Forza Horizon 3 is the latest release in the Forza franchise to grace the shelves of Xbox – and for the first time PC – gamers. And boy does it deliver.
Expanding upon the technical brilliance of its predecessors and boasting an ever-improving lineup of cars ranging from classics to modern hypercars, Horizon 3 is the most exciting title in the Horizon series to date, particularly for Australian fans of the series.
This iteration of the series is yet another joyous open-world racer, packed with features and game modes to entertain players for hours on end.
The third game in the Horizon spinoff series sees us blazing our way along the Australian coasts, as well as exploring the lush countryside and desolate outback. This is the largest map Playground Games has developed to date. Featuring well-known locations like the Yarra Valley, Surfers Paradise, Byron Bay, and the Australian Outback, gamers are treated to a wide range of environments and locales to race in and explore.
Populated by a bevy of AI drivers and events to complete, you’ll never find yourself short of things to do while traversing the beautiful landscapes. On multiple occasions I found myself getting distracted on route to wherever I was headed by roads I hadn’t explored or other interesting events I wanted to check out. The presence of bonus signs scattered around the map, rewarding the adventurous with XP boosts and fast-travel discounts, gives a real incentive to delve deeper into the world provided and truly experience the sheer beauty of Playground’s vivid depiction of Australia.
A Quality Roster
To do this, Playground Games provide a stunning car lineup that features over 350 unique cars, all vividly and meticulously modelled for our viewing pleasure. Whether it be classic cars such as the Ferrari Dino 246 GT, Japanese imports like the Nissan GT-R, Modern Supercars like the Lamborghini Centenario, or Australian icons like the Holden Torana A9x and the Ford XB Falcon, odds are that Horizon 3 has you covered.
The upgrade system, as per usual for any games in the Forza franchise, gives plenty of options for tailoring a car to your needs. Finding your perfect upgrade setup is as satisfying as ever, while the addition of body kits for many cars provides extra visual customisation not seen in the franchise before. Visually, the ability to paint your car in whatever manner of livery you desire is perfect, with the design store plentifully stocked by budding artists. If nothing tickles your fancy, the usual paint options are available for you to create your own design, allowing you to give your car a unique feel.
The addition of Horizon Edition (HE) cars provides another set of cars to collect. Each of the HE cars are the same as their standard counterparts in the game, but with an extra caveat: they each come with a boost to either skill points, XP points or credits. Currently these cars are very rare and hard to come by, attainable only through the wheelspin lottery system or via the auction house. But they are well worth the extravagant prices.
As is always the case with any Forza game, the cars handle like a dream, both on the tarmac and off. The Horizon series traditionally opts for a slightly more arcade-like feel over the Forza Motorsport series, but the driving feels very similar and just as crisp. The cars seem to grip the roads as they should, losing stability at higher speeds and on dirt. However, the off-road driving in Horizon 3 is one of the most satisfying experiences in any racing game I’ve played.
As a fan of rally driving games, Horizon’s approach to dirt driving feels great. Pulling a perfect power slide around a dirt-covered corner feels insanely satisfying, just as it has in previous Horizon games, feeling the car lose traction off every bump. The addition of deep puddles to the game adds another interesting element to the off-road driving not seen before in the series, providing a challenging component to races whenever it shows up. Car too light and lacking in power? Stand by and watch as your opposition rapidly gain ground and overtake you.
One of the most interesting shifts the Horizon series has taken with this iteration is to move the player away from being a measly racer among the ranks. Instead, this time you take the role as head honcho of the whole festival. This provides the opportunity for tailoring progression in whatever way you want. Whether it be constructing your own event on the given racing routes, coming up with your own blueprint bucket-list challenges, or choosing which festival sites to develop first, this new level of control gives the player more freedom than the series has ever seen before.
Graphics and Sound
Yet again, Playground have shown just what an Xbox console can do in the graphics department. Stunning lighting and weather effects enhance a lush and vivid environment, providing a visual experience unlike any other racing game available. Racing games with beautiful environments aren’t uncommon, but nothing even comes close to the incredible artistry Playground have managed to produce here. From the arid outback to the tight streets of Surfer’s Paradise and the winding roads of the forests near Byron Bay, the world never ceases to instil a sense of awe and wonder.
The masterfully constructed soundscape adds to the sense of immersion already produced by the incredible visuals. The Forza franchise continues to set the bar high for sound. The car engine’s roar soothes the soul with its deep rumbles, combing with the whistle of the turbochargers and the increasing revs, making you feel like you’re really there. The sound of the tires struggling against the surface as you speed through a corner, and even the sounds of metal crunching metal during a collision, all sound just like you think the real thing would.
Horizon 3 provides an incredible amount of replayability to anyone interested in seriously getting their money’s worth out of the game. With plenty of bonus boards to collect throughout the environment, exploring the world to completion seems like an endless task. The ability to construct your own events on the many routes provided by Playground, with modifiable car selections, weather and time conditions gives an endless amount of combinations to enjoy.
There is also the possibility of playing online in three different ways. Online Adventure puts you on a road trip with other players, driving between events before participating in a number of races. Online free roam is pretty self-explanatory, putting players in a session where they are able to simply drive around in the immense rendition of Australia Horizon 3 calls home. Co-op campaign is the most interesting and new addition to the series, allowing up to four players to simultaneously progress through the single player content together, contributing to their individual story progress.
Forza Horizon 3 is a masterclass on how to make an open-world racing game. Incredible visuals, a large and beautifully crafted car roster, enjoyable driving and endless replayability make this game a must have for racing fans on Xbox, as well as PC gamers with a beefy enough system.