Forza Horizon 5, my favourite game of 2021, is a year old today! In that time I have racked up over 500 victories across 151 hours of gameplay which I have loved every minute of. I’ve mentioned before but it’s worth bringing up again that the time figure stated in the stats below does not include loading or pause menus time; that’s all gameplay!

It’s safe to say my love of the game has not diminished a bit through the last year, and has somehow even managed to grow. I scored Forza Horizon 5 a 10 / 10 last year in my review, and named it my favourite racing game of all time. This is still absolutely the case. In fact, as enamoured as I am by this phenomenal experience, I am sceptical it can ever be toppled due to its boundless spectacle, rich soundtrack and fully immersive gorgeous world and gameplay.

At time of writing, Forza Horizon is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the release of the original Forza Horizon back in 2012. To mark the occasion, new temporary Festival locations are popping up across Mexico, each displaying a signature vista from the previous games. As I write this my previous favourite entry in the franchise, the Australia set Forza Horizon 3, is currently being showcased. Completion of weekly challenges are giving players the cover car from the previous games, and as I already have almost every car in the game already I’ve been enjoying giving new tunes to them compared to the ones I already have equipped.

One of the hugest feelings of nostalgia washed over me when I first loaded the game at the beginning of the season, while it was reflecting on the first Horizon game, set in Colorado. The opening menu music being the same as that from the original game was a nice touch, but I was really taken back when the game throws you into a driving segment blaring arguably one of the greatest tracks from any Horizon soundtrack: Show Me A Sign by Modestep. Goddamn that was powerful!

A new feature added with this season which I adore is the new radio station: Horizon Mixtape. This station allows you to play some of the classic songs from other Horizon games, with more unlocked up until Forza Horizon 4’s week. Forza Horizon 5 reliably adds a significant chunk of new content every month to keep players coming back for more, but of course that’s not the only way Playground Games keeps players hooked. We also have the expansions!

I admit to being fairly lukewarm on the new Hot Wheels DLC released in July, and even now the only race it added which I enjoy and semi-regularly complete in is the final event: Hot Wheels Goliath. There’s nothing really wrong with any of it, but it feels so token, stretched and paper-thin for reasons I still can’t quite put my finger on. I enjoy it enough, and the new map is as massive and visually stunning as you could want, but forcing players into slower cars for the first hour or so of gameplay killed the pacing for me to such a degree that I still can’t look back at it favourably.

There is still the question of what the second expansion could possibly do, and while I think it should definitely have at least been revealed by now, I am still tremendously excited to see what form it will take. Not that it really matters for me though, as I’ve already paid for it..

When it comes to moment to moment gameplay and visuals, Forza Horizon 5 simply is the best in class. The Xbox Series X (and PC I guess) is the best place to play, as I’ve had reasonable assurance that the performance is noticeably lesser on the Xbox Series S console, which is currently facing quite a bit of open criticism from developers and players alike.

It almost feels sad to say that I doubt any future game can match the sky-high level of quality Horizon 5 boasts on all fronts. It will likely remain my favourite ever open world racer well into the future, as I can’t think of anything which can be done to build on what we have with it already. Only time will tell on that point, and I’m very sceptical that next years Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown will be able to complete with Horizon on any level, as one of its developers said in a recent interview.

That’ll do it for my latest gush about the game, and I will be back with more Forza Horizon 5 features in the build-up and release of the second expansion, so in the meantime thanks for reading. Do let me know in the comments how your experience with the game has been so far, and I can highly recommend giving it a go to anyone who is yet to. It’s free on Xbox Game Pass so you’ve got nothing to lose, and so so much to gain!

Written, edited and images captured by Alexx.