Forza Horizon 3 is Playground Games’ newest entry into their open world racing franchise. Unlike it’s sister series Forza Motorsport, Horizon feels much more eccentric and exciting. That’s not an insult to Forza Motorsport, as that series is one of the best racing simulators around. It’s simply that Forza Horizon has always been more about exploration, insane stunts, and a huge load of variety. That core idea is pushed even harder in Forza Horizon 3, and it pays off in a huge way.
Forza Horizon 3 pits you as the boss of the Horizon Festival. For those unfamiliar with the franchise, each Horizon game focuses on a festival of sorts. Think about a car show based in one state, but the entire state has races and incredible stunts for. That’s essentially what the Horizon Festival is. Horizon 3 puts in charge of all that, in a very neat way. You start by building a festival site, which unlocks a few races and challenges. Completing these objectives in style and swiftness nets you in-game currency and “fans”. Once you’ve reached a certain allotment of fans, you can expand you festival to further reaches of the beautiful country of Australia. Eventually you’ll have giant festival setups all across the country and in different locales. Tight urban streets, wide and open dirt paths through jungles, and much more are available to host a wide variety of races and events within.
Before I get into any more of the specifics of the gameplay, there’s much that should be said about the actual presentation of the game. Forza Horizon 3 has a ton of stuff going on. From a complete co-op online to different clubs and in-game rivals, there’s plenty of content smashed into this game. The menu systems make this wide variety of content easy to navigate, and can be easily accessed at anytime. There is limitations however; you can’t repaint your car in the middle of the road, for instance. Beyond something like that, all of the statistic tracking, difficulty settings, online communities, and downloadable content marketplace are laid out in an accessible and concise menu system. Forza Horizon 3 is also incredibly beautiful. It supports HDR, so if you’re into that kind of graphical fidelity, Horizon can deliver. Even if you don’t have a brand new television, Horizon jumps off the screen. There’s a huge variety of cars, and all of them look nearly photo-realistic. The surrounding landscapes are just as beautiful as they are varied. Jungles are lush and vibrant; city streets are bright and populated. Everything about this game is simply gorgeous. The game also sounds fantastic. Aside from a few weak sound effects when dealing with collisions, everything sounds great. American muscle cars have that low growl and rumble, super cars scream with excursion as you slam on the gas. Ever car sounds like it should, and with a great amount of overall quality and consistency. When you take into account the vast amount of different cars in the game, you can easily see the amount of passion and care that was put into making each one look and sound authentic. Simply put, Forza Horizon 3 is one of the most beautiful games of the year, and until Gran Turismo rears its head, will most likely be the best looking racing game so far this generation.
So the game looks great, but is there enough content to keep you interested? As I said before, the answer to that is a resounding yes. Besides your standard circuit races, sprints, and championships, there’s a slew of other content to be enjoyed. Keep in mind that most of these are customizable, as to keep with the theme of being the boss of the festival. You can screech through drift zones, fly past speed trackers, and pull off ridiculous PR stunts. These stunts usually involve jumping a ridiculous distance at a breakneck speed, and are incredibly fun when they happen naturally during free roam. Unlocking new cars extends beyond an auction house as well, with super rare cars concealed in hidden barns throughout the game. There’s also my favorite aspect of the game, which is the Bucket List. This was big in Forza Horizon 2 as well, and makes a great return in this entry. The idea of the Bucket List is exactly what it sounds like; things you would want to do before you die. However, this is set against the backdrop of Forza Horizon 3, so these events get pretty intense. These small events usually revolve around one specific car taking on an incredible challenge. The first Bucket List challenge has you speeding through the rainforest in an Ariel Nomad. Other examples are drifting around a neon lit city in a Nissan GTR 2017. The list goes on and on: activate a speed trap at 150mph in a Ferrari 488 GTB, wreak havoc in a construction site in a Ford RS200. You get the idea. These events get crazier and crazier as they progress, and you are eventually able to craft your own Bucket List events. If you thought that was incredibly exciting, there’s also events called “Showcases”, which involve activities such as racing against trains and helicopters. I’ll leave it at that, as to not spoil some of the amazing surprises.
In addition to all of that, there’s also an expansive online community. There’s also a plethora of options here as well: freeroam with other players, play the entire campaign in co-op, start an “online adventure” with a group of players, etc. You can also challenge other players as become their rivals, start racing clubs, and more. Honestly, the list of content here goes on and on. All of these gameplay options being highly customizable, to boot. Everything runs smoothly and great as well, with little to not connection issues being seen while reviewing.
Overall, Forza Horizon 3 is a fantastic game. There’s a huge amount of content to be experienced, all crafted with excellent. It remains true to the heart of racing, and the pleasure of the joy ride. Your favorite cars are here, and they are waiting to be driven all over Australia. It looks amazing, sounds amazing, and is an absolute treat to play. The level of replayability is gigantic as well, as you’ll always find something fun to experience every time you play. Forza Horizon 3 isn’t just a fantastic racing game, it’s my favorite of 2016 so far.
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