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Forza Horizon 5 PC: can Playground's masterpiece scale beyond Series X?

Plus: optimised settings, hardware requirements and more.

We've already established that Forza Horizon 5 scales exceptionally well over Xbox hardware old and new, but has Playground Games managed to achieve the same quality on PC? Additionally, does the PC release scale beyond the bar set by Xbox Series X, offering even better graphics? And finally, what settings should you be aiming for to replicate and then build upon the console experience - and what kind of GPU will you require?

First up, a word of explanation on Forza Horizon 5's initial set-up times and its general accessibility in tweaking settings. On first loading the game, you're met with a pause as the game compiles its shaders for your specific graphics hardware. It's a little on the time-consuming side - even on a high-end PC - but it's worth the wait and it's necessary to ensure smooth performance with little stutter. Stutter seems to be a common issue on many PC titles right now, especially those using Unreal Engine 4, and it occurs as shaders are compiled on the fly as they are needed. FH5's technique of a single compilation period on first loading really is the best way to address this.

Where I do find Forza Horizon 5 somewhat onerous is the requirement to restart the game after adjusting certain settings. The problem here is that it effectively kills the tuning process as you have no instant way of knowing what the impact of the settings change is and what the performance gain - or loss - may be. Shader re-compilation also kicks in, and although shorter than the initial pause, it adds to the wait.

Cover image for YouTube videoForza Horizon 5 PC: Can Graphics Scale Beyond Xbox Series X? Optimised Settings + More
Everything you need to know about Forza Horizon 5's PC settings, console equivalents, performance and more.

Beyond that, there's the sense that general settings selections are pared back compared to prior Forza titles, so the dynamic settings management that worked so well is now gone, while key features used in the console versions such as dynamic resolution scaling are absent. What you do get is a very basic resolution adjuster that isn't much use: the ultra quality mode is effectively a basic 1656p upscale which drops to 1440p for the quality mode, 1296p for balanced and finally performance mode is a basic 1080p upscale. I can't see any evidence of reconstruction like TAAU, DLSS or XeSS, so this is very basic stuff. Ultimately, the settings are good enough but they're difficult to use and do not go far enough - though the benchmark is great. It's representative of a high stress area in the game that taxes both CPU and GPU and there's an excellent after-action report.

Beyond that, there are a couple of 'gotchas' to be aware of in understanding performance - for example, the level of detail of geometry and draw distance for objects are affected by the chosen internal resolution, so the game at lower resolution also has worse LOD. This makes sense on a technical level as higher res requires higher level of detail for geometry and textures, but it also means that CPU performance in this game scales with internal resolution - the game is heavier on the CPU at 4K than 720p, for example. This is worth flagging as 720p or benchmarks are often used to eliminate the GPU from testing, but in this case, it's actually reducing the workloads for the CPU too. What I can say though, is that achieving 4K60 is doable on mainstream chips like the Ryzen 5 3600, but pushing beyond 60fps at higher resolutions or sustaining 120fps is going to be a challenge for even the most powerful chips.

Onto settings recommendations and in this area I'm going to defer to Playground Games, who supplied us with the closest match to Xbox Series X's quality and performance modes. These are indeed optimised settings designed to give the best bang for the buck if you're looking for fidelity or higher frame-rates. We've had to tweak this slightly, based on changes to settings definitions made in the day one patch, but it is interesting to note how close these settings are to the game running at its maximum - so moving beyond the level of fidelity set by Series X is going to be challenging. You can improve MSAA quality to 8x and augment it with FXAA, which does help, and there is an increase in virtually all post-processing effects due to an extra setting on the shader quality option. The issue here is that the actual visual gain on elements like volumetrics, screen-space reflections and SSAO is minimal and likely impossible to see in the heat of gameplay.

Performance scaling on an RTX 2060 Super at 4K - max settings vs Xbox-equivalent quality and performance settings.
Console Equivalent Settings Performance Mode Quality Mode
Anisotropic Filtering High High
Shadow Quality Ultra Extreme
Night Shadows Off On
Motion Blur Quality High Ultra
Environment Texture Quality Ultra Ultra
Environment Geometry Quality Ultra Extreme
MSAA 4x 4x
FXAA Off Off
SSAO Quality High High
Reflection Quality High (dynamic) High
World Car LOD Ultra Ultra
Deformable Terrain Quality Ultra Extreme
SSR Quality High High
Lens Effects Ultra Ultra
Shader Quality Ultra Ultra
Particle Effects Quality High Ultra
Ray Tracing Quality Off High

