I’m not one who is usually affected by motion sickness in video games, but seeing the trailer for the new Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels had me gritting my teeth with accessibility concerns. I jumped into the new DLC —thanks to Xbox providing a code— ready to have a look and pondered whether to have a bucket on standby. As it happens, Forza Horizon 5 appears to have kept accessibility in mind judging from the press release that details what accessibility features are available specifically for this DLC.
To kick things off, the new features are exclusive only to the Hot Wheels DLC — meaning if you’re playing the base game, you won’t see these. There is a new field of view option for Chase Cam and Far Chase Cam which are console firsts for the game. There’s also a reticle that keeps one crosshair flat while the other shows your vehicle’s rotation. These can be useful for some players in combating motion sickness.
Really though, it depends on how these come into play. There’s even a warning on the first boot of the DLC warning of the extreme driving and the accessibility features available.
I was thrown into the Hot Wheels open-world track with a standard vehicle, all my high-performance cars locked away from me because I’m a rookie. This little feature was nice because it eased me into the new track format instead of letting me go 220mph up a loop-the-loop and alienating myself from the gameplay. As I progressed, my status allows me to get into faster vehicles and take part in more intense races.
Although, the slower vehicles still caused enough disorientation to make me dread getting into a faster car. Even as a rookie though, when I joined an online session the game had me hiring out a Hot Wheels car to be eligible to participate in the session and it was…very…very…fast.
Hot Wheels Driving
Hot Wheels is famed for its mind-bogglingly wild track layouts. Loop-the-loops, jumps, winding roads, track types. These are all present in Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels, and for accessibility, it feels a bit rough. While the concept is enjoyable and exciting, I found myself having fun but having that broken when disorientating moments happened.
It was mostly the twisting roads that affected me. Driving fast while a track remains still and the world around me folded in on itself felt weird, and it was worse when there were large bends that made the world folding even more distorted. Having the center crosshair to focus on did help to focus my gaze because otherwise, I’m taking in too much of the moving world outside of the track.
In addition to the warping scenery, I was also having to get used to different track types. Magnetic tracks lock your vehicle to the track, which makes turning far more sticky and jarring. Water tracks cause you to drift more. Tracks without edges pose the risk of falling off. Icy tracks are as expected, slippy.
There’s also physics to contend too. Driving on tracks too slow that are tilted will cause you to slide to the lower end for example, and going slow up the loop-the-loop will cause you to fall. There’s a new feature available from the difficulty section of the settings, that when turned on, helps you steer away from the track edges. During these moments, however, I didn’t really feel much help from the feature.
While the tracks were interesting to get to grips with, I was enjoying myself with childlike glee. Although I was still aware of the new challenges presented by this DLC some players may face when it comes to controlling the car.
Auto-Steering Track Following
One of the features that were praised in the base game by some players was auto-driving, allowing those who are blind, with low vision, or mobility disabilities to take control of accelerating while the game does the steering. With the Hot Wheels track layouts, the steering works wonderfully on the tracks, however, the issue comes when you accidentally fall off and end up off-road.
For me, testing this feature had me going off-track and off-road due to forgetting to brake at a turning. I ended up driving through the snow, but the car was still trying to follow the highlighted route on the tracks above. It wasn’t long until the auto-steering drove the car into the scaffolding holding the track overhead and the car flipped. I respawned back on the track and all was right again.
The Hot Wheels DLC does highlight that certain areas off the track could be an issue for players using assisted steering, but generally speaking, it works really well when you’re not flying off into the rough.
One of the things I noticed that I didn’t enjoy was the way the chase cameras now work because of the different track layouts. I usually like the camera being far behind my car so I can see what’s ahead more clearly. However, because of the sections that ramp upwards, the chase camera struggles to see ahead.
This usually meant that once I could see ahead there’d be a sudden corner and I’d need to react a lot quicker than I would on a flatter surface like in the base game.
I tried switching to the cockpit views and my goodness. I felt horrid. For starters, the cockpit view in two of the Hot Wheels cars had a very small horizontal view, so everything comes at me fast through the thin windowscreen. Also, the disorientating scenery effect felt even more enhanced because of this smaller viewable area.
The one benefit of the tracks in Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels is their color. For example, the vibrant orange for standard tracks stands out against most of the outside scenery making it somewhat more bearable to see the route ahead. The water tracks are blue and have the water running through the center of the track while the ice tracks are fully coated in an ice texture and the magnetic tracks are grey with metallic-looking textures.
There are moments when the weather does start to play against you. I found that the snowy levels were rough to play with the streaking motion blur of the snow while the downwards tracks into fog-infested bends were hectic. I ended up turning motion blur off to try and get away from the visual noise.
“As a general rule, we keep all of [gameplay] dialogue to be supportive,” with audible dialogue praising the player, “it’s never telling you what you have to do or really expanding the story and important way.”
This quote came from Mike Brown, the creative director of Forza Horizon 5 in our interview about sign language support. In this specific quote, he speaks about the gameplay dialogue being less wordy as players reading subtitles or watching sign language would be more focused on driving than taking in what’s being said.
However, in Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels, hearing accessibility falls on the side for a specific group of races. These “documentary” races are designed for the player to participate in a sprint while being fed audible dialogue pertaining to the history of Hot Wheels.
Now, I would have loved to learn more about the origins of the ziggy-zaggy, twirly-wurly tracks from my childhood, but I couldn’t. Mostly because I was focused on driving fast through winding and surreal tracks while the subtitles detailed useful and educational information. This was particularly disappointing especially given how well-done the subtitles were in the base game sticking to the rule that Brown highlighted.
Give Me Dirt
I won’t lie. I do enjoy the surreal visuals of Forza Horizon 5: Hot Wheels, but for accessibility, I’m not sure it’s a great pairing. If you’re looking for new accessibility features across the whole game, you won’t find them here as the new additions are only for making the DLC less taxing.
Some players may love the DLC and be able to get past the barriers I noted, but for me, I’m far more comfortable on the ground in the Mexican dirt plowing through cacti off-road.