5 things Forza Horizon 5 could do better

Forza Horizon 5 Screenshot
Forza Horizon 5 Screenshot (Image credit: Windows Central)

When I reviewed Forza Horizon 5, I concluded that Playground Games' latest title is a masterpiece surpassing any open-world racing game that preceded it. I stand firmly behind every word, and have happily sunk dozens of hours into FH5 since its release. Nonetheless, Forza Horizon 5 is, of course, not perfect, with both the FH5 community and Playground Games looking forward to the future and its potential.

Even disregarding the myriad of bugs and issues that have afflicted Forza Horizon 5 players in the months since release — especially surrounding the online multiplayer — there are innumerous ways in which the ambitious title can be improved; Forza Horizon 5 can stretch even closer toward that unobtainable vision of "perfection." Taking into account my personal observations and those I've seen from the vocal FH5 community, here are five ways Playground Games can make Forza Horizon 5 even better.

1. Online multiplayer experience

Forza Horizon 5 Screenshot

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Forza Horizon 5 is a sizeable departure from its predecessor in a number of ways, but many of the most considerable changes and additions were to the game's multiplayer suite. FH5 puts multiplayer first, a strategy that, in theory, enables players to connect more seamlessly and have more fun than ever before with friends and strangers. However, Forza Horizon 5's online experience still leaves a lot to be desired.

One of the most significant headlining features for FH5 is its "MMO-like" online connected world, Horizon Life, which promises to connect every Forza Horizon player and populate their worlds with a fluctuating list of fellow players. This approach aims to make it easier and more seamless to connect with players for meetups, Head-to-Head Races, Horizon Arcade Events, and to invite players to participate in races and other events. In practice, Horizon Life is empty, populated primarily by inactive players, or does little to add to the overall experience.

One of the most obvious areas in Horizon Life desperate for fixes is Horizon Arcade, which is comprised of numerous mini-games covering various categories. Horizon Arcade Events can be a lot of fun, but it's very infrequent that you end up playing with any other players. Playground Games has changed Horizon Arcade to make it easier to play by yourself, but little has improved about actually finding other players with whom to enjoy the intriguing game mode.

Horizon Life doesn't feel like a living place filled with other players.

Horizon Life needs considerable improvements to make it actually seamless and reliable, and make it easier to connect with other players. Growing pains is understandable for such a major shift from a studio unfamiliar with how to build a fully featured MMO-like game, but Forza Horizon 5's world currently doesn't feel like a living place filled with other players — it feels like you're alone with a handful of AI and the occasional stationary player.

Forza Horizon 5 also lacks viable "private" worlds for playing with groups of friends. Convoys are still filled with bugs with frequent disconnects, glitches, and issues moving from event to event while remaining in a group, despite a plethora of improvements made to the experience since launch. Even when you leave Horizon Life to explore Forza Horizon 5's other online modes, you're met with frequent long loading times, a general lack of game options and control, and more.

I've had a handful of experiences and interactions that show the potential of FH5's multiplayer approach, and I want to see it improve. Horizon Life needs to ensure your world is always full, and the connected players are dynamic depending on where you are and what you're doing (where your waypoint is, what Accolade you have pinned, et cetera). Casual interactions need to be made easier with Forza LINK (which is a great start but still isn't quite good enough) and other methods of communication. Elsewhere, players need shorter wait times, more control over what they play and how they play it, and an increased focus on the quality of content from both Playground Games and the community.

Forza Horizon 5 is rough around the edges when it comes to its multiplayer, one of its core game design pillars. There's clearly a lot of potential and great ideas here, but it lacks polish and isn't always a reliable source of fun. Playground Games has already made moves to improve this, and I hope that focus continues throughout Forza Horizon 5's (hopefully) long life span.

2. Festival Playlist & challenges

Forza Horizon 5 Screenshot

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The Forza Horizon 5 Festival Playlist injects fresh content into FH5 perpetually, and gives players plenty of incentive to return time and time again to the game. So far, the Festival Playlist has been a bit of a mixed bag in Forza Horizon 5, with several areas that could use change moving forward.

