While on previous Forza Horizon games the wild, toy-themed expansions have come after a more grounded one, for Forza Horizon 5 developer Playground Games led with its terrific Hot Wheels add-on last year. However, after seven months of pounding the orange plastic high above the clouds, the team has taken us right back down to the desert and dust for some new rally-themed racing across a fresh slab of Mexican countryside. It admittedly isn’t quite as eye-catching – and it’s regressed from some key tweaks to the progression system introduced in Hot Wheels – but competing against the clock with a co-driver is a great new way to race in Horizon, and the excellent map is packed with far more technical routes than found in the main game.
This map, which Playground has dubbed Sierra Nueva, is really the highlight of Rally Adventure – and perhaps deceptively so, considering it’s not as immediately distinct from the main game itself as, say, the snowy Blizzard Mountain DLC was from the core Forza Horizon 3 map. There are six different environments blended together in Sierra Nueva, and on closer inspection it does effectively look and feel like a separate part of Mexico than what we’ve been driving around since late 2021. There’s new vegetation, and zones like the quarry are unlike anything already in Horizon 5.
Sierra Nueva’s real strength, however, is its road network. Don’t be fooled by the early pop-up that indicates you’ve only got 32 roads to drive down before you’ve seen them all – many of these roads are long and technical, like the guitar solo in Free Bird. The best among them are characterised by tighter corners and more hairpins than you’ll find on a typical Forza Horizon 5 road, plus more bumps and jumps, as well as longer stretches between junctions. Sierra Nueva’s new dust effects are also a standout, and it hangs in the air above the dirt and gravel for far longer than before.
After a strong opening drive, where the route into the festival is clogged with campers on the way into the main hub, Rally Adventure breaks the racing up into three threads – each with a slightly different take on rallying. In a somewhat unfortunate step back, things have reverted to a bit of a free-for-all rather than the gated class system that gave the Hot Wheels expansion a nicer sense of progression. Of course, you can still use any car you want to enter events and the AI will adjust class accordingly. This is how I played, changing cars for each of the nearly 30 events to keep things varied. I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by blazing through everything in your fastest hypercar, unless you’re only here for a short time rather than a good time.
Each event can be played two ways – either as a single car rallying against the clock or a standard race against a pack of opponents – but the proper rallying is the highlight. It’s not a particularly demanding simulation (and its straightforward pace notes crib plenty from the pick-up-and-play pleasure of genre granddaddy Sega Rally) but it’s absorbing, arcade-inspired fun. Having your co-driver soaring over the stage above you in a helicopter is a cool touch, too. It doesn’t just look slick, either – it’s also a smart solution to explain why you’re still receiving co-driver audio in single-seater vehicles.
Dust ’Til Dawn
As with Hot Wheels, Rally Adventure adds 10 new vehicles to the garage – and it’s worth noting the selection here is a way more natural fit in this rally-themed expansion than it was last time around. Now don’t get me wrong, because there are some wicked cars that come with Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels – especially if you’re into… supercars named after Australian 24 Hours of Le Mans winners, which peculiarly accounts for 20 percent of them. However, it’s hard to say there’s much inherently “Hot Wheels” about cars Mattel has never made diecast versions of.
In Rally Adventure, the curation leans entirely into rallying and off-roading. I’m an enormous fan of the iconic 2001 WRC Ford Focus RS of Colin McRae and Nicky Grist, and it’s a perfect fit as essentially the hero car of this expansion. I also love the Hoonigan Beetle, affectionately nicknamed the Scumbug. It’s not quick, but lower-powered cars are regularly a lot of fun to use as it’s all about pushing them up to their absolute limit and keeping them there on the brink of losing control in order to maintain your momentum. It’s especially serendipitous here considering the Scumbug was literally built by the Hoonigan team to rally in Mexico.
There’s an argument that the 10 new cars are too heavy with trophy trucks and buggies over traditional rally cars, but keep in mind the latest update to the main game just added a host of new rally parts for pretty much every traditional rally car already in the existing garage. On top of that, the incredibly talented community has whipped up excellent replica liveries for all of them over the past few years. The lack of a license for Lancia in Forza Horizon 5 hurts, and it definitely leaves a hole in an experience so overtly inspired by the likes of Sega Rally, but there are plenty of other rally legends that can be built to tackle this new map.