Forza Horizon 5 shows off its stunning take on Mexico

Forza Horizon has no chill. Just look at any of the series' opening sequences: big, bombastic showcases that highlight the world of each game's settings in extravagant, celebratory detail. This trend continues in Forza Horizon 5, as Microsoft just demonstrated during Gamescom's Xbox Stream.

We open in a 2021 Ford Bronco Badlands, airdropping down onto the peaks of the La Gran Caldera volcano. The car speeds down from the side of the mountain, down to the Baja Desert where it jumps into an in-progress off-road circuit race.

And then we're back in the plane, this time 2020 Corvette Stingray, dropping down into the Mexican farmland as a dust storm rolls in. Weather events like dust storms can happen during races or other prescribed events, but will also happen dynamically as you explore the open world.

It's an exciting shift after Forza Horizon 4's more muted landscape—a land of rural peaks and country villages made more interesting through its shifts in seasons. Mexico, in contrast, captures some of the variety of the series at its best. "This is our largest and most diverse world," said creative director Mike Brown during a press briefing last week. "We're really happy with both those things, and they were absolutely goals we set ourselves to achieve at the start of this project. But the diversity does bring challenges, because we have 11 separate biomes that all have to fit together into a map that makes sense, that feels cohesive."

After entering the dust storm, the action snaps back to the plane for the next drop: a Porsche 911 "Desert Flyer", which lands in the jungle. "Seasons work a little bit differently in Mexico to how they worked in Britain," says Brown in the press briefing, "but they are still weekly seasons that change each week and the world changes with them." In winter, for instance, snow will only appear at high elevation such as up La Gran Caldera. Elsewhere, riverbeds will dry up in the dry season, and fill up again in the wet season. The jungle on show is plenty wet, with large puddles, mud and plenty of flamingos to tackle.

The action cuts back to the plane for the final drop, this time a Mercedes-AMG One onto the coastal roads of Baja California, as the player races the plane to the festival site itself.

It's a typically flashy finish to the opening of the game, and one that suggests another confident entry in the series. The fundamentals of Forza Horizon have always been solid, and the showcase has me eager to explore the game proper. It remains to be seen what work Playground has done on the moment-to-moment experience—particularly the live-service elements that felt in their infancy in Forza Horizon 4. In terms of the setting, though, I can't wait to explore more.

Forza Horizon 5 is out November 5.

Phil Savage

Phil has been writing for PC Gamer for nearly a decade, starting out as a freelance writer covering everything from free games to MMOs. He eventually joined full-time as a news writer, before moving to the magazine to review immersive sims, RPGs and Hitman games. Now he leads PC Gamer's UK team, but still sometimes finds the time to write about his ongoing obsessions with Destiny 2, GTA Online and Apex Legends. When he's not levelling up battle passes, he's checking out the latest tactics game or dipping back into Guild Wars 2. He's largely responsible for the whole Tub Geralt thing, but still isn't sorry.