The Forza Horizon 5 Festival Playlist can benefit immensely from increases in variety, quality, and reliability. Give FH5 players greater variety with more ambitious themes and limited-time events, unique races and challenges, and more; improved quality across these additions with increased content depth, greater tie-ins to the general game, and beyond; and better reliability by ensuring every challenge and event works as intended, doesn't prevent progression, and is fair to participating players.

The Festival Playlist needs better variety, quality, and reliability.

At the moment, Festival Playlist Series look pretty similar from week to week, with the same general format being largely repeated with each successive Series. I'd like to see Playground Games continue to experiment with unique content like remixed Showcases, new Horizon Stories, interesting races and events, the use of brilliant community-created EventLab content, and anything else the team can think up. There's a lot of potential for variety within what already exists in Forza Horizon 5, and the possibilities with brand-new content are limitless.

The foundational purpose of the Festival Playlist is to bring additional content to Forza Horizon 5, and Playground Games has been mostly successful at doing so. Still, the new content that we've received has been rather forgettable in many cases, and it blends together quickly. While aforementioned improvements to variety can rectify a lot of these concerns, the quality of added content is also essential.

Added content should feel like more than surface-level decorations and clever names for the same challenges we've seen before, with actual depth that plays to the overarching theme of the Festival Playlist. Even when a Festival Playlist Series has ended and we've all moved on to the next Series, we should still be able to feel the effects beyond a handful of new cars or earned Accolades.

Both variety and quality have already improved immeasurably with the Series 4 and 5 updates (the former bringing the racing-focused Horizon World Cup, and the latter bringing brand-new PR Stunts and world changes). I hope this trend continues moving forward, with the Festival Playlist acting as the portal through which Playground Games can introduce ambitious and expansive alterations to the Forza Horizon 5 map and gameplay.

Forza Horizon 5 Screenshot

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

We should be able to feel the effects of each Series even after it's ended.

Finally, the reliability of challenges in the FH5 Festival Playlist has been a major source of complaints from the community, and for good reasons. The first three Festival Playlist Series were plagued with a plethora of bugs actively preventing players from completing them or earning specific rewards, and the problem has not entirely dissipated with the admittedly improved and considerably more consistent Series 4 and Series 5 updates.

Forza Horizon 5 Festival Playlist challenges can occasionally be on the difficult side of things. Still, all too often we have to scour the internet, poke and prod at the game, and attempt numerous futile workarounds to get challenges to simply work, especially with Treasure Hunts, Weekly Challenges, and more.

When a feature in a game fails to function as intended, it feels as if my time and effort as a player haven't been respected. I know a lot of work goes into testing new updates and features for any game, including Forza Horizon 5, but these issues occur a little too frequently to believe additional measures can't be taken against them.

This goes beyond actual bugs, as well, and extends to game design. I believe that challenges and objectives in a video game should never entirely rely on either random chance or the skills of strangers and team members, a point of contention that also includes Halo Infinite's controversial challenges system.

If players are tasked with a challenge, their skills should heavily affect the likelihood of success, and they should be able to complete the challenge within a reasonable amount of time. Spending three hours on a single Daily Challenge (requiring me to complete a specific Horizon Arcade Event Theme, which prevented me from doing anything else for fear of missing my chance) to 100% complete the Festival Playlist Series was absolutely not enjoyable. Recent Festival Playlist Series have been a step in the right direction; keep walking that path, Forza Horizon 5.

3. Story & progression

Forza Horizon 5 Screenshot

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Forza Horizon 5 aimed to one-up its predecessor with both player progression and story content, and in both cases it succeeded. Accolades ensure players are rewarded for every moment of their gameplay and have long-term goals to work toward, while Horizon Adventure gives players a roadmap to explore the Horizon Mexico Festival alongside voiced characters, in-game cinematics, and more. Horizon Stories also make a return, but are expanded and more diverse than in FH4.

Despite these improvements, part of me still expected (and continues to desire) more. Many Accolades have proven to be bugged and unreliable, but even with those issues resolved, I'd still be looking for the missing piece to Forza Horizon 5's player progression. Newer Festival Playlist Series have begun adding new Accolades as part of the "Evolving World" category, which is awesome to see, so what's next?

