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So after reading the thread a bit, yes: it can be daunting with how much stuff FH5 shows you that you can do.  The good news is that most of it is optional: nothing is really "locked" behind anything other than your rank.  You can pretty much do anything and rank up (speed zones, barn finds, races, events, etc.), and as you rank up, you can then keep unlocking more Horizon tiers which then unlock more stuff to do.  For reference, I did barely any story races, and instead focused on the endgame races (aptly named things like Goliath, Colossus, Marathon, etc.) because it's always been the endgame races that are intense, long races that take you across massive sections of the map.  For reference the Goliath is a 13 minute race

In fact, I didn't even do story races until after I had already completed all the showcases and endgame races.  The way the game is, it's sort of like BotW: as long as you're doing something, you'll progress.  As you progress, you have more to do.  You actually have all the cars you need to do literally everything right from the get-go.  How you do it is up to you: you basically have options.  And yes, most user-generated races kinda suck, but it's nice to have the option to create races and send them to your friends.

That also goes along with your statement about "wtf happened to gaming", though: options.  Put a dress on a man?  Sure, if you want to.  I see some people get bent out of shape over these things, but the modern era is all about options and open-endedness.  If someone WANTS to cross-dress, then the option is there for them.  It doesn't hurt me, it doesn't make my car slower, it doesn't make my food taste worse.  People get so caught up in mixing their political/sociological beliefs together that it's like they forget that they're not the only people on the planet.  I don't take you to be that type, actually, but yea, it's all about options.  The option is there for a trans to have a male character with a female name/voice wearing a dress.  It doesn't hurt me, and until the day it does, I see nothing wrong with it.

I have no issue with cross-dressing etc. I have an issue with all the bloat filling up my HDD with garments, emotes and other nonsense you don't see while racing.

If it's all about options, why only one body size and shape, no wheelchairs etc. Adding dresses and a third pronoun just makes the absence of the rest stand out. And why no option not to download the bloat :) My wtf happened to gaming is about the store of dresses in a racing game. But maybe I have pegged the game wrong, and it's not really a racing game. More a place to hang out with friends. I just miss PGR and Burnout Takedown!

Looking forward to the longer races.