Review: Forza Horizon 2: Storm Island

The Forza series is known for being DLC-heavy when it comes to cars, but less so when it comes to core game content. Now we get the first story-based DLC in the history of the series as the Horizon festival goes off the mainland of Europe and into the dangerous area nearby known as Storm Island. This off-roaders’ paradise is known for unpredictable weather and revamps the racing roster to be a bit more truck-heavy than Forza Horizon 2. Storm Island grants players a new setting and a new campaign to play through. Like the main game, there’s a lot of championships to win, and after a dozen, you’ll earn a spot in the finale. Winning that theoretically ends things, but nothing’s stopping you from a return visit.

The biggest appeal to current owners of the full game is the new weather system. Storm Island is all about extremes, so you can expect to either have the screen bathed in sunlight or experience the biggest rainstorms seen in gaming to date. Even with a third-person camera view, you’ll be blown away by the sheer amount of rain hitting the roads and your car during a storm. Visibility is reduced to nearly nothing during them, which requires you to rely on more skills than usual during an actual race. You always have the on-screen map, but it’s better to have sharp instincts, and you’ll be using those more than anything else in the heat of battle. There will be times when all you have to see where you’re going are the sparse track lights and headlights, which makes being in first place a unique challenge in its own right since you can’t rely on other cars to guide you along.

Cars and trucks alike are prone to sliding, so don’t be surprised when opponents fishtail around the world. This can be a benefit if it results in them not only taking themselves out, but also others. The key is to make sure it doesn’t hurt you though. Sharp reflexes will win the day there and allow you to emerge victorious if you don’t fall prey to another hazard of the island — makeshift cliffs. There are parts of the world that have seemingly been washed away, so while a race is going on, you can have some giant falls to look forward to. These are thrilling and a fantastic way to boost XP in a hurry. Mulitpliers of eight and above are easy to get, as are initial point totals of over 100,000. If you’re the kind of person who lives for the thrill of gathering kudos in the Project Gotham Racing games, then this will be a huge time sink. Reaching a new personal best is thrilling, and the game’s stat-heavy setup lets you know if you beat an old score and by how much.

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The revamped focus on off-road racing means you have to change your style quite a bit. While racing on tarmac and dirt provide different experiences in the main game, you’ll need to harness even more skills to succeed on courses caked in mud and rain. You have less traction than usual, and being bumped can take you out of the race for a spell. Fortunately, rewinding can save you from any needless frustration. Given the point system though, you’ll want to minimize using it as that will reset your counter. TheĀ  emphasis on off-road racing immediately evokes the Motorstorm series, only with a stricter basis in reality. Tracks aren’t going to wildly vary from lap to lap, so you can feel confident in your ability to improve from lap to lap instead of having to always stay on your toes due to track changes.

The new muddy look to the ground is really impressive. You can see all sorts of detailed texture work up-close, and that is great to see since so many current generation games fall apart when you look at them close up. That kind of issue can crop up here when it comes to shadows and some of the foliage, but by and large, Storm Island is a stunning setting. The extreme lighting and storm effects remind me a lot of when I first saw Grand Theft Auto III on the PS2 and was immersed in just driving around during a storm and immersing myself in the world. Here, you’ve got a large open world to explore and even a barn find to locate. New bucket lists are available, XP and discount boards litter the environment, and going through the campaign will net you a lot of achievements.

Unfortunately, while in-game objectives are plentiful, there isn’t a lot of new content to hear. There is some new voice work with your crew, but there aren’t any new songs even though this setting screams out for really intense metal to get your blood pumping. Luckily, the default soundtrack is still here and it remains one of the best on the market today. The diverse lineup of songs ranges from classic to modern-day dance and dubstep, with some indie-leaning fare like CHVRCHES too. Vehicle-crunching sound effects remain fun to listen to, and you’ll be hearing them more now than before thanks to the increased emphasis on big jumps causing nasty landings and mid-air collisions.

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Closing Comments:

The actual amount of content added with the Storm Island DLC isn’t Earth-shattering, but there are a lot of new events thanks to the new locale and some new vehicles made with this terrain in mind. It does, however, completely change the experience while still keeping things similar enough to enable an easy learning curve. Storm Island isn’t exactly a desirable vacation destination, but it is a blast to play through in Forza Horizon 2. Anyone who has done just about all they wanted to do with the core game should pick this up because it gives you more top-shelf content and throws a new set of challenges into the regular game thanks to the muddy off-road setup.