Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels Review – Loop Season

Appropriately enough for one of the best racing games of its time, Forza Horizon 5's first expansion is an unmissable experience.

Posted By | On 22nd, Jul. 2022

Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels Review – Loop Season

Forza Horizon 5 is a stellar game. It’s an impressive achievement in more ways than one, and quite possibly one of the greatest racing games ever made. Given the fact that any expansion for the game would have such an excellent foundation to build off of, even an experience that was simply more of the same would have been more than good enough for fans of the base game. Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels does do a little bit of that, and if you enjoyed the base game’s offerings, there’s a lot of similar stuff to tackle in its first expansion as well. But rather than simply sticking to that script and playing things safe, the Hot Wheels expansion also tries a bunch of new and exciting things, and it executes on nearly all of those ideas with great aplomb.

Hot Wheels introduces a completely new map. Comprised of three distinct biomes, this entire map floats far above the open world Mexico of Forza Horizon 5, and is, appropriately enough, characterized by a dense tangle of red and blue Hot Wheels tracks running all across it and holding the three floating biomes together. It’s a big map, all things considered, especially when you compare it to, say, Forza Horizon 3’s Hot Wheels DLC. More than size, however, what makes this map stand out is its spectacle.

Forza Horizon 5 - Hot Wheels_02

"Forza Horizon 5 is a gorgeous game, of course, so it’s no surprise that its first expansion continues to be something of a treat for the eyes as well- but on top of its visual fidelity, the Hot Wheels expansion’s new map also pops because of its vibrant sights and sounds."

Forza Horizon 5 is a gorgeous game, of course, so it’s no surprise that its first expansion continues to be something of a treat for the eyes as well- but on top of its visual fidelity, the Hot Wheels expansion’s new map also pops because of its vibrant sights and sounds, its gorgeous tracks and vistas that never fail to invoke a sense of child-like wonder every time you look at them. The three biomes offer plenty of environmental variety with dense forests, snowy landscapes, and rocky deserts, but it’s the oversized, bright, plastic-made tracks themselves that catch the eye almost constantly. Seeing a web of brightly coloured tracks looping and zigging and zagging in the background while you’re driving around is always a striking sight.

The expansion uses those tracks to great effect from a gameplay perspective as well. The name of the game here is speed- that might not be the most noteworthy thing to say about a racing game, but more so than usual, Hot Wheels takes every chance it gets to emphasize its sheer sense of speed. A lot of that is down to the tracks themselves, with things such as water flumes, air boosts, launchers, speed boosts, and more scattered throughout the map to keep kicking you up to breakneck speeds, while things such as massive loops, corkscrews, and more can also naturally help you build momentum and speed. Gravity, in fact, is quite an important consideration a lot of the times in this expansion, which shouldn’t be a surprise if you have ever played with gravity-defying Hot Wheels tracks as a kid.

I am a little disappointed that the events and activities on offer in the new map don’t leverage the new setting and its unique properties more than they do. From speed traps and drift zones and danger signs to sprints and circuits and new Horizon Story missions, the vast, vast bulk of the activities you’ll find in the new open world are very much cut from the same cloth as what the base game had on offer. Instead, I would have preferred it to place greater emphasis on new activities built around ideas specific to this DLC, like, say, more drifting challenges on ice tracks, or challenges focused on maintaining high speeds without crashing or slowing down too much.

Forza Horizon 5 - Hot Wheels_03

"Water flumes, air boosts, launchers, speed boosts, and more are scattered throughout the map to keep kicking you up to breakneck speeds, while things such as massive loops, corkscrews, and more can also naturally help you build momentum and speed."

One new activity that does deserve a shoutout though is the massive piñatas scattered around the map that you have to seek out and pop. Simply finding your way around the loopy roads of the map to find that exact spot where you can pull of that perfect jump to get to a piñata can be incredibly satisfying in and of itself. It’s a lot like smashing bonus boards in essence (and there’s more of those in the expansion as well), but it does have a nice twist to it.

Structurally, Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels takes cues from the base experience as well. There are five separate ranks that the entire expansion is divided into. Starting as a Rookie, you’re tasked with climbing through these ranks and unlocking them and then mastering them one after another, unlocking faster cars and more new events on your way to achieving the Legend rank. Each rank has several large- and small-scale missions that you can track and finish, each of which rewards you with varying points that count toward the completion of that rank.

The missions are an excellent new addition, and they do (to some extent) make up for how the DLC’s activities can often feel too similar to the base game. One mission might task you with getting from one point of the map to another in a certain amount of time, which might sound simple enough- but rather than marking those spots on the map for you, the game expects you to figure out where those spots are yourself, which adds another layer to that mission. Similarly, another mission could task you with completing two distant speed traps within a small window of time, leaving you to figure out what the best and fastest possible route would be to allow that.

Forza Horizon 5 - Hot Wheels_06

"There’s easily between 10 to 15 hours of pure, unabashed racing fun in here."

Even so, the missions can be a bit of a double-edged sword, because they can also make progression in the Hot Wheels expansion feel a little restrictive. Finishing these missions is the only way to earn the points you need to progress through ranks, but while Forza Horizon 5 never forced players to do any one particular thing to be able to make progress, Hot Wheels often funnels you into a narrower pool of options, forcing you to take on a mission you might not particularly want to try simply because there aren’t a great deal of alternatives. Thanks to the core design and mechanical strengths of Forza Horizon 5 and the Hot Wheels expansion, what you end up doing in those missions remains fun either way, but it does still feel markedly less free-form than the base game did.

Even with a few minor issues though, Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels is yet another incredible piece of racing content by Playground Games. There’s easily between 10 to 15 hours of pure, unabashed racing fun in here. It proudly boasts all the many strengths of the game that it’s built off of, of course, but also introduces ridiculous speed, an excellent new map, incredibly fun new tracks and vehicles, and more to deliver what feels like a worthy addition to the Forza Horizon 5 experience.

This game was reviewed on the Xbox Series X.


THE GOOD

Large and varied new map; Vibrant, colourful environments; Excellent track design; Racing through life-sized Hot Wheels tracks with all of their loops, boosts, and what have you is an absolute blast; Missions are well-implemented; Gorgeous to look at; 10-15 hours of content.

THE BAD

Activities are mostly too similar to the base game; Restrictive progression.

Final Verdict:
AMAZING
Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels is a worthy addendum to one of the best racing games ever made.
A copy of this game was provided by Developer/Publisher/Distributor/PR Agency for review purposes. Click here to know more about our Reviews Policy.

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