December 2021 TA Playlist Wrap-Up: Forza Horizon 5

By The TA Playlist Team,
Welcome back to another month of TA Playlist! Our December theme was "Game Pass Games of the Year," with a poll consisting of the most highly-rated games currently on Game Pass, based on the TA Community Rating.

We ended up with four solid contenders, including the likes of It Takes Two, Hades, and Psychonauts 2, but in the end, one game left all the others in its dust. One game slammed on the gas, ran laps around the competition, and brought home the checkered flag. One game – well, enough with the racing metaphors, you get it… the winner was Forza Horizon 5, earning nearly 50% of the total vote.

Forza Horizon 5 box art zoomed in

For the fifth instalment of Playground Games' acclaimed open-world racing series, the Horizon Festival is headed down to Mexico, with a bigger map and more events than ever before, not to mention some of the most stunning visuals available on any console.

As with previous iterations, FH5 puts you in the role of a driver at the Horizon Festival, a series of racing events that take place all across a particular region. The area covered at the Mexico Horizon Festival is 50% larger than the Great Britain map from FH4, ranging from a volcanic mountain to jungle swamps and white sand beaches. Like its predecessor, FH5 has different driving conditions based on the season, and it features dynamic weather patterns that might see you racing right into the heart of a sandstorm or hurricane.

FH5 released at the beginning of November to much critical acclaim and a huge opening, with more than a million players in early access and over 4.5 million players on the first day after the game's official release, making this the " biggest launch in Xbox history" at the time.

Spa1h said:
I love the series in its entirety, and FH5 is no exception. Also, the content is massive. It takes basically all things that were added later to FH4, puts it into a new map with slightly improved graphics and... the result has to be good.

For me as a goal-oriented gamer, the progression system is kind of... strange... but to get everything unlocked, it just takes around 8 hours if you dedicate yourself on maximizing the points earned. The "end-game" challenges, and especially beating your friends' times on the story chapters and stunt records is where I get the fun from. Also the festival playlist is great and even expanded compared to the predecessor, where it was a brand new feature introduced months after launch. Meanwhile, I love the Eliminator mode (first, I was scared). However, the map is much simpler than in FH4. Especially in the middle of the map, there are too few trees, hills and other obstacles, so I could win my head-to-heads with a level one car.

I'm really wondering what you could add to that game, as it has already everything that you can dream of if you think about open-world racing. Although I think a lesser-known title would deserve it more, I have to say that this is my game of the year.
Speaking of the Eliminator, the return of that Battle-Royale-style multiplayer game mode was a bit divisive among our community, with at least one gamer citing that as a reason to avoid this game entirely:

Don Nielson said:
You should be wary of the Eliminator achievement. It's 50% skill and 50% luck. This (and a lot of bugs) are the primary reason I'm skipping this game.
Indeed, Chicken Dinner, the achievement for winning a round of the Eliminator, was unlocked by just 3,117 tracked gamers in December, making it the third-rarest unlock during the month (Min, Meet Max was only unlocked by 432 gamers in December, while Gotta Smash' Em All wasn't obtainable during the month – more on that later).

Forza Horizon 5 announcement

Early on, the response to the game was overwhelmingly positive, with most players and early reviewers gushing over the beautiful 4K graphics and the exciting feeling of exploring the Mexican wilderness. The game did face some criticism for not doing enough to evolve from its previous instalments, but since Forza Horizon 4 was pretty highly acclaimed in its own right, it seemed that most reviewers were happy with just slight improvements and a new setting.

