When cruising along at a cool 190 MPH, it's easy to let the nuances of your surroundings pass by in a blur. With its intense races and sleek rides, Forza Horizon 2 launches you on an adrenaline-churning ride, but exploring Southern Europe at your own pace is an absolute blast too. Beyond the big city attractions and smell of burnt rubber, there's plenty to discover as you motor around.
So what to see first? This handy travel guide to Forza Horizon 2's ultra-detailed recreation of the Southern Europe countryside highlights some of the coolest and most unusual points of interest you'll encounter in your travels. And with so much ground to cover, it seemed best to make it a group effort. One lucky racer-turned-contributor lent a helping hand, winning an Xbox One in the process. Read on to learn about the intrepid racer and watch their contest video submission after checking out the rest of these must-see destinations.
Every grand adventure starts somewhere, and for many Forza drivers, Castelletto, Italy will be your first big destination after leaving the festival grounds. This coastal city sports a bustling shoreline, but the breathtaking seaside cliffs and windy roadways overlooking all the beachside excitement and tourist action make for a harrowing if scenic drive.
Spend enough time racing there and you'll eventually unlock a sweet ground-vs-air race against a trio of fighter jets. How's that for awesome? Keep your eyes peeled to unlock it just a few clicks northeast of the main city.
Rather than follow the straight path to the next key racing opportunity city, it's worth taking an off-road detour to scope out the industrial zone to the north of Castelletto. Ok, so the landscape of abandoned warehouses and empty parking lots aren't much to look at, but the jumping ramps and natural hills make it a prime playground for fiddling around. If you can find it, there's an airborne bucket list opportunity in a slick black Nissan R35 GT-R that's especially choice.
Heading due west and straight downhill from Zona Industriale will shortcut you to the highway and put you on a fast track towards Nice, a sprawling French metropolis that's full of corridors and curvy side streets to race through. It's a zippy trek, since the sparse traffic gives you the perfect opportunity to open up the throttle on the long straightaways — with the right ride, you can nearly clock 200 in the tunnels. Once you hit the 'burbs and wind into the pulsing heart of the city, however, it's a different story: the tighter-cornered, drift-happy races you'll find here are a nice change of pace before you head back out into the open road.
While you're in the neighborhood, heading further west down the coast will bring you to Qaui du Commerce, a shipping yard facility that's flush with things to smash into and ramps to play around on. If you're not in a rush, explore the deeper reaches of the facility near the large tanks to find an access point for the breakwater. Drive out at sunrise or sunset for a lovely view of the harbor.
If you and your pals are en-route to check out the castle-like design and intense races of Sisteron, France, the archways of the Abbaye Des Vaux De Cernay make a perfect scenic pit stop on the way. Daredevils will love dashing through all the nooks and crannies among the ruins.
Much further east, you'll also find another slick set of ruins and a crazy challenge tucked away in the mountains, located in perfect triangulation between Nice, San Giovanni, Italy, and the Horizon Festival. Think: "nighttime downhill forest rally," and you'll get the picture.
The bucolic patch of countryside found due east of Sisteron is a great place to stop and smell the gorgeous purple flowers...or run them over. Fields of colorful flora and rolling hills provide a nice distraction to cool down from the intense racing action. Alternately, speed-ramming the giant round hay bales around this area is a fun pursuit too, especially if you're eager to blow off some steam after losing to your pal's latest hot rod.
Just stone's throw northwest of Saint-Martin, you can't miss the Aerodrome. This massive airport is a killer place to race and explore. Whether you want to weave in and out of planes parked outside the hangars or high-speed it down the runway at night, it's one of the coolest spots in Forza Horizon 2. The north side of the grounds also sport a wicked jump spot that, if you pick up enough speed down the hillside behind the compound, will send you barreling through one of the hangar windows. Awesome!
Fancy yourself a golf fan? There's an exclusive, extremely posh course not far to the southeast from Aerodrome. You can drive around the grounds or tear up the green to your heart's content — and don't forget to bust right through the giant golf ball sculpture on your way out.
To the northeast of the stunning castle-city San Giovanni, Italy, you'll find a beautiful lakeside estate called Tenuta Montellino. The old architecture, grounds, and garden give off a Jane Austen vibe that will have your pinky twitching as you reach for a nice cup of Earl Grey. Once your doily is good and soiled, those who are inclined towards mischief will find that the real fun is in the greenhouses at the southern end of the grounds, which provide ample glass and greenery for a smashing good time.
Venturing into Montellino proper, you'll find some slick racing in and around this cozy mountaintop villa. When the sun starts to wane, you should head over to eastern edge of the settlements and park it at a scenic overlook for amazing views as night falls.
Because it takes a village to explore every hidden corner of a world as sprawling as the one offered up in Forza Horizon 2, it seemed only natural to ask you to submit stills and videos highlighting the must-see destinations and most pulse-pounding drives in the game, and you were more than up to the challenge. And now, the winning entry:
In this clip, commenter TheGreatGouki takes chooses to take us underground in Montellino, into the spooky catacombs deep beneath the manor, where you'll find plenty of opportunities for some serious drift as well as a chance to launch yourself like a missile straight back out into daylight. For the effort, TheGreatGouki wins an Xbox One signed by the Forza Horizon 2 designers, as well as a 51-inch Samsung Smart TV.
While this guide should get you started, it's just scratching the surface of everything Forza has to offer — and you won't be able to truly appreciate it until you see it for yourself. So brush up on your Italian, forget those hostel arrangements and get ready to rev your engines. Forza Horizon 2 is out now, and the world is waiting to be discovered.
Nathan Meunier is a journalist and freelance writer who covers video games, technology, and geek culture. He's also the author of Up Up Down Down Left WRITE: The Freelance Guide to Video Game Journalism, which is out now on Kindle and in print.