Forza Horizon is the offshoot of the Forza Motorsport series and mixes up the motorsport simulation formula by ditching racetracks in favour of open world dream locations. The series has visited the United States of America, Continental Europe and now Australia.
One of the strengths the series has always had is that despite being open world they never try and create whole countries minimised within the map, this is again the case with Forza Horizon 3 and it small piece of Australia. The slice you get to play around in is vast enough to contain different landscapes and legitimately vary condition both on the road and with the weather, while being contained in an Area of the country that allows players to feel immersed more as they have not just hopped from coast to coast in 5 minutes. Of course, it is naturally scaled down but this is a realistic gameplay and development option that no one should have any complaints with.
The first thing to note about Horizon 3 is just how beautiful it looks, the developers have made a masterpiece graphically in representing the varied environments of Australia. Whether your thrashing your way through the rainforest with water all over the windscreen, to pounding through the outback on dune buggies, or just cruising the Highway between Surfers Paradise and Byron Bay, Horizon 3 doesn’t let itself or the country it is set in down in anyway. The biggest testament to this I can state is that with racing games I like to immerse myself and use cockpit view wherever I can, with Horizon 3 I almost feel bad when I use it as it limits just how much of the world I can see as I’m driving (I now only use it for when I’m racing, open world driving is the time to drink in the scenery).
The second thing to note is how wonderfully the cars drive, it takes a few moments to get used to as the physics are naturally tweaked slightly from the Forza Motorsport series but make no mistake these cars still drive as a simulation drive not an arcade drive. They feel the way you imagine they might, a small Lotus Elise clings to the road tightly, but don’t think you can make a turn a 90degree turn at 80 mph because you will go headfirst into a tree or (rather more comically) a set of dustbins. A heavy ford pickup truck will wallow down the road and take some good brakes to slow down ready for the corner and they all vary in effectiveness depending on road surface, a Ferrari 458 excels on the road but struggles on sand for example.
The game approaches the notion of the ‘Horizon Festival’ from the previous two entries, as this time you’re not an entrant in the festival, you’re the boss of it. This is the games way of giving you more choice and control in what you do. Yes, you still enter into the races but now the higher your place or better you drive the more ‘fans’ you earn. Earn more fans and get access to new festival sites across Australia and unlock Forza’s signature ‘Showcase’ events and go head to head with a fleet of powerboats. The different sites while containing similar events vary in environment enough to make each one feel unique. Unlocked even more fans? Then why not expand one of your festival sites for more events (and a bigger music tent).
This also allows a narrative reason for one of Horizon 3’s best new features ‘blueprint’ races. These are races you can create, choose the types of cars available, what type of event it is such as a circuit or cross country, how many laps, what time of day, what the weather is etc. This allows you to go through the game your way, if you want to play the whole game in a Lamborghini or a native Australian Holden then you can, just make your own races if the ones available are not to your taste.
Better yet the races you create can be shared with your friends and other players giving a catalogue of choice (Yes you can create your own versions of Horizons Bucket list challenges also).
Horizon 3 retains the ability to go online with your friends also but now any races you do contribute to your single player progress also, and you can now compete in showcase events as a group. Ever dreamt of racing after a train with your friends, well now you can.
The world is littered with collectibles to chase, from stunt jumps and drifting zones to Horizons usual selection of barn find cars (Cars that can only be unlocked by finding them hidden in the world) and the number of races is large indeed, not to mention the collection of cars in this entry.
One quick mention on the cars, the catalogue is vast but a nice addition is the appearance of ‘Horizon editions’ cars that can only be unlocked through level up lucky spins, or bought and sold in Horizon 3’s online auction house.
The ability to expand and add festival sites means this game has a lengthy playtime so is almost certainly going to give you value for money if you play it to completion, however could lead to some players with limited time for gaming to feel a sense of incompleteness.
Forza Horizon 3 is everything great about the first two entries in the series with some nice new editions such as ‘Horizon edition cars’ and ‘Blueprint races’ thrown into the mix. The world is breath tacking and leaves me wondering if they can create this now then what will a Horizon game towards the end of this console generation look like? The playtime will get you value for money but could lead to some feeling of incompleteness if you don’t have hours and hours to spend on it.
****NOTE**** – This game was released on September 27th 2016 and was played by the reviewer from the day of release, however due to the size of the game and limited time the review has taken time to complete as a full sense of the game was needed before any thoughts could be published online. Thank you for your patience.