The second half of the Forza Horizon 5 expansion pass, Rally Adventure, released at the end of March, almost 18 months after the release of the base game. I had high hopes for the new addition to my favourite game of the decade so far, and so I started playing Rally Adventure as soon as it unlocked in the UK.

I still play the base game every week when the new round of challenges become active, and have unlocked almost every car in the game. I played and reviewed the Hot Wheels expansion when it released last July, and while it looks very pretty I called the gameplay ‘flat’, an opinion I still hold. If I had to summarise the new expansion in one word, it would also unfortunately be ‘flat’.

The game itself is presented fairly well; I liked the overall variety of the new map but its lack of straight top speed enticing roads feels like a failed attempt at disguising its paltry size. Horizon 4’s Lego expansion was similarly deceptive, though that did it by restricting players from zooming out on the map screen too far. I do understand the point of Rally Adventure’s roads having more twists and turns than an early Game of Thrones plot, for the titular rallying, but where Horizon usually caters so well for all play preferences, here you’re basically forgotten unless your favourite races are dirt sprints.

The forgettable story characters from the base game practically elbow each other out of the way to waffle away down the radio to your created protagonist, and form the basis of the motivation for the expansion. Forming a rally team each; the Horizon Raptors, Apex Predators and Grit Reapers, you are tasked to complete different races, rally stages and PR stunts for each of them to improve their reputation over each other. While we as players understand this is the basic skeleton for the game’s events to occur around, the characters have no such insight, with incessant badgering and requests to you to complete their assigned events. It never stopped being irritating, even to the extent that it felt like a reward upon completing the final event that they would leave me alone from then on.

Returning base game weather effects and new lingering dust particles are impressive, as is the detailing in the design of the near 700 cars available, but the environment of Sierra Nueva is very vanilla. It looks pretty enough while speeding through it, but manages at times to feel like a fan-made mod instead of the triple-A expansion I paid for a year and a half ago. The lighting and sound design remain impressive, but no new boundaries are pushed here to truly capitalise on them.

The new addition to gameplay are rally stages, complete with co-pilot observing your progress from a helicopter as you follow their directions along each set course. I certainly enjoyed these more than I did playing WRC 6 a few years ago, but as my enthusiasm for dirt races in Horizon has always been middling, not enough was done to entice me into becoming more interested in the event type.

The soundtrack has brought back Epitaph Radio from Forza Horizon 3, and while the new songs the game loops through in races are predominantly pretty good and fit the vibe of the game, the host of the station is as aggressively annoying as the rally team captains I mentioned earlier. Any time a character who isn’t Scott Tyler, Angelica Garcia or Amy Simpson start talking, I mute my TV as a coping mechanism.

It took me a week to play all of the events even though there aren’t that many of them. It took as long as it did as I could only play around 30 minute bursts before getting bored. The first race of each session was usually fun, but the novelty always wore off quickly.

I lament the possibilities Playground Games could have pursued instead of Rally Adventure. The repeating wish I kept hearing from the Horizon 5 community was for a focus on street racing, and while I understand building a whole city or environment to best compliment this idea requires a lot of work for just an expansion, I think what we ended up with here was a swing and a miss.

I still love Forza Horizon 5 and I can’t wait to see what shape Horizon 6 takes in the next few years, but unfortunately I do believe Horizon 5’s expansions to be the weakest ever in the franchise. Small nuggets of fun sprinkled throughout overall bland offerings, I know the team at Playground Games are capable of so much better than this. I will also do my best in scoring the experience, though that comes in the form of

5 / 10

Written, edited and images sourced by Alexx.