Some of you get to start playing Forza Horizon 5, a big, beautiful Xbox racing game, today. Like most big, beautiful games, there’s an impressive suite of options spread across a ton of submenus. Tweaking a handful of them makes the game more enjoyable from the jump. Just try to stifle your incredulity that there’s motion blur on the menus. (Hey, gotta go fast everywhere!)
It merits screaming from the mountaintops, or the peak of that volcano in the center of the game map: Forza Horizon 5 is quite possibly the prettiest console game out right now. On the other hand, it also has a cluttered heads-up display. Under the HUD and Gameplay submenu, there are three items you could live without:
- Skills. There’s a skill-point system in Forza Horizon 5, which allows you to slowly unlock negligible improvements for your vehicles. But the math doesn’t make much sense, your score shows up smack in the center of the screen, and you’ll still earn the points even if you don’t see the pop-ups. (Obviously turn it back on during the scant few objectives that are explicitly about accruing skill points.)
- Anna. Forza Horizon 5 features an in-game AI assistant called Anna, who’s meant to be kind of like a GPS Siri. I’ve played several dozen hours and not once found a use for Anna. Any info you can get, you can get just as easily, and with more freedom of choice, from the map.
- Forza Link. This Silicon Valley-named multiplayer feature allows you to use the D-pad to communicate rudimentary phrases to your fellow players: lines like “Good game!,” “See you at the finish line!,” or my most-used one, “Oh no!” If you’re planning on going solo, you don’t need it. And if you’re linking up in a convoy, you should probably just use a mic anyway.
You could also turn off notifications—which display notifications every time you earn XP or discover a new road—if you really want a pristine screen. Personally, I kept them on, since you earn a prize with every level-up, and I, a bundle of impatience coiled in the shape of a human, liked to know those prizes were incoming.
Forza Horizon 5 doesn’t violate this cardinal sin of game designer as flagrantly as other major games. (I’d look directly at 2019’s The Outer Worlds...were I able to read its default subtitles.) But it’s not great. By default, the subtitles are set at size 18. Somewhere between 20 and 23—a change you can make in the Accessibility submenu—worked best for me. For reference, I’ve been playing the game on 43- and 50-inch televisions.
The trademark feature of Forza Horizon is the driving line, a navigational overlay that shows you exactly where you need to drive to optimize your route. It shows up in color-coded terms dictating how fast you need to go, too, with blue meaning fast, yellow meaning slow, and red essentially meaning you need to stop on a dime. This feature is on by default.
Look. It’s Forza. If you’re not slowing down, you’re going as fast as possible. Having a blue line on the road is simply redundant. In the Difficulty submenu, you can set the driving line to only show up when you need to brake, so it’s helpful when needed without needlessly cluttering your screen.
Like so many next-gen console games these days, Forza Horizon 5 features the option to switch between two graphical presets: quality and performance. On Xbox Series X, the first shows crisp 4K graphics for a framerate locked at a steady 30 fps; the second kicks things up to 60 fps but at an expense to fidelity. Dealer’s choice, of course. But again, this is possibly the prettiest game on Xbox right now. Is that framerate boost really worth the hit to fidelity?
Progress in Forza Horizon 5 is based on risk-reward return. Ramp up the challenge, and you’ll earn more credits—in-game currency used to purchase new cars and cosmetics. There’s an impressive array of difficulty tweaks beyond standard easy-medium-hard scale, from different transmissions and steering modes to various forms of brakes. (All of these are in the Difficulty submenu.) I’ve found that disabling stability control is the easiest way to earn a 10-percent credit bonus.
Stability control, in short, tempers any potential burnouts on sharp corners. But if you’re driving a good car, and you understand how it works and feels, you’ll be able to take corners just fine. And for those moments you mess up? Hey, you always have the rewind button.