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New Forza Horizon 5 screens showcase 11 biomes on a huge map

Mexico’s open world ranges from the Sonoran desert to the Yucatan coast

A large Catholic church with twin spires in the background; a fountain and city square in the foreground Image: Playground Games/Xbox Game Studios

Forza Horizon 5 developer Playground Games is promising the largest map to date in the 9-year-old open-world racing series. That gives Playground room to render 11 different biomes, which the game’s designers detailed on Xbox Wire on Monday afternoon.

The locations range from the streets of Guanajuato City (a city of about 200,000 in central Mexico) to a cactus desert filled with the tall saguaros for which the northwest state of Sonora is well known. “Each of the 11 unique biomes will transition through the seasons differently,” Xbox Wire said, referencing the changing-seasons feature introduced in 2018’s Forza Horizon 4, set in the United Kingdom.

“If we wanted to be the biggest, then we felt we also needed to offer the most diversity and contrast as well,” Mike Brown, Forza Horizon 5’s creative director, told Xbox Wire. Don Arceta, the game’s art director, said Playground developers have visited the source locations and are using photogrammetry to create terrain and landmarks that are appropriately sized and spaced apart.

“The goal of the artistic process is to make it feel like you’re really there,” Arceta said.

The 11 biomes are:

  • Canyon: This was seen the most during Forza Horizon 5’s announcement trailer during E3 back in June.
  • Tropical coast: This area is akin to the resort areas along the Yucatan peninsula. Storms will be particularly strong here when the season turns wet, Playground says.
  • Rocky coast: This area more resembles the Pacific coast of Mexico. It also includes a golf course for players to tear up, a Forza Horizon tradition going back to the first game, in 2012.
  • Farmland: The rural spaces in Forza Horizon 5 will feature “plenty of fences to smash through and picturesque homesteads to explore while you’re cruising through here.”
  • Arid hills: Changing seasons in this biome will include a lake that dries up during the winter, which opens up shortcuts and secret areas.
  • Jungle: This biome will showcase all the god rays you can handle, plus it includes several hidden indigenous temples, “all of which are based on real locations in Mexico.”
  • Sand desert: Wide open and devoid of vegetation, this is perfect for dune buggies and shooting films code-named Blue Harvest.
  • Living desert: Unlike the sand desert, here’s where you find the cacti and other flora.
  • Volcano: As this is a stratovolcano, Forza Horizon 5 drivers can summit it for huge, long-distance views of the game’s map, as well as the only snow to be found in the game.
  • Swamp: Playground says players can bash new shortcuts and holes in the race course, provided their vehicle is structurally strong enough.
  • Guanajuato: The game’s urban location “features a lot of rolling hills and tunnels, making for some really fun race routes,” Playground says.

Forza Horizon 5 launches Nov. 9, 2021 for Windows PC via Steam and the Microsoft Store, Xbox One and Xbox Series X. The game will also launch the same day to Xbox Game Pass for both consoles and PC.

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