Into the Outback.
It makes me so happy to finally write a review for a Forza title, and I sure picked the right one to start with. Forza Horizon 3 is the latest in the long-running series of arcade-simulation style racing games, and it does an exquisite job of making sure the series holds the pole position in the genre. Like all of the other Horizon titles, I’ve spent the grand majority of my time cruising around and taking in the sights, and there are some incredible sights to behold.
Quite importantly, Forza Horizon 3 breaks the mold of the series by taking you out of the shoes of a driver that is trying to work his way up the ladder of colored wristbands and putting you in the driver’s seat of the entire festival. There have also been a number of changes that have been made to the smaller details of the title, giving it a fresh coat of paint in addition to demonstrating that there are plenty of things that Playground Games and Turn 10 have up their sleeves for the series.
Following in the tracks of the rest of the series, Forza Horizon 3 presents you with a huge map as your vehicle playground and leaves you to your own devices about how to proceed through the game. Obviously driving and tuning your cars come forth as the major gameplay elements, giving you tons of freedom to make every one of your cars, trucks, or buggies a truly unique piece of machinery.
While it isn’t new to the Forza games, I’d like to praise both Turn 10 and Playground Games for is the incredible accessibility that they’ve designed into the difficulty settings. Players can customize the difficulty of the game to be as easy or difficult as they want it to be. You have the option of removing all driving assists, like “best lines” that show you the apex of turns and tells you when to brake or accelerate, different options for transmission control (which even includes an option to require the use of a clutch), enabling auto-braking, and AI driver difficulty. What’s more is that the game rewards the player for turning off assists, increasing payouts based on what difficulty you play on.
Oh, and there’s a rewind button in case you screw up royally. It can really save your bacon on a long race.
Anyways, probably the biggest change is the fact that you’re thrust into the role of the Festival Boss, giving you the power to choose what sort of races you want to take part in. So if you want to play through almost the entire game in rally cars, you can. While the tools given to you aren’t particularly robust (I haven’t found a way to make my own races, only editing the settings of the available ones), there’s quite a bit you can do with what you’re given. You’re basically handed the same control over races that multiplayer racing games offer; like time of day, track conditions, number of laps, car type, etc.
Perhaps the most fun that I had has been the ability to create my own Bucket List challenges.
First of all, Forza Horizon 3 doesn’t change much from the previous games in the sense of graphics and sound. The Forza series has largely had the same level of attention to detail that the previous entries have benefited from. However, Forza Horizon 3 does do a few new things that are worth remarking on.
The skybox for the game is pretty incredible, and weather effects have made an illustrious return. The sky looks amazing, both at night and during the day. It may not seem like much, but when something makes up half of the game, it can have a major impact. A crappy skybox can ruin a good game. The same goes for the weather effects, which have a great deal of gradient between the different racing conditions.
Then there’s the soundtrack, which is robust at the very least. That’s not even considering the fact that thanks to Playground Games including the option to have a customized playlist through the Microsoft Groove application. Racing to your own music might sound like it isn’t such a big deal when you factor in that the Xbox One now allows you to run music in the background on the system, like you could on the original Xbox and the 360, but there’s something to be said about hearing your music playing at the Horizon Festival locations.
Also, it supports HDR10, though I have not been able to test that feature.
Forza Horizon 3 can’t be nominated for any originality awards (are there any?), though there are some notable changes to the formula. First of all, instead of merely being a contestant in the Horizon festivities, you’re thrust into the role of the boss, which gives you the power to choose what races take place and when. These customization options extend to Bucket List challenges as well, where you can choose from a number of different templates and tosses you into the driver’s seat to set the score to beat.
STORY AND MULTIPLAYER
As mentioned above, Forza Horizon 3‘s story tasks you with the mission to make the Horizon Festival in Australia as amazing as it can possibly be, by attracting fans and building up the event’s presence down under. You accomplish this by winning races and being a BAMF on the road (and off).
As you progress, you build up your experience at driving and use that expertise to purchase special abilities and bonuses that can do things like make your experience build up faster, grant you special abilities like being able to use a drone (which is pretty awesome for helping you locate Barn Finds), or even just cash bonuses.
Interestingly enough, Playground even made it possible for players to play through the game in co-op multiplayer, which is pretty groundbreaking for a racing game. Most importantly is that players aren’t penalized for working together, but they also don’t gain massive benefits from playing together either (which is awesome for us anti-social gamers).
Traditional multiplayer returns to the Horizon series in the form of free roam options and different game modes like standard races and modes like King and Infected. Not much else to note here honestly.
WILDCARD: LIKE A BOSS
The key difference in Forza Horizon 3 from the rest of the series is that you’re in charge of the festival instead of just a participant. Since you’re handed the keys to the events, you’re able to play through the game as you see fit, only being forced into doing Showcase Events every once in a while. Luckily, the Showcase Events themselves are still pretty fun, though the outcome of them feels pretty canned. It’s hard to believe that there’s even a sliver of a chance that you’d be able to fail the events themselves.
The good news is that the majority of the game reinforces the sense of freedom at every corner. You can even level up like crazy just by cruising around, or ramping cars off of sand dunes.
Forza Horizon 3 may be another sequel in a sea of other sequels, but it stands out among the crowd in more ways than one. It’s a system seller that further cements the Xbox One’s place in the market and puts another nail in the PS4’s coffin of lackluster racing games.
If you like racing and have an Xbox One or capable PC, play Forza Horizon 3 at your earliest convenience. Try the demo, rent it, or just go out and buy it… it’s worth the purchase.
Even though Playground Games apparently thinks I’m a girl. You heard me. My name only showed up in the list of female names.
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I recently “finished” Horizon 3 too and loved the experience. The fact that every race can be pretty much whatever you want it to be is a fantastic addition to the racing genre, avoiding the whole you-must-have-this-car problem of most games. I’ll probably do a write up of it myself in a few weeks. Lovely to read your thoughts parallel mine!
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