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Forza Horizon 5’s amazing first 10 minutes show why it’s a huge hit

Xbox Game Studios’ biggest launch game wastes absolutely no time

Two cars drift in Forza Horizon 5 Image: Playground Games/Xbox Game Studios

I don’t normally care about cars. But then I’m whipping down a desert highway in the middle of a sandstorm guided by magical glowing arrows into the warm embrace of Hermes himself. Suddenly, I care a lot about cars.

Such is the power of Forza Horizon 5’s intro. Like a street performer doing something so wild you can’t help but stop, stare, and drool, the first 10 minutes of Playground Games’ open-world racing title require your attention. It’s not enough that the intro drops you out of a plane and onto the smoldering slopes of an active volcano. It drops you four times, in four different cars, into four vastly different Mexican biomes, all while the soundtrack thumps and bumps and barely lets up long enough for you to catch your breath before the next sequence begins.

The raw euphoria it conveys is so impressive that it’s easy to miss how fantastic of a tutorial it all is. In the same time it takes other games to wax poetic about Ayn Rand, or convince Vaas to stop talking, Forza Horizon 5 has already shown you:

  1. A wide swath of the game’s gorgeous landscapes
  2. The season cycle
  3. The vast mechanical gaps between different cars
  4. How the Glowing Line of God works
  5. The flexibility of the Rewind feature
  6. Environmental effects (dust storm visibility, rain-slicked roads, etc.)
  7. The benefits of each camera perspective
  8. The addictive nature of speed
A car drives through the rain in Forza Horizon 5

What’s more, it does all of this without actually saying all that much. There’s a button prompt for the Rewind ability (possibly because I had smashed into a palm tree after my eyes rolled back into my head), and it tells you how to change your perspective (the first-person cameras are not welcome in my household), but by and large, Forza Horizon 5 understands that you’re mainly just here to haul ass. For a solid eight out of 10 minutes, my pedal was smooching the floor. By the time I crossed the finish line and stumbled, dazed, into the meat of the game, with its cavalcade of activities, checklists, and challenges, I was hooked. Nay, I was obsessed. I needed more cars with which to see more of this world as soon as possible.

One day after Forza Horizon 5’s official release, Xbox boss Phil Spencer announced that more than 4.5 million players had already played the game across Windows PC, Xbox consoles, and cloud gaming. It was also the largest launch day for an Xbox Game Studios title, and reached three times the number of peak concurrent players as Forza Horizon 4’s launch.

That last figure doesn’t surprise me. Forza Horizon 5 launched on Xbox Game Pass, after all, a service with 18 million subscribers as of January, and a reported 23 million in April. It’s hard to imagine any of those players booting up, downloading this game, and not sticking around to see those first 10 minutes through to the end. It’s also not hard to imagine them being hooked like I was, and drawn into the absolute waterfall of cars to unlock.

I’m speculating wildly here, but it feels as if Playground Games designed this intro specifically for Game Pass subscribers — a player base that would be coming across Forza Horizon 5 much like we used to come across rental games at the supermarket. The intro is ecstatic and momentous, its energy contagious. And as soon as it’s over, Playground Games beckons to the rest of its sweeping landscape, replete with tropical storms, Aztec ruins, and shiny cars, all but daring you to go play another game.

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