There are effectively two types of racing game: those which accelerate physics and reality into pole position and those which shed such inhibitions and allow you to roam free, putting fun firmly at the top of the agenda.
Forza Horizon 2 is a gorgeous example of the latter, not only highlighting the powerful engine that is the Xbox One but letting you take to the open road and enjoy the incredible spectacle which unfolds.
As the name suggests, this is a sequel. The first game was set in Colorado; the second puts you on the winding roads of the Mediterranean coast, upping the ante to a degree since you're just as mindful of minimising damage to the beautiful, historic buildings which push up close the roadside as you are the metalwork of your car.
Ripping through dense grass and spinning through lengthy tunnels is par for the myriad courses here and it soon becomes clear that developer Playground Games has, indeed, created a playground, as corny as that sounds.
The cars handle well, as you would expect from the Forza series and they don't restrict you. If you touch the edges of the road or if you career through shrubbery, you can – depending on the difficultly setting you choose – still be in sight of the leading pack.
It allows for a bit of cheating – a cut corner here or there – although the cars can become a little more difficult to control when you're not on the track. That, however, is to be expected. The cars remain tunable and tight.
Best of all, Forza Horizon 2 seems to have learned to tone things down a little from the first game. There is still a feeling that you're in the company of annoying, smug rich kids with far too much time and money on their hands but it's less in-your-face this time round.
Instead, there is a greater sense of freedom and the belief that you should be able to choose your tracks and your car and just do what you want. You need to pick up wristbands to get you into various events and to achieve them you must hit targets but, overall, you're free to get on with it.
There are some nice touches. Progress is measured as a percentage and the on-screen graphics are clear. There are the obligatory in-race views (including the cockpit) and a fine multiplayer which includes the ability to form clubs.
Players can compete in cross-country races, take part in Bucket List challenges, race in roughly 170 championships and drive 200 cars. And there is longevity: Microsoft will be updating the game with new content as the months roll by. As an Xbox One exclusive, Forza Horizon 2 is about as essential a game as the console has. Fans of the racing genre will surely take it to their hearts.
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