I'd like to see more Accolade additions not necessarily tied to a specific Festival Playlist Series window, repeatable Accolades to encourage players to increase their standings in the Hall of Fame leaderboard and provide lasting incentive to continue playing older content, and rewards for achieving Accolades milestones beyond the Horizon Adventure. I'd also love to see more of a use for the social Kudos currency, which is accrued as a reward for being a valuable member of the FH5 community.

Forza Horizon 5's player progression is still missing something.

When it comes to story content, I feel that Forza Horizon 5 is a little hit and miss. A racing game is never expected to be narrative-heavy, but I'd like Horizon Stories that tell grander stories and take greater advantage of FH5's brilliant foundations and gorgeous world. I want to learn more about Forza Horizon 5's cast of charismatic characters, and I want to hear more unique voice lines and narratives while I explore, progress through the game, and enjoy everything FH5 has to offer. This game gets so much right, but it doesn't quite scratch that narrative itch for me.

With much of this, Forza Horizon 5's Festival Playlist provides a great avenue through which Playground Games can implement these improvements and add new content to Forza Horizon 5. Future DLC expansions, of which two are planned for this epic racing title, can also bring fresh story and narrative content, as well as new progression systems and gameplay mechanics. Forza Horizon 5 possesses the most capable foundation of any Forza Horizon title that came before it, and I want to see Playground Games continue to take advantage of it.

4. Car list & models

Forza Horizon 5 Screenshot

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Of course, one of the most important parts of any racing game is its selection of cars. The Forza Horizon 5 car list is comprised of nearly 600 unique cars, a sizeable roster that gives players endless choice when choosing what to drive. While the FH5 car list is impressive enough, it's also the target of the most vocal concerns and complaints I observe in the Forza Horizon community, and it's an area Playground Games shouldn't overlook.

When it comes to existing cars, many of Forza Horizon 5's models are reused from older games. While this isn't a problem much of the time (it takes a long time to port a car into a racing game, and it's not reasonable to redo them for every new title), it does mean that many cars in FH5 are noticeably lower quality than newer entries. It'd be great to see Playground Games revisit older cars that could use a facelift for FH5 and future titles and rescan them, and let players benefit from the improvements right now.

Some car models in Forza Horizon 5 are also flawed. Some cars have incorrect dimensions or parts, have minor flaws in the body or colors, or even use the incorrect engine "image" when driving in free roam. Playground Games fixes these issues when it can, but some problems may require the car to be rescanned or completely replaced. I understand you have to pick your battles, and imperfect car models often fall under "too much effort, not enough reward." Still, there are clearly a lot of ways Playground Games can polish the expansive Forza Horizon catalog of cars.

There are clearly a lot of ways Playground Games can polish the FH5 car catalog.

Brand-new and upcoming additions to Forza Horizon 5's car collection also attract some ire from FH5 players. Despite the game being in development for a full year longer than FH4, the list of "new to Forza" cars debuting in Forza Horizon 5 was depressingly short, and it hasn't changed much since launch. Many of the new cars Playground Games has added to Forza Horizon 5 already existed in its predecessor, and as such have failed to excite players.

The approaching addition of the 2020 Nissan GT-R Nismo (R35) with Series 5 of the Festival Playlist is the first time I've observed a new car addition genuinely eliciting a widely positive and ecstatic response from FH5 players, and it's something I'd like to see more of moving forward. It takes approximately a year from start to finish to add a new car to Forza Horizon 5, so I understand it may take considerable time before we start seeing regular arrivals of exciting car additions. Still, I have faith that Playground Games isn't going to close out Forza Horizon 5's long life with a car list only mildly better than the over 700 boasted of by Forza Horizon 4.

Finally, I'd like to see Playground Games pay more homage to cars that are special to the region of Mexico. While Mexico may not be as known for its car culture as other regions like the U.S., U.K., and Japan, there's still plenty Playground Games can do to help Forza Horizon 5 feel like it's actually set in Mexico. Which cars are extremely popular among gearheads in Mexico? Where are the Mexico-specific car variants and models? I want to learn more about car culture in Mexico, and I want Forza Horizon 5 to teach me.

Side note — My Garage

"My Garage" is where players in Forza Horizon 5 can head to view their entire collection of owned cars, view them in ForzaVista, select which to drive, and more. The feature is already packed with sorting and filtering options to help players find exactly what they're looking for, even when sifting through hundreds of vehicles. Still, I believe My Garage can improve with a handful of small changes I'd love to see.