One discrepancy in these equivalent Series X quality settings for PC is that night shadows are set to on, yet on Series X, this effect is turned off for races, but kept on in the open world. In PC, they are forced on at all times, improving realism in races at the cost of performance. Ultimately, I feel that Playground's chosen settings offer the best balance - but I would have liked to have seen more. MSAA looks great at 8x, but it cannot effectively process elements such as foliage which shimmer badly on both consoles and PC, and I really would like to see the option of a temporal AA solution. Additionally, there's no reason why the RT reflections for Forza Vista and the garage couldn't have been extended to gameplay - indeed, one of our amazing DF supporters shared with us a mod for enabling them in-game, and it works. Crowds also update at 30fps on all platforms, and for a title that concentrates so much on fidelity and performance, synchronising them to current frame-rate would be ideal.

I also hope to see Playground address some settings that don't seem to work properly. World texture quality on Series X is equivalent to PC's ultra, according to Playground, but the PC setting impacts distant objects with ultra-low texture quality - you need to swap over to extreme to fix this. Similarly, I believe the reflection quality setting is not working consistently. In a number of scenes, on its extreme setting, it looks similar to that of Series X which is apparently using the high setting with minor improvements, while in other scenes, the cubemap reflection looks broken. A similar issue also occurs with the game's MSAA which leaves blueish white halos around vegetation in certain scenarios.

Performance mode on Xbox Series X makes quite a few visible reductions below the higher settings on PC to increase the game's performance - but at the same time keeps other options similar. The aim here is to deliver 4K60, but the consoles do have the advantage of dynamic resolution scaling with a 1600p-2160p range on Series X. The most obvious changes are the reduction of trackside density through the environmental geometry setting, especially visible in the game's jungle-like areas, as well as the shadow setting dropping from extreme to ultra, which gets rid of penumbra soft shadows (which look really great, but have a significant performance cost).

Cover image for YouTube videoForza Horizon 5: Every Xbox Version Tested - Xbox Series S/X vs Xbox One S/X!
In terms of overall scalability, here's how Playground's efforts work out across six modes encompassing two Xbox generations.

So what kind of GPU do you need to match or exceed Series X outputs at performance and quality modes? This is tricky for the 60fps mode as PC lacks the DRS option, but in isolating an area where Series X hits its minimum DRS window, it looks to me like RTX 2070 Super/RTX 2080 is the closest Nvidia equivalent, while an RTX 2080 Ti or RTX 3070 should be good enough for always maintaining 4K60.

Comparisons with Series X in quality mode are perhaps more interesting as high-end PC users may be looking to match this pristine level of fidelity while at the same time hitting 60fps or higher. Achieving parity with the console sees the GPU burden lessen dramatically - an RTX 2060 Super looks just about capable of getting the job done, being equal to or better Series X here is not too difficult... but how about 60fps? Here, running a Radeon RX 6800 XT with a factory overclock vs a stock Founders Edition RTX 3080 seems to get the job done, but this is testing just one single stress point. Other areas of the game may be more challenging.

The bottom line is that for Xbox Series X performance mode equivalence without access to DRS, you'll need RTX 2080 Ti or RTX 3070-class hardware - and the same kit to pull off 1080p120., with this requirement dropping to RTX 2060 Super/RX 5700-class for 1440p60. For quality mode, it's RTX 3080 Ti and RX 6900 XT for 4K60, while the RTX 2080 Ti and RTX 3070 are the ticket for 1440p60. Hitting 1080p at 120fps consistently on these settings requires a gigantic GPU like an RTX 3080, or an RTX 3080 Ti or RX 6900 XT for a harder lock. Daunting stuff.

In conclusion, I feel this is a good PC game release, but there's obvious scope for improvement in cleaning up some of the bugs, adding a dynamic resolution option and restoring the dynamic settings options we've seen on prior Forza titles. I also realise that while Playground and Turn 10 are wedded to MSAA for anti-aliasing duties, there should image reconstruction options such as DLSS or XeSS, while I'm not quite sure why ray tracing couldn't have been enabled for gameplay too. My testing also suggests that there may be some improvements that could be made to Series X too: right now we have two 4K options, but a dynamic 1080p-1440p 60fps mode at the quality preset would also seem viable. We'll report back soon on the RT mod for PC we've spent some time with, but in the here and now, this is an accomplished PC release - and a solid foundation for a truly great one.