After taking car enthusiasts on a trip to the coastal regions of France and Italy, Forza Horizon 2 has another race-filled vacation up its sleeve in the form of its Storm Island DLC. Offering up a brand new island to explore, a wealth of content to enjoy and some nasty weather to endure, it certainly sounds good on paper, but is it? Simply saying yes would be the easiest way to answer that question, but where’s the fun in that?
Appreciably, Storm Island is its own entity. It’s linked to the core game, but acts like its own campaign. Sure, you can still earn XP, perks, roulette bonuses and the like, all of which add to your totals from the game’s base campaign, but you’re entering into a whole new tournament here. One that is heavily influenced by not only brutal rainstorms, but also rallying and, on quite a few occasions, the dark of night. Be prepared for rain unlike anything you’ve ever seen on the European coast, but don’t let it distract you from keeping your eye on the prize.
Now, unless I heard incorrectly, this new location — which is actually pretty large — is supposed to be a tropical island off of the coast of the main game’s digitized world. At least, that’s what I thought I heard the announcer say, and if it’s true, then I wish Playground Games hadn’t of advertised it as such. The island has a bit of a tropical influence, but it’s not overly prevalent. In fact, racing across its fifty roadways and photo realistic countryside made me feel a bit of deja-vu. There were more forested, grape-covered and grassy areas to plough through, with only a minor amount of tropical foliage.
Truthfully, the only really memorable thing about the island (outside of its weather, of course) is a crumbling Roman temple that sits on a hill overlooking the rest of the environment. You can drive up to it if you’d like, and will have to avoid some of its decaying columns during certain races, but it’s mainly there to look cool and does its job well.
Of course, this is all coming from someone who thinks that Forza Horizon 2 is one of the best racing games of all-time, so said deja-vu didn’t bother me too much. I simply enjoyed the fact that there was more of the game to explore and enjoy, with added weather effects, new races and bonus vehicles. Add in the other extras, like a new barn find, unique bucket list events, twenty-five upgrade discount boards and a multiplayer championship mode and there’s a lot to like.
The draw here is, and will always be, the upgraded rain storms that plague the location. They’re dynamic, and they’re brutal, with different variations assigned to individual races. Sun isn’t a rarity, but it’s not nearly as evident as it was back on the coast, so expect to spend a lot of time in the dark. Hell, even nice-looking days can turn tumultuous over time, as is the case in real-life when storms come out of the blue. It’s a really neat system, which works well and presents some pretty badass wind and water effects. That, and some slippery roadways.
With the advanced weather comes an upgrade in difficulty, but most of that is seemingly due to improved Driveatar A.I. Seriously, it seemed like the competition was a lot tougher this time around. The weather was sometimes a hindrance, and the rally cars I was often using liked to spin and drift a lot, especially during the wetter times, but those Driveatars were kicking my ass.
As for the races, go in expecting a tiered system and an overarching mini-tournament. In total, there are six individual tiers, which increase in difficulty as expected, but you won’t need to complete them all in order to beat this DLC. Strangely enough, only about twelve trophies are required to unlock the final race, and each tiered championship you win will gift you with one of the shiny, metallic awards. That said, completionists will want to beat everything, and it’ll take them a while to do so, given that each tier has four individual championships and one lengthy consummate challenge that acts as a bridge to the next level. Beating the required amount will only take about four to five hours, but you’ll leave quite a few races unfinished in the process.
Keep in mind that a lot of these races are rally and offroad-based, so if you’re not into that type of thing then this paid add-on may not be for you. I’ve always enjoyed rallying in games like DiRT and the original Forza Horizon, which added a rally expansion of its own following its late 2012 release, but there was so much of it here that it became a bit repetitive after a while. The full game is so much fun, though, and has such great mechanics, that even a bit of repetition wasn’t enough to really hamper my experience. More variety would’ve been great, though, as the many point-t0-point and circuit-based races tend to blend together after a while.
Of course, there’s more to this than just the single player content and its championships and bucket list challenges, as multiplayer also plays a major role on Storm Island. There’s lots to do with friends and strangers alike, including freeroam excursions, car meets, road trips and championship races. It wasn’t hard to find others to play with, but I did experience one off-putting glitch in the process. That is, a sound byte (from an engine, perhaps) that kept repeating and forced me to exit and reopen the game. It appeared about 30 seconds into my first race and persisted during the loading screen that followed once I quit out. A seemingly endless loading screen at that, because I eventually gave up on waiting for it to finish and closed the game because the sound was so annoying.
Outside of that singular issue, though, Forza Horizon 2‘s Storm Island expansion ran very well. Sure, there were a couple of visual oddities — such as a plant going through the front of my car during a cutscene — but nothing major at all. Overall, it felt very polished, looked absolutely stunning and also sounded great. As such, there’s little to complain about in terms of presentation – at least, outside of the obvious.
Though it’s not perfect, or as great as the game it complements, Storm Island remains a very good add-on for an already exceptional racer. If you liked what you got with Forza Horizon 2, then you’ll certainly want to pick this twenty-dollar add-on up.
This review is based on the Xbox One exclusive DLC, which was provided to us.
Although it's more expensive than your average add-on, Forza Horizon 2's Storm Island DLC is well worth the purchase, and not just because of its enhanced weather effects. There's a lot of bang for your buck here, which shows that Playground Games cares about its fans.