Bottom line: Forza Horizon 5 on Android looks and runs spectacularly well considering how graphically demanding the game is. The larger and higher-resolution your phone, the better, as it will help you enjoy the visuals and react more quickly to turns and obstacles. But even an older budget phone can handle it with the right internet access.
- Works seamlessly on basically any Android phone
- Accessibility settings benefit mobile port
- Graphics look excellent on smaller screen
- Input lag isn't very noticeable
- The game itself is incredible, with tons of content
- Frequently registers a "problem with your connection"
- Browser version won't work for everyone
Forza Horizon 5 barely needs any introduction. The open-world racer tightropes between exacting car realism for gear heads, zany arcade-style gameplay for casual fun, and endless side missions and multiplayer content for completionists. Our Windows Central colleagues have already waxed rhapsodic about the game's many virtues in their full Forza Horizon 5 review.
What we're more curious about is how Xbox Cloud Gaming handles this next-gen title. Microsoft promises that players will be able to get Xbox Series X-level performance on Android phones or in web browsers without needing powerful (and expensive) hardware. But it's still in beta, and a gorgeously rendered, blistering-paced game like Forza Horizon 5 wouldp rovide the ultimate test for Microsoft's servers.
Long story short, it's amazing how well Forza performs on even the smallest and weakest of phones. Input lag is noticeable but it's minute and easily adjusted for, and the gameplay still looks incredible on a small screen thanks in part to its accessibility settings. On the flip side, even a high-speed internet plan might struggle to match the game's demands, and performance was bizarrely lackluster on my gaming PC. For whatever reason, its cloud gaming port struggled more on PC and Mac than it did on phones.
Overall, Forza Horizon 5 on Android has some minor compromises to work over the cloud, but they're worth getting used to if you don't own a Series X. The game is perfectly playable on a phone with the right internet plan, router, and controller.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible through a personal Game Pass Ultimate membership owned by the reviewer.
Forza Horizon 5: Gameplay, story, and presentation
|Category||Forza Horizon 5|
|Title||Forza Horizon 5|
|Publisher||Xbox Game Studios|
|Xbox Version||Xbox Series X|
|Play Time||25+ hours|
|Players||Single & multiplayer|
|Xbox Game Pass||Yes|
|Launch date||Nov. 9, 2021|
The Forza Horizon series is a dystopian fantasy in which a mega-corporation, the Horizon "Festival," goes from country to country, taking over large swaths of land and gifting racecar drivers rare cars and millions of dollars to perform insane stunts for mega-rich vacationers. In the latest game, Horizon moves from London to Mexico in its largest land grab yet, claiming ancient ruins and beachfront property while the local populace huddles in their homes, afraid to venture out for fear of being run over.
OK, I took some silly liberties with the "plot" description, but Forza Horizon 5 is all about leaning into the absurdity of the premise. You're a superstar driver who will accumulate hundreds of rare cars in exchange for tearing up the local countryside, and it's a blast — unless you have open-world gaming fatigue.
Forza Horizon 5 airdrops you into different Mexican environments, showing off a much more varied (and expansive) map than you got with Forza Horizon 4's posh countryside. After a few cutscenes and mandatory missions, you're given free reign to do whatever you want, from trying three-star stunt challenges to participating in single-player races or diving into multiplayer mayhem.
Completing any mission will give you accolades for progressing your character, so you can skip circuit races or drifting challenges if you don't like a particular kind of event. Anyone trying to 100% Forza will have at least 100 hours of content here, but you never feel compelled to do everything or punished for ignoring something.
The game has charming NPCs who blather on while you drive to various mission spots, giving threadbare justifications for why you're racing jetskis or driving through a thunderstorm. Unlike in Forza Horizon 4, your character actually talks back, making you feel more like a person, but your story remains simple: do crazy stunts and receive acclaim. There are very few stakes and no problems that can't be solved with the rewind button. It's escapist, thoughtless fun that's pretty much 90% sidequests.
Despite its colossal scope, its gameplay is almost tailor-made for quick bursts of mobile gaming. Hop on your smartphone, quick travel to a race or skill challenge to check off something on the timed Festival Playlist missions, then hop out without worrying about losing progress or momentum.
Visually, you're not getting the full experience by playing Forza Horizon 5 on Android. Playground Games based its giant map on real-world Mexican geography, and you miss out on the little details when the cacti or critters are pixel-sized on a smaller screen. I also found that I got tunnel vision playing it on a phone since seeing upcoming curves and obstacles is harder, so you find yourself squinting to anticipate them and have more trouble appreciating the scenery.
Still, I'm not going to hold that against the game. Barring any performance hiccups related to streaming speeds, Forza Horizon 5 looks absurdly good on a phone, especially if you own a flagship phone with a properly vibrant display, like my Galaxy S20. Also, thanks to Playground Games' accessibility settings, you can boost the text size (designed with 55-inch TVs in mind) so it's a bit more readible on a 6-inch display, or slow down gameplay if you're struggling to react quickly enough.
