While Forza Motorsport as a franchise currently sits at a low point, awaiting the release of Forza Motorsport in Spring 2023, the only available offering at current is Forza Horizon 5, a game that isn’t built or inclined in any way towards esports, let alone being able to support it.
The title lacks core features for esports content such as a spectator mode and even split times between checkpoints during races. Yet, despite the more casual focus of this title, manufacturer Honda clearly saw potential, as Horizon 5 was included in their recent Honda Fan Cup initiative, an Xbox Game Pass-focused esports tournament for various games such as Forza, Tetris Effect: Connected and the NHL franchise, with the winners taking home a portion of $10,000 for their efforts.
Drivers participate in sets of 4 Qualifier rounds taking place weekly, with the top 3 finishers in the event taking home a small prize ($250, $150 and $100 for 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively) as well as locking in their position for a spot in the Finale round, where the top 12 drivers fight for a much larger prize and up to $2,500 for the win.
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What happened in the tournament
Competition was fierce and eventually, over 1,500 drivers had to be whittled down through a series of grueling time-trials, qualifier races and heats, to just 12 finalists.
The event saw some of the best US talent from across the FH5 scene, including favorites and familiar faces from events like Team Wars coming to truly test their mettle. Characters like ‘Venosis’, a Team Wars veteran and part of one of the highest-regarded teams, went up against relative newcomers to the scene like ‘Evver Light’, having proved their worth in junior competitions around the community. Combine that with time-attack and Rivals specialists like ‘XNDR’ and you had a fierce competition all the way to the final sprint up the volcano.
The Finale comprises 7 races, in quick succession one after the other. Taking drivers across the entire Horizon Festival, road and dirt, it gave plenty of opportunity for drivers to flex their individual muscles and strengths, as well as their intimate knowledge of the game and its mechanics, drivers were entirely responsible for creating and tuning a car to specification. Drivers like ‘LogikJ’, a proficient dirt driver in the community, saw to it they consistently finished high during those sections and even scored strong points on some of the city races, though surprise performances certainly shook up the order.
DragonK37 consistently placed high and fought for, if not held the lead for a lot of the running, eventually being crowned the winner of the series amidst a sea of talent, along with Rivals runner and multiple World Record time holder ‘XNDR’ pulling a herculean drive in the final race, rising from a 10th position start to take the win up the Volcan Sprint to cap off an exciting series.
How viable is Horizon 5 esports-wise
The races themselves were never more than around 5 minutes long, a vast difference from the half-hour affairs of Team Wars and other competitions and with grid position being entirely random on race start, it can feel like a lot of wins and losses can be purely down to RNG, not what you want when the competition is predicated around finding the game’s best talent.The Honda Fan Cup returns this October, with qualifiers being hosted from October 1st for Horizon 5 and Tetris Effect: Connected, the finale taking place on October 29th, streamed live to Xbox’s official Twitch channel.