If "Forza Horizon 2 is the most fun I've had on four wheels since BurnOut Paradise," then Storm Island is the most fun I've had on no wheels since Combat Flight Simulator. Some races almost feel like you're flying, not driving, as you hurl obscene rally juggernauts over ridiculous ramps, soar through the torrential rain then slam back down into the mud; oversized shocks screaming with the impact as your tyres churn up the dirt before the next ridiculous jump.
It's borderline pornographic for off-roading fans.
Storm Island may be eye-wateringly expensive at £15.99 (£7.99 for Forza Horizon 2 VIPs), but unlike other recent premium expansions I could mention -- but I won't because we wouldn't want to embarrass Destiny now would we -- I'd willingly pay £15.99 for this exact package if it was a standalone game.
Storm Island bolts onto the Forza Horizon experience in less-than-graceful fashion, as an unskippable video and map marker quickly alert you that THERE IS DLC NOW AND YOU SHOULD TOTALLY BUY IT. It's a shame that the experience begins on such a sour and obtrusive note (and I'm not a fan of the post-launch dual currency, irrelevant as it is), but in fairness things quickly improve once you take the plunge and reach the island itself.
The titular island itself is a relatively compact piece of real estate, but as gorgeously rendered as the mainland and twice as topographically diverse. It's a dense muddy playground of hills, treacherous dirt roads, forests and swamps, riddled with ramps, ridges and opportunities to get airborne. Storm Island feels like the true antithesis of Turn 10's clinical Forza 5: a nasty, mucky, dirty, savagely beautiful and chaotic mudfight for great big ugly machines to do battle on.
Concentrating on offroad point-to-point races pleasingly known as Rampages, you're fully encouraged to slide, drift and churn your way through some utterly brutal challenges, during which the Drivatars will give no quarter. I was surprised that, after some introductions involving extreme offroaders, SUVs and Rally cars, there's a decent variety of classes on offer - not limited to American Muscle of all ridiculous things.
These events are corralled into six tiered championships crowned by an utterly insane night-time Gauntlet race, during which you'll jump into a frankly outrageous piece of kit and rack up some absolutely ridiculous skill combo in the process. Every corner is a drift, every straight is a jump, and the whole time you'll have a massive grin on your face. Well, I certainly did. You don't have to complete each race in each tier to advance, indeed the finale can be unlocked with just a fraction of the trophies under your belt, but you'd be mad not to make the most of it.
You're more than able to bring your existing cars onto the island thanks to a selection of new upgrades, which are sadly rather expensive until you collect some free-roam discount tokens (or just enter the Island with a massive war chest like most experienced players will). However, if you don't fancy tricking out a Rally Fighter or creating a ludicrous Rally Veneno [sacrilege! - Ed], you'll also be able to pick up a handful of new cars including the brawny 2014 Ford Ranger, hulking Super Truck and the obscene desecrated carcass of what used to be a Mini Countryman.
The Countryman was naff to begin with, so the X-RAID Frankenstein's monster is a serious improvement in this reviewer's opinion. There's a new barn find too, though a few more cars might have been nice.
Then again, the cars aren't really the star of the show. The weather is.
Forza Horizon 2's dynamic weather was gorgeous before, but here it's nearly a game-changer. Though fighting against the terrain is still the main challenge in Storm Island due to Forza's excellent handling model, the new extreme weather conditions can bring ferocious tropical storms or thick fog into the equation, not to mention achingly beautiful sunrises and sunsets. The weather can change in a heartbeat, so once you factor in the slick surfaces and plenty of night-time racing, the experience feels totally different. This helps to even out the fact that the island's small size means that you'll see a few routes more than once.
Multiplayer is also fully supported with car meets, events and freeroam. I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out that the Drivatar challenges are a lot more enjoyable too, as both your and your opponent can take a greater variety of routes to your objective. There's plenty here, so long as you're a Forza Horizon 2 fan looking to get back into the swing of things.
It's not perfect and most of Storm Island's flaws boil down to missed opportunities. The weather may be beautiful, but the island's scenery could have stood to be a little more visually diverse, making more of the temples and ancient structures to create a more striking environment to race through. When the thunder and lightning stops, everything can look a little brown. There was room for more interesting pickups and hidden secrets too, since a few blue billboards isn't exactly pushing the boat out in what should have been a rambunctious piece of content.
And why is there only a tiny strip of coastal road rather than an entire coastline to race around? This is supposed to be an island, after all. Playground Games didn't quite seize the opportunity to make Storm Island as unique to look at as it is to drive on.
And then there's Ben. Sodding Ben. He's still a vile prig of the first order; a slimy, insincere and obnoxious PR goon who lacks the decency to shut up and let you race. I'd hoped that he would have stayed behind on the mainland, but no, he's still here and as unnecessarily repellent as ever. I'd like to see Playground Games introduce a player character editor option in the next DLC pack, though I'd settle for some sort of deadly accident involving Ben and a runaway Ford Ranger.
Still, it could be worse. It could be Alex Taylor and his league of extraordinary idiots. Wishful thinking aside, Storm Island is an excellent piece of quality DLC that has the quantity and content to back up its price point, and an essential purchase for Forza Horizon 2 fans.
- Stonkingly fun off-road racing through dense new environments
- Filthy, gorgeous and dangerous dynamic extreme weather
- Some mad new cars and upgrades, plenty of new events and multiplayer activities
- Routes sometimes repeat themselves, island could be more visually unique
- Room for more interesting collectibles and diverse events
- Shut up, Ben. You atrocious twat.
The Short Version: Storm Island is a mud-churning, rain-drenched, power-sliding delight that more than earns its expensive asking price. So long as you love your racing brutal, dirty, off-road and more than a little airborne, that is.