Oct 23, 2015

Forza Horizon 2: Storm Island Review

Lights Off
5 Incredible
Retails for: $19.99
We Recommend: $15.99
  • Developer: Playground Games
  • Publisher: Microsoft Studios
  • Genre: Racing & Flying
  • Released: Dec 16, 2014
  • Platform: Xbox One
  • Reviewed: Xbox One

Forza Horizon 2 took the Horizon festival to Europe and allowed you to drive all over the countryside and coastlines in great fashion with mostly sunny skies. Storm Island takes you to a Greek isle in design and location, but is non-descript otherwise. This expansion continues the festival among some terrific looking and behaving weather that does impact your driving and visibility, making me wish there was more to see and do on Storm Island.

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Storm Island focuses heavily in the open landscape that the mainland of Forza Horizon 2 offered, with more offroad-centric play. This island only has one main city, and the rest is wilderness. The whole expansion feels fresh, being on a new island, but Storm Island lacks the personality of the main game. None of the races feel important, and it is disappointing that the finale race has an underwhelming finish as it is a 2-lap circuit race, whereas a sprint would make it feel you’ve got one chance to win it all.

Storm Island introduces a lot of new race types, which are just variations on existing races you’ve played before, and don’t really offer much in the way of anything more robust than the mainland’s. These race types are called Brawl, Rampage, Extreme Cross Country, and Gauntlet but are just sprints and circuit races that get you a lot of air and net you a lot of skill points. Storm Island also has a unique Barn Find, in that it doesn’t tell you where it can be found, and there’s only one of them. There’s also new Bucket List challenges to compete and complete.

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While recommended and not wholly required, there’s three “Storm Island” specific upgrades for all cars before entering a race for the first time. These upgrades require a manual update on each car before using it in a race. It’s a bit monotonous as you switch cars regularly. And if you bring these cars back to the mainland, you’ll have to take them off as they will make the car slower. It would be great if there was a “Storm Island” auto upgrade you could purchase or unequip, but there isn’t.

Storm Island is a much more linear, focused experience than the road trip mindset of Forza Horizon 2. It’s much more preferred here as I can see all of the championships and I can work through the ladder much more efficiently. It’s weird that some of the championships have you taking normal cars in races where the path of the race goes offroad often, but that’s where the upgrades come in. With 24 championships to run through with a showcase style event at the end, such as Extreme Offroad and Volcano Sprint, they are the most extreme in terms of weather and scenarios. With Volcano Sprint, was expecting to drive to the volcano you see off in the distance and well, that never happens. The extremity of Storm Island doesn’t go as far as you’d want it to.

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With a name like Storm Island, this expansion for Forza Horizon 2 has a lot to live up to. And for the most part, it succeeds. In the open-world, just cruising around you’ll find a day-night cycle with some weather sprinkled in. During the races is where you’ll see the most variety and extreme cases. When the fog rolls in, it reduces visibility as you’d expect, making you keep a close eye on the minimap and what’s ahead of you more than usual. During the storms, the trees bend in the strong wind and the rain hits your car hard. The most terrifying thing is to race in a forest in the dead of night with a torrential downpour happening. Storm Island introduces a much better weather system that’s confined to the island, but the game looks amazing at every turn.

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Storm Island is simply more Forza Horizon 2 at a new location, and that’s certainly not a bad thing. The new race types are more of the familiar than something entirely new, and the additional bucket list challenges and new barn find give more than enough reason to revisit Forza Horizon 2. The cost of this expansion is right with what you’re getting in terms of a sizable landmass, and the “new” race types are just differently packaged races we’ve seen before, but the weather systems and low visibility racing Storm Island real exciting to play in. The real Greek tragedy of Storm Island is not having more to do there.

An Xbox One code was provided by the publisher for review purposes