Bronco. Every. Time.
This has been my motto while playing the preview build of Forza Horizon 5, the latest iteration of Playground Games’ open-world racing series. Horizon is the chill, microdosing cousin of Forza Motorsport, with festival vibes, ridiculous race tracks set in lush environments, and, of course, a virtual garage full of gorgeous vehicles.
Horizon 5 takes place in a fictionalized Mexico, which makes it the perfect stomping ground for the 2021 Ford Bronco, an SUV that I’ve been drooling over for more than a year in real life. It’s the first new model in 25 years, it’s styled after the first-generation Bronco that Ford rolled out in 1965, and, best of all, it comes in a cactus gray colorway. However, for a multitude of reasons — the global chip shortage, supply-chain slowdowns and the sheer expense of it all — I’m not likely to get my feet on the pedals of a new Bronco any time soon. That’s where Horizon 5 comes in.
Horizon 5 begins with a yellow Bronco Badlands strapped to the floor of a plane, ramp lowered behind it with clear sky soaring by. Starting the game drops the vehicle out of the plane, parachuting you onto the rim of a snow-capped volcano. Immediately, you’re driving at high speeds, following a trail down the fiery mountain and getting a feel for the Bronco. It moves like a heavy piece of machinery, tilting on quick turns and cannonballing down the road, sturdy yet sensitive. (The obligatory, “I like my partners the way I like my SUVs” goes here.)
And then the next car drops from the sky — a zippy 2020 Corvette Stingray Coupe that drives much differently than the Bronco, turning on a dime and floating over the road. After a few minutes with that, a 1989 Porsche 911 Desert Flyer parachutes past a herd of flamingos, zooming down forest trails with fantastic handling. Finally, the Mercedes-AMG One, a superfast hybrid sports car, finishes the ride by racing an airplane.
Each of the starting vehicles has its own sensibilities and strengths. They all finally land at the Horizon Festival, a massive music and racing extravaganza held in the Mexico desert. This is the main hub of the game, and it’s a party atmosphere filled with bright pink signs, crowds of cheering fans and a ceaseless barrage of fireworks, confetti and hot air balloons.
This is where you’re given the chance to pick a vehicle for the first time, and it’s the origin of my Horizon 5 mantra: Bronco. Every. Time.
It’s not that the Bronco is the fastest or smoothest vehicle in the game, but it feels right rolling through the rugged desert landscape. It’s the vehicle I want to be driving in real life, and it’s incredibly satisfying to maneuver it up winding mountain roads, along charming city streets and into the heart of massive dust storms.
To be fair, I don’t actually pick the Bronco every time — there are some races that the SUV simply can’t win, given its top speed and wide turns, and for these I’ll happily use one of the sports cars. But when it comes to exploring, I’m all about the Bronco.