of system resource management.
Still early in the journey
Forza Horizon 5 isn’t even a year old yet, which means it’s only going to grow with time. It’s already received a handful of updates that have introduced new vehicles, and upgraded a few of the game modes with more features. This is all before the release of its first expansion, which has yet to even be revealed. There’s also the matter of the next-gen arrival of the revamped Forza Motorsport; an illusive title that Turn 10 Studios has been very hushed about since its initial reveal over a year ago.
Now that Forza Horizon 5 is out and about, fans are expecting the new Forza Motorsport to finally (hopefully) release this year. Whenever it does come out, the promise is to bring its own boost in technical complexity in terms of both visuals and the tech behind it.
A lot of techniques are shared between the Horizon and Motorsport titles, so a lot of what Playground gathered during the development of Forza Horizon 5 will be incorporated into the new Forza Motorsport. The real interesting thing is that Forza Motorsport may be limited to next-gen consoles and PC, which means it should boast an even more remarkable boost in fidelity than what Forza Horizon 5 offers.