Following up on one of the best Forza Horizon games the franchise has seen is a hard task. Sadly, the Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels expansion isn’t quite up to the task.
I should have known something was up right from the start. Horizon 5 had one of the best introductory sequences I’ve ever seen in a video game. It felt straight out of a big-budget summer blockbuster movie, setting the tone for an unforgettable experience. Hot Wheels tries to replicate that with an over-the-top sequence of its own. While the high moments hit their mark, the lows showcase the flaw with this expansion: it’s not more Forza Horzion 5.
Both the Forza Motorsport and Horizon franchises are great in their own right. However, they offer completely different experiences. Motorsport offers a pure driving experience, while Horizon mixes the best of arcade and simulation racing. Often, Forza Horizon games feel like part racer, part platformer – thanks in part to the open-world design. In Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels, both circuits, and the world feel a lot more structured and closed in. This is due to the nature of Hot Wheels: they’re closed circuit tracks.
That’s not to say the varied terrain and environments the Horizon franchise has become known for aren’t here. The same circuit paths and open-world events you know and love are all here. Yet, it’s not as plentiful as I’d like. Hot Wheels instead goes all-in on the Hot Wheels side of things. In terms of visual presentation, it’s a home run. The look and feel of living out your childhood playroom dreams is here, and it’s wonderful.
Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels Absolutely Nails the Hot Wheels Experience
Playing Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels often feels like riding a roller coaster. Through all the twists, turns, and speed boosts, it’s truly a wild ride. So much so that the expansion introduces a new mechanic, G-Forza. It’s a roll indicator that changes based on your car’s rotation on the Hot Wheels track. If you’re going through loops or banked turns, the UI reticle will indicate as such. This allows you to bank skill chains and replicates that over-the-top Hot Wheels feel.
This is where the expansion truly shines: trading in the open-world exploration for a toy car arcade wonderland. Despite a slow start, the momentum builds as you open up new tracks and circuits. Whether you’re traversing through snowy mountains and ice-covered roads or speeding downstream on a water-filled track like a waterslide, the intense action Forza Horizon is known for is there. With the backing of a Forza Motorsport-like feel when it comes to vehicle handling, it’s a match made in heaven.
Despite all this, I can’t help but feel disappointed. The style and spectacle are there front and center, but the follow-through and execution are, at times, lacking. The strength of the base game feels partly responsible for this. I’m often missing the ability to cut through terrain and explore. That’s still present in the Hot Wheels expansion, but definitely not on the same level.
The Hot Wheels Expansion Can’t Always Meet the Expectations Set by Forza Horizon 5
Furthermore, the story showcases fall short compared to the base game. Focusing on the history of Hot Wheels in general is a perspective that’s ultimately hit or miss. There’s also a lack of discovery within the expansion, too. It’s really cool to see the absolute insanity of the Hot Wheels track. Yet its constant presence in the background means there’s not much to discover. There are some XP boards, as well as other bonus objectives as well, but it’s definitely on a smaller scale in the expansion.
Playing on PC, there were a handful of performance issues, specifically when it comes to loading times. Waiting for 30+ seconds often feels like the norm and not the exception, which is unfortunate. Once you get into the game, it plays just like it handles: like a dream.
The biggest saving grace for Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels is the price tag. At an MSRP of $19.99, your investment isn’t as big as other expansions. It’s disappointing that the game isn’t available for Game Pass subscribers, but the lower price tag does make this an easier pill to swallow
Forza Horizon 5 is an absolutely incredible game. Looking back at our summary for that review, I mean every word here:
“Forizon Horizon 5 is the near-perfection of the franchise. Everything from past titles has been built up to this moment. A memorable location, unforgettable set pieces, solid and addictive gameplay, a killer soundtrack, and gorgeous visuals. One of the best games of 2021.”
The Hot Wheels expansion, ironically, addresses one of the issues I had with the original game: the mini-map isn’t as intimidating anymore. It might be a different flavor than the main game, but that doesn’t make Hot Wheels a bad expansion. Again, it’s a $19.99 price tag we’re looking at here. Still, I expected more from the first follow-up from one of last year’s best games.
Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels is a solid expansion and will deliver plenty of quality, but I wish it offered more.