Horizon Chase 2 review

With the video game market stalling, publishers have finally realised that it’s beneficial to release their games on as many platforms as possible. Microsoft made headlines with multiplatform announcements earlier this year, and Square-Enix has plans to cast their nets wider too. Yet, the allure is still there for publishers to release games on Apple Arcade first. It’s easy to see why, with development costs being on the lower end of the scale, and Apple clearly incentivising with their subscription model. One upshot is when games finally make the jump from Apple Arcade to consoles, they’ve already received several updates. Horizon Chase 2 is a good example of this, just as polished as a car off the showroom floor. Visually, at least.

But there’s a downside too – often a mobile game’s roots are visible, usually in the form of how progression is handled, or gameplay more simplistic/casual to a typical console experience. In Horizon Chase 2, the first giveaway is that vehicles stick to the road as if they’re weighed down with bags of cement. There are no ramps, ergo the possibility for airtime, and cornering is assisted – in the sense that your vehicle bends around corners on its own accord, requiring just a push of the analogue stick to stay on track. Crashing will only set you back 2-3 seconds, which helps keep the pace breakneck. Further enforcing the need for speed, it’s possible to get away with easing off the gas for a few seconds on tight turns rather than braking.

Horizon Chase 2 review

Instead of cornering and drifting with skill, the focus is instead on overtaking cautiously and using nitro proficiently. Tracks are narrow, making it very easy to ram the opposition rather than overtake cleanly. This is where much of the game’s skill lies as the AI isn’t aggressive. They are however lead footed, speeding away from the starting grid. Races are short, lasting just 2-3 minutes each with 30-40 second laps, and it’s usually only within the final 20 seconds of a race that catching up to the fastest trio of racers becomes possible. By this point, you’ve likely lapped the cars at the back of the pack too. Only three nitro boosts are available at the outset, with another able to be earned by collecting four canisters – and you’ll need to look out for these too to secure a victory, along with upgrade tokens. There’s even an incentive to grab every upgrade token on a course, as this ties into a 100% completion.

Your investment here is tied into a couple of areas. Firstly, there’s a World Tour mode to beat – your progress is tracked per region, and you’re encouraged to go for gold on every event. This mode features unique tracks for each race, located in America, Brazil, Morocco, Italy, Thailand, and Japan, each peppered with recognisable landmarks. That, folks, is the world by Horizon Chase’s definition. In addition to standard races, which shouldn’t give anyone too much trouble providing they keep on top of upgrades, there are slightly trickier time trial events too that feature glowing boost pads. Secondly, there’s the upgrade system to invest time into. By making progress, new vehicles will unlock, each of which can be upgraded. Not only this, but it’s possible to customize vehicles with wraps, rims, and body kits. Some of these are held back as rewards for playing other modes, making it clear the developers hoped you’ll become deeply invested in unlocking everything for certain vehicles. I was able to reach Thailand with the starting vehicle and several upgrades, only swapping to a faster vehicle after the difficulty level finally started to rise.

Horizon Chase 2 review

One thing Horizon Chase 2 has going for it is its online play, which boasts Cross Play support and online leaderboards for every track and event. The online aspect is dubbed Playground and features a matchmaking mode with a twenty second countdown. If a match isn’t found in this time, you’ll automatically be placed in a race with AI racers. Playground also has unique challenges that refresh regularly, complete with rewards to unlock. Challenges vary from reversed tracks to races where a certain amount of nitro boosts must be used – usually a high amount, almost to the point of non-stop boosting.

After making headway in the World Tour mode, a handful of Tournaments unlock. These involve racing on four tracks back-to-back with a trophy to win. They’re GPs, in fewer words. While these are a bit more substantial than jumping into a brief challenge, by the time they unlock you’ll likely have several fast cars with upgrades unlocked, making their difficulty seem rather lax. Incidentally, returning to earlier events in World Tour with a fully upgraded vehicle makes mopping up missing gold medals a breeze. The balancing here is slightly comical, getting off the starting grid with such speed that slamming into vehicles slow to pull away is unavoidable.

Horizon Chase 2 review

Rewinding to the opening paragraph, Horizon Chase 2 is very easy on the eye. Playing on Xbox Series X, it runs like greased lightning, with the chunky aesthetic obviously playing a part in this. It’s a very vibrant experience, with bright colours and unmistakable centrepiece elements, such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Redwood drive-thru trees. A few tracks have day-to-night transitions, while the desert-based tracks have sandstorms that reduce visibility. It’s a shame a few more set-pieces didn’t feature, as many of the tracks blur into one another, especially in their design. Forks in the road and hill climbs are about as much as you can expect.

With not much to master in terms of vehicle handling and rote track memorisation, Horizon Chase 2 merely has its 3-4 hour World Tour mode to invest time into – the progression of which is relatively straightforward, almost to the point of merely going through the motions until its completion – along with its upgrade paths for each vehicle, which you may feel compelled to unlock fully. If you’re of the competitive sort, the online leaderboards may hold some appeal too – although I’m not too sure how competitive that scene will be. This is a far cry from something like Outrun 2 and other arcade racer mainstays, and its simplicity will likely disappoint those who’ve mastered the classics. I’d even recommend Hotshot Racing over this, and that too had its own fair share of problems.

Epic Games Publishing’s Horizon Chase 2 is out May 30th on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series. It’s also available on PC and Switch.