It wasn't long, though, before players started to note some fairly serious issues, with an update in December introducing some game-breaking bugs for some players. Since a lot of these were in evidence right at the start of the month, they got plenty of mention in the forums:

erod550 said:
FH5 is my least favourite Horizon game. It was a nightmare of problems from the very start. Maybe I should have waited to play it until they ironed out the many, many issues, but I was never going to be able to do that being a huge Forza fan having every Forza achievement ever going into the launch of FH5. The huge disappointment this game was for me being a near carbon copy of FH4 plus with so many problems with convoys and online in general and glitchy Festival Playlist. Very few sessions with this game ended with me being happy I'd played it, and most just ended in frustration.
Grape Vans said:
Horizon Arcade is not working/registering progress, eliminator matches take forever to find, and when you do find one, I've been dropped halfway through, convoys not syncing… On the single-player side, I have been randomly stopped attempting danger signs, speed traps etc., AI was truly unbeatable in harder difficulties (like comically hard, drag strip with the same cars the AI has, and you still won't stand a chance), and the festival playlist goes offline to its backup like every few hours lol
Musikfreak007 said:
Seasonal Playlist related achievements! cry Everything else has been pretty great sans the occasional crash. Issues w/ mp connectivity and things like that feel like they should be solved in the coming months.
Despite those bugs, which Playground has been working on squashing over the past couple of months, most agreed that the game still lived up to the reputation set by its predecessors, expanding and refining the formula set by previous games.

Remco1986 said:
I usually don't play racing games. But for FH, I've always made an exception. There's so much to do other than linear racing on circuits. Bring it on!
One thing the Playlist forums highlight is how diverse the opinions are among the community, even within our fairly small subset of the entire gaming population. Some gamers may love a game for the very same reasons that another gamer hates it:

GsO Light said:
As a huge fan of racing games, Forza games are pretty dull to me. They're more about exploring everything in a car than any real racing.
Cakau said:
I'm not a big fan of racing games at all… but ever since I started playing this one, I got totally addicted to it.
Or these two, who had diametrically opposed opinions about the number of cars available in the game.

Kermity#5648 said:
Despite not being into cars and racing, I'm having fun with this game. The sheer amount of cars you have access to is crazy and daunting, though
CaptainK0ala11 said:
Game is pretty good. It could use the addition of more cars, which they are implementing in the future.
That's one of the things we enjoy about collecting these comments every month – it's not important for everyone to agree on every point, but it's great to have the discussion and see how people feel about different aspects of the game!

Whenever a relatively new game gets picked for TA Playlist, we get some massive stats for the month. Unfortunately, we can't claim that all of the 119,121 tracked gamers who unlocked at least one achievement in FH5 in December were intentionally playing along with TA Playlist, but it's still nice to see huge numbers like that.

All told, the TA community unlocked 623,365 achievements during the month of December, for 11,803,070 Gamerscore and a whopping 26,481,280 TrueAchievment Score. Those are massive numbers; no other game in Playlist history has managed to top 20 Million TA Score during the month.

Playlist Trivia: Forza Horizon 5 has blown away all previous Playlist games in terms of stats, but it's not the only game that managed to put up some pretty big numbers. Of the 57 previous games featured for the Playlist, six games managed to generate more than 10 million TA Score from tracked gamers during the month. How many can you name?
Thanks to the Gotta Smash' Em All achievement, which requires completing five Seasonal Smashables Challenges, no one was able to complete Forza Horizon 5 in December, which means there are no shout-outs to be had this month.

The fifth Seasonal Smashables Challenge just became available on 6 January, and several people have earned the achievement since then, with a few earning the 100% completion, so it is doable now. Some 19,052 tracked gamers started playing FH5 during December, but they'll have to wait a little longer before they're able to complete the entire game.

Playlist Trivia Answer:
*** Spoiler - click to reveal ***

That's all for this Wrap-Up. Obviously, Forza Horizon 5 was a bit light on story, but there are plenty of plot points to debate in this month's featured TA Playlist game, Twelve Minutes. There's already been some good discussion surrounding this time-loop adventure game, so please join us in the Spoiler-Free and Spoiler Discussion Threads to give us your thoughts. We'll see you there!
The TA Playlist Team
Written by The TA Playlist Team
The TA Playlist is a monthly community event. Everyone votes on which of four games to play, and then we all play through it in the following month. There's a dedicated hub to discuss everything about the game, from story beats to gameplay tips – and of course, you can track your achievement progress during the month as well. TA Playlist was created by Mark Delaney and is now run by Miles, Nici and Chewie.