Forza Horizon 5 Q&A – Physics Model Received a Huge Upgrade; Campaign Is More Structured

Alessio Palumbo
Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 5 is the sequel to one of the best games ever published by Microsoft's Xbox Game Studios label, and it's rightfully anticipated by a huge amount of fans. During a pre-gamescom 2021 event, we got the chance to be a part of a group interview featuring Creative Director Mike Brown from Playground Games, who kindly answered many questions about Forza Horizon 5.

The developers also unveiled the cover cars, which will be the Mercedes-AMG ONE and the 2021 Ford Bronco Badlands. As a reminder, Forza Horizon 5 hits Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, and PC on November 9th.

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Can you talk about the cover cars a bit?

The Mercedes-AMG One is based on F1 technology, it brings the F1 engine to a car that's road legal. It's honestly an amazing car, the amount of power it gets down while maintaining grip is quite unbelievable. It has a couple of driving modes as well, which is a new feature for us.

A lot of cars have a sport mode to make the steering a bit snappier, but the AMG One actually has a very significant track mode which lowers the car, pushes up the wings, opens up the flaps around the car, it really changes the performance. You're able to do just activate that while driving around in free roam.

The 2021 Ford Bronco Badlands is the hottest SUV of the year, an actually awesome car for heading out and exploring the wilderness of Mexico, into the desert or the jungle, there's no cooler car for it to be honest.

Will there be any new race types?

There are a ton of new race activities, yes.

Will some vehicles be better at driving off-road or can you drive a hypercar through the jungle?

There's literally nothing stopping you from driving a hypercar through the jungle. But yes, that is absolutely the case. We pride ourselves on having an engine based on simulation. We make it accessible as is appropriate, but it's based on simulation, so you'll still find cars built for off-road handling the rougher terrain easier than others that aren't.

What was the experience like while developing Forza Horizon 5 for newer consoles?

The experience of working on Xbox Series S and X as a creative has been absolutely fantastic because we've been able to achieve much more with the way that we've built the world. We were able to add so many details and just make it look and feel so real.

Through the extra power of the consoles, we've been able to pack phenomenal detail in every scene. The quality of the assets has improved, the quality of the lighting has improved, the quality of the shadows has improved. Once you're in ForzaVista, looking closer to the cars, you have ray tracing as well. Between Xbox Series S and X, the graphics should be mostly the same, other than the different rendering targets (1080p and 4K, respectively).

Will there be any additions or differences for the Eliminator mode in Forza Horizon 5? 

There are some tweaks to Eliminator. I think the main difference is the map. We introduced Eliminator about one year after the launch of Forza Horizon 4, and this time Eliminator already existed when we designed the map for Forza Horizon 5, which means it's much better suited to Eliminator. We've been able to build that level design into the world, thinking about how Eliminator would work and how it would play.

What were some of the challenges of bringing the landscapes of Mexico to life in Forza Horizon 5?

The diversity does bring challenges because we have eleven separate biomes and all have to fit together in the map in a way that makes sense and feels cohesive. Having that many biomes creates challenges to where biomes meet each other, one biome has to blend in in a way that doesn't feel like it crossed an invisible line to bring you into a completely different place. Instead, the barriers between them are blurred so it feels as natural as possible.

What elements of Mexican art or culture can we expect in Forza Horizon 5?

We have seven mural artists in total who've contributed to Forza Horizon 5. Also, we've worked with Mexican music artists to provide both music that already existed and original compositions. We've also worked with Mexican actors and writers so that we can make sure that the voices of our Mexican characters feel real. Obviously, our research team also went to Mexico to gather all the references we needed to build the game. We've also had an audio team there quite recently capturing ambient audio so that each area of the map has its own ambient audio.

We've taken this very seriously. We've worked with cultural consultants to ensure we're not playing off any Mexican stereotypes.

Forza Horizon 5
Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 4 had the change of seasons as one of its main features. Is this returning?

Seasons are returning and are still an important part of the game. They work a bit differently in Mexico compared to Britain. You don't get snow all over the map though, it is restricted to areas of high elevation.

Were there any major handling/physics tweaks that you made this time around?

We've actually made some pretty huge investments into our physics model this time. We were starting from a good place, as Forza Horizon 4 did have really great handling, but the fact that we took three years rather than the usual two has allowed us to make bigger investments than we would have otherwise been able to. We've completely rebuilt the way suspensions work, which perhaps sounds like a small thing but it's one of the main ways in which your wheels and the body of the car interact with the road surface. By really working on that simulation to make suspensions behave in a much more authentic way, we also enhanced accessibility.

Another area we've really improved is braking, we have improved the physical model so that when you're really slamming on the brakes at high speed, the pads will grab the disc in a more gradual way, allowing the brakes to come on in a more realistic and authentic way. Again, that's an area of improved simulation, but it also makes the cars a little more accessible.

How many cars are in Forza Horizon 5?

I don't think we're calling out the exact number yet, but there are hundreds of cars. There are more cars than we've had at launch in any of our previous titles. We're very close to starting to reveal the full car list.

How reactive is the mud?

There are different types of mud in Forza Horizon 5 and they have different levels of reaction. There's the full 3D mud where you can leave massive marks, there's also thinner mud where you'll leave tyre tracks but it's not massively deforming.

Can the same structures be built outside the arena or stadium with EventLab? What else can you share about EventLab?

The stadium that we showed during the E3 demo is a great place to build because it gives you something of a blank canvas. It's a large, open space in which you can place things around without having the topography of the world getting in your way, but it's not the only place. In fact, you can use those building tools pretty much wherever you want. There are areas of the world where there are invisible collisions that'll stop you from building, but aside from that, you can build anywhere.

EventLab is also a really in-depth rule editor. I would stop short of calling it a scripting language, but only just. It is based on some of the design tools that we use to make the game and its different features. It has a very, very in-depth ability to create rules. It's one of those things where there are so many millions of ways that these different pieces can be combined together that as developers we frankly have no idea what people will be able to create once they get their hands on the game.

What were the main learnings you brought into Forza Horizon 5 from the previous installment?

I think our campaign learned a lot from Forza Horizon 4's campaign and is much better this time. It does a really nice job at giving players complete freedom and how they want to approach the game, but at the same time making you feel like there's a thing that you should be doing, in a way that feels more structured and more directed than it did with Forza Horizon 4, all the while maintaining the freedom to progress through the game in a ton of different ways.

How can Forza Horizon 5 capture players who aren't fans of racing games?

Forza Horizon 5 is an open world driving game. A lot of what you do is going to be racing, but at the same time, if you didn't ever want to do a race, that's okay. I think you probably have to do one showcase event towards the start of the game, but other than that you could play through the entire game and be totally fine. The game would support you in that, you could progress through exploring the world, through Horizon stories. There are a ton of different avenues where you could progress your game without necessarily racing and a lot of those are borrowing their design ideology from open world games rather than racing games.

Thank you for your time.

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