Last Updated on January 8, 2022 by ViCadia
Forza Horizon 5 is a 2021 racing game developed by Playground Games and published by Xbox Game Studios. The game was officially released on Microsoft Windows platform in November 2021, and is the fifth main entry in the Forza Horizon series. Forza Horizon 5 is set in an open world environment based in a fictional representation of Mexico. The game features the largest map in the entire Forza Horizon series, and contains an active caldera volcano, ancient Mayan temples, numerous jungles and beaches, as well as historical Mexican towns and cities. Forza Horizon 5 has received universal acclaim, and had the largest launch for an Xbox Game Studios Game to date.
Forza Horizon 5 is an astonishingly good looking game. The game can boast with photorealistic graphics, high resolution textures, stunning visual effects, long draw distance, and incredible vegetation density. Even on high-end PCs the game can be quite taxing. In this article we will explore game’s visuals and system performance, and offer graphics settings optimization guide for PC players.
Forza Horizon 5 is powered by the ForzaTech game engine developed by Playground Games. It is the same engine that powers both Forza Horizon 4 and Forza Motorsport 7. The latest version of the ForzaTech engine that powers Forza Horizon 5 features updated physics engine, better volumetric lighting and global illumination, as well as support for ray tracing. Under the hood, this engine is very similar to the Unreal Engine, and it heavily relies on the DirectX 12 API.
The PC version of Forza Horizon 5 features more graphical options than the Xbox Series X version. There is also support for 8K resolution, as well as for dynamic resolution scaling. Compared to Forza Horizon 4, for achieving 4K60 gameplay in Forza Horizon 5 you’ll need a pretty beefy graphics cards, such as the GeForce RTX 3070. Even at 1080p resolution, the game is quite demanding on ultra settings, meaning you’ll need a GeForce GTX 1080 or equivalent to achieve smooth gameplay experience. In order to examine game’s system performance, we have used our test PC rig with the following components:
|CPU||Intel Core i5-11400F @ 2.6 GHz|
|RAM||Kingston FURY Beast 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 CL17 @ 3466 MHz|
|MOBO||ASRock B560 Pro4|
|GPU||EVGA GeForce RTX 3060 12GB XC Gaming|
|SSD||WD Blue 1TB SN550 M.2 NVMe SSD|
|PSU||Corsair RMX Series RM650x 80+ Gold|
In order to determine how many frames per second could our system achieve, we used the game’s built-in benchmark tool. After finishing each benchmark run we saved our average FPS results and later compared them with the results from other runs. For testing purposes we used the latest NVIDIA 497.29 WHQL drivers, and our Xbox Game Pass copy of Forza Horizon 5 was updated to the latest version.
Forza Horizon 5 features a large number of adjustable graphics settings which many casual PC players may not be familiar with. This is why the game comes with six graphics presets: Very Low, Low, Medium, High, Ultra, and Extreme. Switching between presets is quite easy, and it allows you to simply and quickly modify game’s graphics without delving deep into its numerous options. Down below you can see a chart showing our rig’s average FPS results at 1080p resolution for each graphics preset.
Forza Horizon 5 appears to be a heavily GPU-bound game, meaning even if you have an older CPU, like the Intel Core i7-4790, you shouldn’t experience any major CPU bottlenecks. However, on Very Low preset even our 11th Gen Intel Core i5-11400F was bottlenecking our GeForce RTX 3060, but that wasn’t too surprising given the fact that on Very Low preset the game looks quite bad, and the GPU experiences very low workloads.
In our opinion, anything below Medium preset shouldn’t be used, even if your PC can’t achieve stable 60 FPS on Medium preset. Very Low and Low presets look quite ugly, while Medium looks pretty decent. As you can see from the chart above, our GeForce RTX 3060 managed to deliver almost 70 FPS on average on Extreme preset, which is great performance, but still a bit disappointing given the fact that the RTX 3060 is designed for high 1440p gaming. This result alone just shows you how demanding Forza Horizon 5 really is, and how powerful hardware you need to have to properly experience the game.
If you decide to play the game on Extreme preset be prepared for a whooping 62% performance drop (compared to the Very Low preset). Even on High preset the game looks gorgeous, so don’t bother playing it on Extreme or Ultra presets if you don’t care for better volumetric clouds or more crisper textures and shadows. Playing the game on High settings will result in a 36% worse performance compared to the Very Low preset, but this is a justified performance penalty given how the game looks and feels on High settings. We’ve also tested the game’s performance at 1440p and 4K resolutions on Extreme preset. Down below you can see our results.
As you can see, jumping from Full HD to 1440p resolution lowered our average FPS by roughly 16% which, overall, wasn’t too bad. Our GeForce RTX 3060 managed to deliver almost 60 FPS on average at 1440p resolution which was quite good performance. It seems that Forza Horizon 5 isn’t as taxing as other games when it comes to scaling from 1080p to 1440p resolution, however, the same can’t be said for jumping to 4K resolution, because here we experienced a 40% performance drop when compared to running the game at 1080p.
Compared to the console versions, the PC version of Forza Horizon 5 doesn’t come with dynamic resolution scaling (nor with image upscaling techniques such as DLSS or FSR), which is a pity. Instead, you only get a basic resolution adjuster which allows you to toggle between Performance, Balanced, Ultra, and Ultra Quality modes. Enabling static resolution scaling option can improve performance dramatically, so we highly recommend using this option to squeeze out some extra FPS. Here you can see performance of our PC with resolution scaling option enabled.
