Forza Horizon 5 is out in the wild and has brought us a picturesque version of Mexico to play in - but what should it bring us next?
Xbox has been absolutely killing it lately and is closing out 2021 in style - between the wildly successful launch of Forza Horizon 5 and the surprise early release of Halo Infinite's free multiplayer component, Xbox gamers have been absolutely spoiled as Microsoft and its fans have celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Xbox brand.
Gamers that have Xbox Game Pass have been able to enjoy the greatest racing game ever made and will also get to experience Halo Infinite's epic campaign at no extra charge when it releases on December 8th, once again highlighting just how great the service is for gamers of all stripes.
With regular free updates and expansions slated to keep their two flagship franchises rolling through the New Year, Xbox is already set for a big 2022 before even taking into account major new exclusives like Atomic Heart and Starfield, but for fans of Halo and Forza, just what can we expect to see in the coming months?
For Halo Infinite, we already have a pretty good idea of what we'll be seeing in the near future.
Alongside free limited-time events which offer cool new themed armour sets as well as future Battle Passes, we'll be seeing the addition of campaign co-op sometime next year followed by the highly anticipated release of Halo's beloved Forge mode which will enable players to create and share their own fully customized maps and modes in multiplayer.
As for Forza Horizon 5, weekly free updates will add seasonal challenges and events for players to complete to earn rare and new vehicles and will keep the community busy for quite some time, but even with all the content on offer, one can't help but imagine what more Playground has in store for us.
The Car Pass will also grant a wide variety of new vehicles to owners just like in previous Forza titles, but more importantly, two premium expansions will add new areas to explore and race in.
But what will those expansions look like?
Similar to previous Horizon games, Playground and Microsoft have kept details on the expansions quiet and likely will continue to do so until it's time for a proper reveal closer to their launch. Given the quality of previous expansions for earlier Horizon entries, and of course the quality of the game itself, it's safe to assume that wherever the Horizon festival pops up next, it's going to be a good time - but that doesn't stop us from trying to figure out just what those expansions may look like.
So without further ado, here are my top five ideas for expanding the superb Horizon Festival in its fifth iteration.
The first idea is rather simple - create an entire island filled with stuff to run over, smash, and jump off of in monster trucks.
If you've played FH5, you'll likely know that this idea is inspired by one of the Showcase events that has you racing against monster trucks in a dune buggy, and after completing the race, you then get to hop in one of the monstrous machines yourself to knock over huge prop bowling pins and do flips off of oversized ramps because why the hell not.
Given that they've already made one monster truck drivable in the game, it isn't far-fetched to believe their oversized treads could play a part in one of the upcoming expansions, and it would make for plenty of fun especially for multiplayer events.
If they do go this route, hopefully it'll also feature some enhanced destructability - while the environments have plenty of things to smash, Horizon's vehicles have always taken minimal damage, but one would hope you'd be able to crush regular vehicles under your ridiculously sized wheels in a monster truck expansion.
Proper destruction would also make a destruction derby-style mode a tantalizing opportunity and one that would fit right in with their Playground Games multiplayer playlist. Smashing stuff has always been a key tenet at Horizon, so why not let players smash other cars?
They could even add a more contained version of The Eliminator, pitting dozens of players against each other in a large arena with the last car standing taking home bragging rights. Or perhaps a mode where some players get monster trucks and others get regular, but slow, vehicles and have to try and escape being crushed.
Fallout's Apocalyptic Wasteland
With Bethesda having been recently acquired by Microsoft, now seems like the perfect time for a crossover event, and what better way to make an expansion than have it feature something very different and unique from the base game?
The post-apocalyptic world of Fallout isn't exactly known for its vehicles given that it's about the furthest thing from a racing game, but the fully fleshed out universe Bethesda crafted does include plenty of unique and truly inspired vehicle designs, the rusted corpses of which can be found throughout their games.
With their blend of 1950's era chic and futuristic rocket tech, Fallout's vehicles are unlike any seen in the massive Forza roster and deserve consideration for that alone, along with the fact it's one of the most popular brands in gaming.
An expansion inspired by Fallout could take one of two very different routes - either Playground could re-create a few retro-futuristic Fallout towns and their accompanying countrysides in all their glory before they're devastated by nuclear detonations, which would fit more smoothly with the picturesque visuals already in the game, or they could go the apocalyptic route and showcase ravaged and desolate areas like those seen more often when playing the Fallout games.
The idea isn't too far fetched either - after all, it wouldn't be the first time Fallout has been in a Forza game. In Forza Motorsport 6, the Chryslus Rocket 69 found in Fallout 4 was added as a drivable car in a free DLC update, its "Atomic V8" and very unique design offering something completely unlike anything else featured in the realistic racing sim.
