Forza Horizon 5 uses ray tracing – but not how you think

Forza Horizon 5
(Image credit: Playground Games)

We already knew Forza Horizon 5 will take advantage of ray tracing in its Forza Vista mode – which is a graphical technique that uses realistic lighting and reflections to make car models look more gorgeous than ever – but developer Playground Games has also revealed that the game will use ray tracing for audio.

Speaking on the episode 3 of the Forza Horizon 5: Let’s ¡Go! series, creative director Mike Brown and lead audio designer Fraser Strachan were quizzed about the game’s audio, and what petrolheads can expect when careering around the beautiful biomes of Mexico.

It turns out that Forza Horizon 5 will use ray tracing to affect the game’s audio, which is used throughout the world. The game will send out ray-traced audio paths that can detect walls, buildings and ceilings as well. This means you’ll hear the roar of your car’s engine sounds bouncing off of all the buildings around you, and that will change depending on the environment.

“As soon as we turned it on, it grounded the world in reality,” Strachan said. “It made the world really feel alive. If you’re listening with spatial audio, something like Dolby Atmos with your headphones on, you’ll be able to hear your car bouncing off the roofs as well.”

“Every material in the game has been set up with a different absorption coefficient, which is kind of an acoustic term which essentially says if it’s concrete it will bounce off more than foliage, which actually absorbs the sound, so it’s really dynamic to the world around you.” 

Ray-traced audio will also affect multiplayer modes by using occlusion, as the game can detect where every single car is in relation to your car. If a car’s behind a building, for example, you’ll know not to head directly there as their engine will sound muffled. This means you could choose to cut them off instead, as you’ll be more of their location.

Best on Xbox Series X/S

Forza Horizon 5 will also sound better on Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, as the new consoles unlock a new compression format that allows for much higher fidelity audio. It’s apparently imperceptible to an uncompressed version, which should please audiophiles. This means that every aspect of the game will sound “cleaner and more refined” on Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, including car sounds, music and even dialog.

The team also delved into how car recordings are made, which involves meticulously recording hundreds of cars on an airfield track, and Strachan revealed that there will be over 320 brand new recordings.

Strachan also said that Forza Horizon 5 will feature a modular system for the very first time, which has been highly requested by the game’s community. It means that when you upgrade your car, you’ll hear the difference in real time and how they affect the sound of your vehicle.

Mexico awaits

Forza Horizon 5 was revealed during Microsoft's Xbox and Bethesda Showcase during E3 2021, which took place in June. It's set to release on November 9, 2021, and will be available to Xbox Game Pass subscribers on day one on Xbox consoles and PC. 

Adam Vjestica

Adam was formerly TRG's Hardware Editor. A law graduate with an exceptional track record in content creation and online engagement, Adam has penned scintillating copy for various technology sites and also established his very own award-nominated video games website. He’s previously worked at Nintendo of Europe as a Content Marketing Editor and once played Halo 5: Guardians for over 51 hours for charity. He is now an editor at The Shortcut.