Setting resolution scaling to Ultra Quality mode increased our average framerate by 8% at 1440p resolution, which was quite nice given there were no observable disadvantages of using this option. Enabling this feature essentially gave us 5 more FPS on average for free, which was fantastic. With Quality mode, the image appeared more blurry, and there was an observable loss of picture clarity. With Balanced mode on, image quality was considerably worse, and quite a lot of jaggies started appearing on screen, meaning that even MSAA wasn’t enough to make the image smoother. Overall, we would only recommend using the Ultra Quality mode, as all other modes considerably deteriorate image quality.
After examining Forza Horizon 5’s performance with its standard graphics presets, we decided to analyze the performance impact of each individual graphics setting. This phase consisted of running 17 additional benchmark tests on Extreme preset, but with each separate graphics setting set to low or very low quality. This way we were able to measure the performance impact of each individual setting on overall frame rate. As a baseline we used results from our previous benchmark run at 1080p resolution on Extreme preset. Down below you can see a chart showing the relative performance cost of each individual setting.
Here, you can clearly see that Shader Quality is the most taxative graphics setting in the whole game. Setting this option to Low can increase your average FPS by up to 19%, which is quite a lot, but will in turn make the game look very ugly. This is because Shader Quality essentially adjusts game’s visual fidelity and lighting, so lowering this setting to Low will pretty much make the whole game less appealing. In our opinion, you should keep this variable on higher settings if you want the game to look good.
Environment Texture Quality is another graphics setting that has a dramatical impact on Forza Horizon 5’s performance. Lowering this from Extreme to Low can increase FPS by up to 18.5%, however, we strongly recommend keeping this setting at least on Medium since below that level game’s texture will start looking quite bad.
Next up we have Shadow Quality. Setting this to extreme will drop your average FPS by up to 16%. Traditionally, shadow quality has always been one of the most taxative graphical settings in video games, and in Forza Horizon 5 it isn’t any different. Selecting the Extreme quality is pretty much pointless since there is no real difference compared to the Ultra quality, except you’ll experience higher performance impact. If you have a weaker GPU, then feel free to set this to High or Medium.
Environment Geometry Quality and Reflection Quality have almost the same performance impact, but deal with completely different stuff. Environment Geometry Quality alters the geometrical complexity of rocks, roads and vegetation, while Reflection Quality affects vehicle mirrors and metallic surfaces. If you want to improve your FPS, then feel free to lower down environment’s geometry. You won’t notice much visual difference. For Reflection Quality, we recommend keeping it on High or Medium, as this setting gives the game that “Forza look”.
World Car Level of Detail affects the level of detail of cars. Toning it down can improve average FPS by up to 8.3%, but the cars will look much less detailed.
Particle Effects Quality is a setting that adjusts standard particle effects and volumetric lighting effects. Since it’s hard to notice these effects, you can safely tone it down to Low, as this will net you extra 5% more frames.
FXAA and MSAA are well-known anti-aliasing methods that will help you smooth out edges and fix jaggies appearing on your screen. Unfortunately, Forza Horizon 5 lacks TAA (which is far superior), so we strongly recommend using MSAA in conjunction with FXAA. A single anti-aliasing method won’t be enough to smoothen out all edges. Enabling FXAA and setting MSAA to 2x will drop your average FPS by up to 5%, however, this is well worth the cost.
Turning off Anisotropic Filtering will increase your average framerate by around 2%, however, we strongly recommend leaving this option on 16x, since this greatly improves textures when appearing from different camera angles.
Night Shadows is another setting that is worth turning completely off. This setting enhances shadows at night, but it’s so sublime that is practically unnoticeable, so feel free to turn it off for extra 2.5% more frames.
Next we have SSAO, Motion Blur, Lens Effects and SSR Quality. All these settings belong to post-processing effects. SSAO adds more depth to areas where two edges meet, and gives the game a more realistic look so we don’t recommend turning it off. On the other hand, you can turn Motion Blur off if you don’t like seeing blurred image while driving fast. Lens Effects is a very sublime setting that adds lens flare and mud splatter, so turn it off if you wish to gain additional 1-2 FPS. Lastly, there is the SSR Quality which adds reflections to wet tarmac and shiny materials. Keep this setting on High if you wish to experience the game the way it was meant to be.
The Deformable Terrain Quality is a CPU-bound graphics settings whose performance cost can’t be properly measured using the Forza Horizon 5’s built-in benchmark tool. Essentially, this setting adjusts the destruction complexity of game’s destructible objects such as walls, cacti, billboards and steel barriers. Although our chart shows that the performance cost of this setting is next to none, in reality it’s more around 1-2%. In our opinion, keep this setting on Extreme, as it’s performance impact is negligible.
Lastly, there is the Ray Tracing. Unfortunately, ray tracing in Forza Horizon 5 is only present in Forza Vista mode, meaning you can only see it in garage while inspecting cars. If you have a GPU that supports ray tracing, just leave this option to on. You won’t experience any significant performance drops.
Forza Horizon 5 is pretty good looking racing game. Exploring jungles and deserts of Mexico never felt so fun, so we strongly recommend trying the game if you still haven’t. Although the game is much more demanding than Forza Horizon 4, it can run pretty decently on most modern PCs. The game runs pretty much flawlessly on Xbox Series X, so if you want to match or exceed Xbox Series X performance, then you’ll need to get the GeForce RTX 2070 or GeForce RTX 3060, which cost quite a lot these days. Right now the game doesn’t feature any sort of image reconstruction options such as DLSS or FSR, which gives the advantage to Xbox Series X to outperform PC for less money.
Basically, for playing the game at 1440p/60 FPS you will need the Radeon RX 5700 or GeForce RTX 3060. If 4K gaming at 60 FPS is all you care for, then be prepared to invest in the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti or Radeon RX 6900 XT. For playing the game at 1080p with 60 FPS on ultra settings, the GeForce RTX 2060 or Radeon Vega 56 should be enough.