For one, why is there no sorting option for car rarities? We can already sort by manufacturer, model year, performance index, and even the price. All cars in Forza Horizon 5 also possess a rarity notating how difficult it is to obtain that car. The ability to sort by this would be especially useful for players attempting to take pictures of Legendary cars for a Forza Horizon 5 Achievement. We should be able to sort through Common, Rare, Epic, Legendary, and Forza Edition cars with ease.

I also want the ability to add custom tags to cars beyond just "Favorite" that can then be filtered. Only my absolute favorite and most prized cars should earn the "Favorite" tag. I should be able to tag various cars I customize and upgrade for races and challenges, as well as unique and rare additions to my collection like gift cars and DLC cars, with custom labels. I want to be able to filter these created categories to find exactly for what I'm looking. With nearly 600 cars already included in Forza Horizon 5, and more on the way, more options to customize the organization of My Garage is a great way to improve the quality of life in FH5.

5. Gift Drops

Forza Horizon 5 Xbox Wireless Controller Screenshot

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

One of my favorite features included in Forza Horizon 5's multiplayer suite is the inclusion of Gift Drops, which let players gift their own personal cars to a random player through the game's Barn Find locations. Gift Drops are a wonderful idea to bring the FH5 community closer together, and I greatly enjoy gifting cars to random players.

Unfortunately, I feel Gift Drops are flawed in their current iteration. The vast majority of Gift Drops I receive from players are low-value cars with zero customization or tuning. Even when I do receive a rarer or higher value vehicle, oftentimes I already own it. It can also be frustrating not knowing what cars I've sent and how they were received. For these reasons, there are three changes I'd love to see come to Gift Drops in Forza Horizon 5.

For one, I'd love an incentive to customize and tune a car before gifting it to players (perhaps in the form of Forzathon Points to be used in the in-game Forzathon Shop). I love taking cars I own duplicates of and slapping custom designs and upgrades on them before gifting them to another player, and the one or two times I've received a unique car like this felt great. While it may not wholly offset players simply dumping any duplicate cars they receive into the Gift Drop pool, some form of in-game incentive may encourage players to craft unique vehicles to be used by other players.

Gift Drops are a wonderful idea, but they're currently flawed.

Related to this, I want to be able to see the cars I've gifted to players in the past, both to ensure they've been received properly and to have a visual representation of the work I've put into gifting unique and interesting cars. I confess, this request is a little selfish; it feels good to look back upon something "nice" you did for other people, and I believe having a "Gift Drop collection" to peruse may further encourage players to put additional effort into their Gift Drops before sending them.

At the moment, you have no way of knowing which car a "thank you" response from a player is referring to, as the included message doesn't feature any information on the car. A Gift Drop collection could let you attach a car to those "thank you" messages. This would especially be useful if you're in the habit of sending multiple Gift Drops in quick succession (as I am).

Finally, I'd like the chance of receiving a car you already own through Gift Drops to be greatly reduced (especially if the car is stock or untouched). Whenever I receive something like a Forza Edition car, for example, I often immediately re-gift it, as I already own it. Other duplicate high-value and rare cars may sit in my garage until I feel like customizing them also to be re-gifted. If a Gift Drop is stock and doesn't have any unique upgrades or design, and I already own it, send it to someone who doesn't have that car in their collection!

The work never stops

It's nigh impossible to argue that Forza Horizon 5 isn't one of the best Xbox racing games — and one of the top racing games in general — but that doesn't mean Playground Games achieved perfection with its latest hit. Aside from the bugs and glitches that Playground Games is continually working to fix, Forza Horizon 5 still sits within an endless expanse of potential in which it can grow.

Playground Games' accomplishment with building Forza Horizon 5 cannot be overstated, and countless talented individuals actively contributed to its creation. While the game, in some ways, struggled to build up momentum after launch, I have faith that the team behind it will continue to collect feedback from the passionate FH5 community and work to improve everything they can. From the online multiplayer to the list of cars, the work never stops to make Forza Horizon 5 even better than it already is.

Zachary Boddy
Staff Writer

Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.