Announced at the Xbox and Bethesda Showcase, the Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels expansion was met with with overwhelming positivity but also a bit of criticism. Some series veterans immediately wrote it off as developer Playground Games “retreading” old ground. There was a similar crossover between the franchises for Forza Horizon 3 in 2017.
Looking beyond the familiarity of it all, this first major expansion for Forza Horizon 5 isn’t so much of a return. It’s a revitalization: going above and beyond what its predecessor did, and quite literally. While Horizon 3‘s offshore map had it subtly overflying a scenic fictional archipelago, Horizon 5‘s new Hot Wheels Park will take players above the clouds of virtual Mexico to an all new arena with captivating biomes and varying track types. Just by its sheer concept, this is shaping up to be the wildest Horizon experience Playground has cooked up yet.
Miles, and miles, and miles…
124.27 miles — that’s the total distance of new roads that the new Hot Wheels Park contains. Considering that the base game already has an absurdly large size of 41 square miles, the two combined bring a new meaning to the phrase “go big, or go home.”
The Hot Wheels Park map is comprised of four distinct environments. They’re sprawled out in a web of wild serpentines, physics-defying loops, and massive jumps. Horizon Nexus serves as the jumping off point for the new Festival location, as well as the central point of the map that connects the other three sectors: Forest Falls, Giant’s Canyon, and Ice Cauldron. And these new biomes posses quite the interesting feature set.
Going above and beyond
Each of those other three environments don’t just serve as mere backdrops for the action, either. They’re well integrated into the track network thanks to the use of elemental hazards fused into the tracks themselves. The overall experience serves to dish out a continuous series of events that are not just unique, but are vastly different from what past Horizon events have included — even those that are in the base of Horizon 5.
Forza Horizon 5‘s biggest feature is its integration of environmental hazards into the gameplay experience. Playground first introduced the game by showing off the massive dust clouds found in the desert, and the intense tropical storms that cover the jungle and coastal areas of the game’s map.
The Hot Wheels Park is nestled in the clouds, comprised of its own new floating islands. This all serves as an epic fusion of Horizon 5‘s core DNA and the insanity of what the Hot Wheels franchise is known for.
Spills and thrills
Really, this is why the new expansion is such a far cry from its predecessor. Playground did a great job at capturing the high-octane action that Hot Wheels is known for, bringing a toy set into the “real” world of Forza Horizon 3 without overdoing it. It was quite reserved, regulating the action to a relatively small arena with minimal extras — even in terms of eye candy.
That considered, the studio’s take on this concept meshes better in Forza Horizon 5. The over-the-top action is exactly what Hot Wheels sets achieve in their commercials. The thrills, the danger, and the absurdity of it all finally seems to be truly captured in the expansion. It’s like comparing a pool to a lake. The real icing on the cake: despite all that will be included in the core package itself, it’s also going to serve as a continuous flow of new, high-thrill creations.
Forza Horizon 5‘s next defining feature is the scope of its EventLab toolset. The Super7 mode originally added to Forza Horizon 4 served as a mere sample for what players have now been able to achieve today with Horizon 5‘s creation engine. From replicas of Japan’s iconic streets, to more extreme concepts (like one inspired by Wipeout tracks), the EventLab of Forza Horizon 5 has served as a breeding ground for some truly wildly fun ideas in the nine months the game has been on the market. Once the Hot Wheels tracks are added into the mix, things will — quite fittingly — heat up.
The interlocking mechanic of the real toys has been integrated into these virtual track pieces. Players will be able to build concepts just as wild (if not more so) than what the expansion itself is seeking to achieve. Seeing that the EventLab was made even more intricate with features such as gravity manipulation, the sheer insanity of what some of the more talented folks of the community will no doubt be unhinged.
What’s probably the best part about this particular factor is that while only expansion owners will be able to build Hot Wheels-themed creations, any player will be able to access them. While this was no doubt decided on in order to ensure full parity among the player base, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a positively covert reason behind this, too.
Particularly in the case of Game Pass players who just be toying with the game out of minor interest or boredom, if they dabble in just a few Hot Wheels community creations, they may very well be inspired to go out and pick up the game and the expansion outright.
So, in a way, the community creations have the capability of serving as small, unique demos for the full expansion, all while also serving as a continuously fresh stream of new content for returning players. In either case, it works in the favor of the game’s engagement.
It clearly goes without saying that I have some very high hopes for this new expansion. I absolutely loved Forza Horizon 3‘s take on it. Seeing the level of scale has been cranked way past 11, all that’s left to figure out is feeling exactly how it plays. Forza Horizon 5 itself wowed me far more than I initially anticipated. Though very biased, I still very much expect the same outcome for the new Hot Wheels expansion.
True, I do understand the calls for something completely new and original. But there’s still a whole other expansion slated for the game later down the road. Even with only this, however, it’s likely going to introduce a whole new level of depth to the Forza Horizon 5 experience that will be marked in the series history from here on.