Playground Games find themselves in an incredibly important position, tasked with developing the rebooted Fable franchise that will be a key exclusive for Microsoft whilst still presiding over the Forza Horizon series. Hidden within the well-documented first-party problems of the last generation for Xbox, the racing series has been a consistent spark of tight racing and unparalleled fun for the racing genre. All the showcase events racing against boats and trains and bikers; all the drifting around narrow city streets combined with long motorways and winding passages to speed through, have combined to make the series a great racing game mechanically and yet a bonkers experience overall.
The titular Horizon festival has travelled the globe across four entries, with Colorado, the French-Italian riviera, Australia and Britain all hosting the music and racing extravaganza. Whilst there are plenty of ways the series could evolve with a new entry, one question to ask is which location could play host next in any potential Forza Horizon 5. So, let’s go on a quick world tour and see where we could head next.
When putting this list together, this was the first location that came to mind. Whilst there may be more idyllic islands to think about or more “out-there” areas of the world to consider, Germany is wonderfully varied and a place that could fit with the series’ recent desire to choose places that mix tight city streets and sharp cornering with stretching rural passages and off-road locations.
This doesn’t just include the sprawling roads of Berlin and its many monuments, but many beautiful and historic cities to draw inspiration from including Munich, Dortmund and other cities with good football teams. Jokes aside, Germany is full of smaller cities with great historical architecture, which should allow Playground to create visually stunning cities in a new Forza Horizon – a great example being the Hanseatic city of Lübeck, an area going as far back as 1143 with magnificent structures, such as the gothic Burgtor gate and more recent Lübeck Hauptbahnhof train station. Additionally, a Forza Horizon in Germany could benefit from more peaceful areas such as the gorgeous Black Forest with its numerous idyllic lakes and waterfalls, which could freeze over if Playground Games continued with the last iteration’s seasons concept.
It’s not just an landlocked experience though. For those who enjoyed the elongated coastal roads of Forza Horizon 2, Northern Germany is packed with beautiful sea-side areas including Warnemünde, the sea-side port of Rostock which could be included for some wonderful coastal driving and beach-drifting. Simply put, for pure historic visual design and excellent racing potential in all these areas, there are few places as great a candidate for a new Forza Horizon entry than Germany.
The other European country on this list has a few key differences to the Germanic states, but also similarly has some great cities to play with. Whether it be Barcelona and the numerous works of Antoni Gaudí for some gorgeous artistic flavouring, or Madrid’s Plaza Mayor to have some more spatially extensive city racing, Spain is packed with great metropolitan areas for street racing. In-game of course – we aren’t advocating you go illegally tearing round corners near the Santiago Bernabéu for your first post-COVID holiday.
Of course, Spain is home to numerous beach resorts and coastal roads with crystal clear waters to have plenty of scenic driving. The neighbouring archipelago could be excellent locales for potential DLC, as seen with the series’ penchant for island-based expansions – Consider FH2’s Storm Island and FH4’s Fortune Island content.
Whilst the area may not strike you as particularly enticing given its reputation for sunny skies and sweltering heat, it could see a return to more classic racing within an open environment where the variation of roads is the key factor in visual flavour, more akin to Forza Horizon 3’s design, where stretching highways are heavily mixed with dirt sideroads and its excellent airport area. Spain would certainly have a more lived-in feel as an environment, but that wouldn’t be a bad thing at all for the series if they wanted to go back to the basics.
It amazes me that we are four entries in and we haven’t even glimpsed a look at a Horizon festival in Denmark, Norway or Sweden. Whilst it’s a bit unfair to group these three distinct countries into one nebulous group, it wouldn’t be unprecedented, given Forza Horizon 2 decided to combine France and Italy. If this was the design direction the team wanted to go with, these three Scandinavian areas would provide a great setting.
For one, the location is famed for some incredible and unique roads for scenic driving. Due to the area’s expansive lakes and fjords, wonderful routes such as the Atlantic Ocean Road in Norway, the massive Øresund bridge connecting Copenhagen to Oslo, or Denmark’s Blåvand coastline, the area could provide a wonderful chilled contrast to the noise and spectacle of the Horizon festival.
On top of that, Denmark could play host to some excellent crowded dirt racing via the Silkeborg Forests – a gorgeous serene woodland comprising 224km2 of Denmark’s landmass. Yet, that is somehow a mere selection of the forestry that occupies Scandinavia, with Sweden’s well-documented woods also worth a look-in.
A more collective choice, but given Playground Games are partial to amalgamations of numerous planes, another solid candidate.
Getting out of Europe, we head to the North, the land of syrup, the origins of Tim Horton, and home to the coldest Horizon festival.
A bit hyperbolic of course, but looking at Canada as another alternative location for the series could provide a fun mix of snowy, mountainous terrain and, as with Scandinavia, a helpful offering of woodland… hopefully with less grizzly bears. Regardless, Canada’s pine and spruce forests are rife with potential for wonderful off-road buggying amongst the log cabins, unsurprising given Canada is the third-most forested country in the world by area.
Additionally, whilst the beaches of Spain might go amiss for some in this setting, the British Columbia coast could provide a new perspective for the series on the coastal regions Forza Horizon has done up to this point. The coastlines in the series love to be built as paradises; bright visual spectacles coloured with yellows and blues. But the Canadian coastlines are home to huge numbers of fisheries, allowing for the presentation of a more workmanlike and muted but more intricately designed coast. Imagine, instead of the beach huts and endless grains of sands, a slightly darker but more gruff coast with fishing boats and harbours aplenty.
Potentially less scope for flavoured visual variation in the city, but the potential calmness of the region could be a real treat.
So those are the four main candidates that could be an excellent next step in the acclaimed franchise. What do you think about these? Where else could be a great location to take the Forza Horizon festival? Let us know what you think in the comments.