In terms of controls, any of the best Android game controllers will work for you here, whether you prefer a stand, clip, or another option. As with any Xbox Cloud Gaming game, there is a small, noticeable level of lag between moving your joystick and the car turning. It isn't game-breaking at all, and you'll quickly adjust your inputs to match how the mobile version controls, especially if you cut down on the input lag with a wired controller like the Razer Kishi. But if you're a serious Gamer™ racing real opponents or unbeatable-level AI, you might resent the disadvantage inherent to the cloud version.
I prefer playing on console, especially for longer multiplayer/battle royale activities or for simply enjoying the beautiful landscape. But when my partner is using the TV, Forza Horizon 5 on Xbox Cloud Gaming feels like a worthy, convenient substitute without any significant compromises. Unless, unfortunately, you're streaming the game on PC.
Forza Horizon 5: Xbox Cloud Gaming performance
Any experience with cloud gaming depends on your internet plan and your router. I personally have a 400MB/s plan and 5GHz support, more than enough for minimum Xbox Cloud Gaming requirements. But I don't own a router that lets you prioritize gaming traffic, which may have impacted my experience with Forza Horizon 5 with cloud streaming.
As I previously mentioned, Forza Horizon 5 runs well enough on phones. My internet regularly handles 4K / Dolby Vision streaming with no hiccups, but I frequently saw the "poor connection" icon appear while playing. For whatever reason, it seemed to pop up more during cutscenes or after I rewound time after a crash, which could be coincidence or because those moments require more bandwidth.
Despite the unstable connection, I saw very little impact on actual gameplay. I occasionally saw or heard small stutters, mostly in the first few minutes of playing, but it usually settles down into a smooth experience. You'll also occasionally see some visual artifacts on screen like static or blurring, but these tend to resolve themselves within a second.
You won't need a proper gaming phone to enjoy it, either. I mostly played on my S20 for the larger screen, but Forza Horizon 5 ran just as well on my wimpy Pixel 3a — even if its 5.6-inch display makes the gameplay too small to enjoy. Its old processor would struggle with any demanding Android game, but Forza just works. This is especially because it runs at a max of 60FPS, so you don't need 90Hz or 120Hz displays.
On that note, Forza Horizon 5 has Quality and Performance modes that prioritize graphics at 30FPS or smooth frame rates at 60FPS, respectively. I couldn't tell much of a difference between the two. Certainly in terms of cloud performance, neither ran worse than the other across hours of gameplay. If I had to pick one to recommend, I'd choose Quality: The smaller screen made any dropped frames less noticeable, while the graphics look distinctly better in this mode.
You might assume, as I did, that cloud gaming on a computer would be even better, since it'd make it much easier to see the road ahead. But Forza Horizon 5 on PC (or Mac) is much more hit-and-miss, with an emphasis on miss.
Maybe it's because Microsoft optimizes Xbox Cloud Gaming for mobile, or maybe streaming to a larger display requires more bandwidth than my network can handle. But I found it completely unplayable. It constantly stuttered. My car would freeze in place then zoom forward while using the last controller input it registered, even after my fingers were off the controller, ending in spin-outs and collisions. Audio was annoyingly fractured as well.
If the Pixel 3a can stream Forza Horizon 5, why can't my PC with a GeForce RTX 3060 GPU and 16GB of RAM handle it on the same network?
I pooled my colleagues to try out the game for themselves on their computers, and it was a mixed bag. One said he'd encountered frequent crashes, especially when running other apps like Discord, and that his friend with a RTX 3090 had the same issue. But other colleagues with a RTX 3080 and 2060 found that it ran perfectly well on PC cloud streaming for them. So performance appears to be independent of hardware strength.
We'll have to see if this experience improves over time, or if I'd have to buy a better Wi-Fi router or data plan to take full advantage. Otherwise, I can always install the game on PC. It's on mobile and tablets where Forza Horizon 5 needs to shine, anyways.
Forza Horizon 5: Should you play it?
4.5 out of 5
The promise of cloud gaming was to make next-gen games available so that anyone could run them on whatever phone they own. Xbox Cloud Gaming is still in beta, but considering my 2019 budget Android phone can run Forza Horizon 5 with a passable imitation of its beautiful scenery and smooth gameplay, it's pretty amazing.
Forza Horizon 5 is undoubtedly one of the best Xbox Game Pass games for Android that I've tried, and if you don't own an Xbox Series X but want to try it, I'd say it's worth grabbing Game Pass Ultimate for a month to get access to it on the cloud and try it out for yourself.
Forza Horizon 5
Bottom line: Fresh off your superstar racing appearances in the U.K., your racing avatar heads down to Mexico to collect new cars, defeat your rivals in races and battle royale matches, and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.
Michael spent years freelancing on every tech topic under the sun before settling down on the real exciting stuff: virtual reality, fitness wearables, gaming, and how tech intersects with our world. He's a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves running, D&D, and Star Wars. Find him on Twitter at @Michael_L_Hicks.
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