Forza Horizon 2, Fable Legends, Sunset Overdrive, Scalebound, Fantasia: Music Evolved, Phantom Dust, Crackdown, Killer Instinct: Season 2, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Ori And The Blind Forest
The showpiece of Microsoft’s conference was Forza Horizon 2, its physically rendered surfaces splashed with water, reflecting light cast through a simulated atmosphere that makes its European setting not only uncannily realistic but beautifully otherworldly. While Forza Motorsport pathologically replicates reality, Horizon takes reality as far as it’s fun and then goes wild. Forza 5’ s physics model underpins the handling, but don’t let that stop you taking a Lamborghini offroad through a vineyard or deep into a forest. It defies mechanics but embraces sheer enjoyment, and Horizon’s open world is truly open for the first time, placing no artificial barriers between your car and an off-road scramble.
While Forza 5 lost tracks and features to make Xbox One’s launch, Horizon 2 is bigger than its 2012 precursor in every way, with a dynamic weather system complementing the day/night cycle, physically rendered surfaces that will ‘absorb’ water according to their porousness, and the full tuning system that developer Playground was forced to cut from Horizon.
Playground has also finally come to terms with calling the game’s style system ‘Kudos’, if only informally. Horizon’s take on Project Gotham’s Kudos points has grown to offer perks for stylish driving, conferring metagame rewards such as increased cash for selling liveries and tuning setups rather than in-game cheats. In between dropping the word ‘kudos’, creative director Ralph Fulton speaks highly of Motorsport 5’ s Drivatar system, too – “the benchmark by which all racing game AI will be measured” – and seems to recognise the impact of his simple promise that Horizon 2 will have none of the microtransaction systems players hated in Forza 5.
Friends’ Drivatars will populate the world to be challenged and raced, or followed to secrets their owner has discovered in their own game. One button press will take your game online, seamlessly synchronising your time of day and weather with a friend’s game and spawning you in their world without a loading time or even a pause.
While others continue to struggle to make the Xbox One hardware sing, the Leamington Spa-based Playground has managed 1080p at a rock-solid 30fps in a sumptuous open world with physically rendered everything and a lighting system that’s second to none. Like Naughty Dog working on PlayStation 3, then, the studio seems to have the magic key that unlocks the console’s potential.
The Lamborghini Huracán (above) makes its videogame debut in
Horizon 2. Microsoft brought the only Huracán in North America to its E3 stand, making it the revolving centrepiece of its Forza Horizon display