Despite never having any drivable vehicles in any of the Fallout games, plenty of modders have made the many cars and trucks seen in the series playable on PC, and it has been a much-requested feature by the community for quite some time now, showing that there's clearly demand for it. What better way to celebrate the weird and wonderful world of Fallout than to have Playground Games transport their rocket-fueled vehicles to the Horizon Festival?
Two-wheeled vehicles haven't been featured in any Forza game (though there have been a few three-wheeled oddities in recent Horizon games, such as the Reliant Supervan III) and the last time a major Xbox racing game had them was way back in 2007 in the excellent Project Gotham Racing 4.
Given the extremely open world of Horizon and certain aspects of that open world (like smashing through things and drifting), motorcycles aren't necessarily an easy fit, but if anyone can make it work without making it feel too ridiculous, it's Playground Games.
Dirt bikes are the more natural fit with the world of Horizon, and have already been featured in a Showcase event (though they are never drivable, unlike the game's monster truck), tearing through the jungle and doing flips over wetlands. Being able to barrel through Horizon's forests or slalom down one of Mexico's winding mountain paths on two wheels would be loads of fun, as would motocross-style arena events, which could feature prominently on the potential expansion's island.
ATV's would also fit the bill and could make an appearance, diversifying Forza's already massive catalog of four-wheeled delights - in addition to real-world vehicles, they could also add Halo's Mongoose to the fray to spice things up.
For proper road racing, speed demons from the likes of Ducati and Kawasaki would be all the rage, though some arcade-style liberty would need to be taken so that the things wouldn't become completely undrivable on some of Horizon's more difficult terrain.
Generally Playground Games' first expansion of the pair is a more "normal" setting and adds some new element to gameplay (typically they've added extensive weather effects, like Storm Island or Blizzard Mountain, but by now they've pretty much already implemented all the weather effects possible in FH5) - adding motorcycles to the Forza world for the first time would certainly fit the bill for the first expansion.
So Cyberpunk 2077 may not have had the most stable or revered launch ever, but there's no doubt that millions of gamers did enjoy CD Project Red's incredibly hyped shooter/RPG (when they got it working) over the last year.
Since the rocky start, the game has been receiving plenty of stability improvements, though the constant delays to the promised DLC and even a proper Xbox Series X/S upgrade has certainly been disappointing for fans - but with many of those promised additions slated to release in 2022, what better way to gain some positive PR and goodwill with fans than a collaboration with the revered Playground Games?
The futuristic neon aesthetic of Night City would certainly add something new to the beautiful world of Forza Horizon, not to mention some of the cool or downright weird-looking contraptions found on the streets of Cyberpunk 2077's rich world.
Cyberpunk 2077 of course already lets players drive their vehicles so unlike say a Fallout crossover, this one wouldn't be gamer wish fulfillment, but as fun as driving around in Night City is, it can't hold a candle to the racing perfection that is Forza Horizon, so getting to race around their beautiful sci-fi world in the crazy vehicles the game offers would certainly be a great addition to the Forza series.
A crossover isn't entirely out of the blue either given that 2077's cover car, dubbed the Quadra Turbo-R V-TECH, was already featured in Forza Horizon 4 as free DLC, so why not bring over some more of Night City's vibrant vehicles?
Or, if they're going other routes for the expansions, how about at least adding a Cyberpunk 2077 car pack so we can take the Quadra for a spin again?
This is one that's been a dream for quite some time.
Thanks to Forza Horizon 4, we've already had a taste of what this could look like. In perhaps the most unique Showcase event to date, players got to race a civilian version of Halo's iconic Warthog down a stretch of the game's Australia as a Pelican is pursued by Banshees in the sky above, other Halo props like shield generators lining the race's route as Cortana's familiar voice issued instructions and relayed background info amidst the chaos.
It was an awesome experience and one that I thought was a teaser for what was to come - a full Halo expansion. Unfortunately, that has yet to happen, but what better time than now?
With Halo Infinite already setting the gaming world on fire and poised to keep players busy throughout the next year with free content, a crossover event couldn't happen at a better time.
Recreating the streets of New Mombasa, or perhaps the more open and sprawling nature of a Halo ring would make the perfect setting for a racing game, and of course we already have the iconic Warthog available (it's been in the last three Horizon games).
Though Halo's vehicles have primarily been focused on weaponry for obvious reasons, we have seen a variety of different vehicles used as set dressing over the years that could be recreated here, alongside of course different variants of the Warthog, and perhaps we could even see a collaboration between Playground and 343 to create new civilian vehicles that fit into Halo's universe as well.
We already have proof that a crossover event between the two Xbox franchises can be tons of fun, so why not return to the world of Halo now that it's back at the top of gaming?