The Forza Horizon series has been around for a little while now and with each new iteration Playground Games and Turn 10 keep raising the bar. We originally raced all over Colorado and then made our way to Southern France and Northern Italy for an encore. Now once again we are back at the Horizon Festival but this time we are racing all over Australia. From the Gold Coast to Surfer’s Paradise to the Australian Outback and the rainforest there are a number of different locales in this game and a whole lot to see. Aesthetically the game is incredibly beautiful with one of my favorite moments being racing in a dark cave for a few moments and then you come out the other side on to a beach with the water on your immediate left and the sun shining down, glistening on that water. It is a true sight to behold and only the beginning of what is to come in Forza Horizon 3.
The game begins with your character walking off of an airplane and being welcomed to Australia. This time around you are the boss and are in charge of the festival. What this means is that in addition racing through Australia you are responsible for the upkeep of the different festival locations. Don’t worry though because it doesn’t take away from the game at all and is really quickly done. There are multiple festival locations throughout Australia with the first one being at Byron Bay. As you compete in events, successfully compete PR stunts and generally just be a badass behind the wheel you will accrue more and more fans. Once you hit a certain number of fans you will be prompted to upgrade your festival. This is easily done by driving to the location and then simply pushing the “X” button and watching a brief cinematic of work being done. You can max out each festival location at level 5 and will even unlock an achievement for doing so. In addition to upgrading your festival you will also need to gain more fans to open different festivals in different parts of Australia as well as unlock showcase events. When you have enough fans for a new location you are presented with two different potential locations and then once you make your selection the game gives you neat little statistic telling you how many other players picked that location as well. You don’t have to worry about the location you didn’t pick though as you will eventually get a chance to open up all of the locations. The Showcase Events are your over the top racing events. In previous Forza Horizon titles you have raced against trains as well as planes and in the opening sequence for Forza Horizon 3 you will race against a jeep that is being suspended in the air by a helicopter. I don’t want to ruin the surprise on what the other Showcase events are but they are definitely fun and over the top as well.
If you have played a Forza Horizon game in the past then you will immediately know how Forza Horizon 3 is in terms of gameplay. It is super smooth and Playground Games has done a great job walking the line between a simulation and an arcade-y game, with this title going more towards the arcade-y side of things. There are hundreds of cars in the game and all of the ones that I drove controlled differently. It was far more difficult to execute a tight turn into a tunnel with a big Ford truck then it was with a smaller Lamborghini, for example. The different manufacturers that you have come to expect in Forza game are all here with Audi, BMW, Ford, Chevrolet, Ferrari, Fiat, Honda, Jaguar and much more. If you are someone who is a Halo fan and played either Halo: Master Chief Collection or Halo 5: Guardians (or both!) then you will receive a code in your message inbox on your Xbox One to unlock the Halo warthog vehicle. It looks really nice and is an AMG Transport Dynamics M12S Warthog CST and has the UNSC logos on the side and everything. It can be a fairly slow vehicle when compared to some of the super cars in the game but it is fun to drive nonetheless and if put on that iconic Halo theme while you are driving around in it that just adds to the experience.
Up above I alluded to the plethora of events in Forza Horizon 3 and after spending quite a bit of time with this game I can safely say Playground Games is going to keep you busy for a good while if you want to see and do everything. Whenever you level up a Festival location new events pop up all over the place. There are cross country races, scrambles, trail races, street races along some coastal roads and more. Then there are the events that will be familiar to Forza Horizon fans such as speed traps, bucket list missions and some newer events like danger signs where you need to build up a good amount of speed and then launch your car off of a high hill, cliff, or whatever and see how far you can jump with stars being earned for jumping 100 feet, 200 feet and 325 feet. Drifting is also back in Forza Horizon 3 and there will be drift zones that you come across as well where you will need to use your skills to try and rack up as many points as you can as you drift around some corners while trying to say within the flags so you don’t automatically fail. As you progress in the game you will also be told about other drivers that you can hire to be a part of your crew and where to find them. If you choose to do that you can go to the general area they were last seen in and then once you find them, challenge them to a race and if you win then you can hire them as part of your crew. You can only have four people as part of your crew though so there might be some times where you have to fire your friend because you were just able to hire a better racer. Then of course there are all of the collectibles to be found throughout the world such as the XP signs, the fast travel signs, and something else that has proven to be quite popular with the Forza Horizon community, the barn finds. For those new to the series the barn finds are where you find abandoned cars and then your mechanic restores them to their former glory and once he does that you can drive them around the world. As a protip the new Drone mode can also help you find items without driving all over the place. For example if you are trying to find a barn you can send out a drone to explore the area and if you come across the barn with the Drone the location of the barn will be put on your map so you can drive right there. The Drone can also spot and mark other things on your map such as the location of collectibles.
Both Turn 10 and Playground Games have done a great job of creating social games in the past and Forza Horizon 3 is no different. Clubs are back in Forza Horizon 3 where you can have up to 1,000 members and play with or against your friends to see who the best is. Once you are in a club you can go into the overview to check out who all of the members are as well as who the club leader is, who the current ladder champion is and more. The club ladders allows you to compete against other club members by earning as much XP as you possibly can each week. The more you earn the higher on the ladder you will be which can also translate into credits as you reach new tiers. The ladder is reset every week so if it looks someone has a commanding lead that is going to be hard to catch you don’t have to worry too much because it will eventually get reset and level the playing field for everyone. There is also a club noticeboard which club leaders and co-leaders can post important information to for everyone to see, such as if there is a big race planned tomorrow for club members or whatever the case may be. The clubs tie right into the social aspect of Forza Horizon 3. Other than the obvious aspect of racing with your friends you can earn more points just by doing general things by yourself if you are in a club. During my time in a club there was an instance where I earned an extra 25,000 credits for performing a stunt as part of the club.
This can and will also go into the online modes for the game. You have online adventure, online freeroam, co-op campaign and then private session. Beginning with Online Adventure you can think of this somewhat as a “guided tour” of Australia. In this mode you and your friends race to each destination and take part in different events like Infection, Flag Rush and King. If you happened to play the online road trips in Forza Horizon 2 then this is basically the same thing with a different name. In Infection you have one racer that starts out as infected. If the player that is infected collides with another player then that other player becomes infected as well. The goal of this mode to go as long as possible without being infected which will allow you to rack up the points. The person with the most points at the end wins. In the “King” mode one person starts as King. If you smash into that person then you will become the King. The winner of this round is the one who remains King for the longest period of time. Then you have Flag Rush which is basically like capture the flag in a first person shooter. You need to rush to get a flag and then drop it off at a designated spot to earn points. If another player happens to crash into you while you are carrying a flag though then they will steal it from you and try to score for their team. All three games can be a lot of fun to play and can cause some really dramatic (and funny!) moments. Online Freeroam is pretty self explanatory. It will feature things such as Bucket Lists, PR stunts, races and more. Anyone will be able to set up an event and anyone can take part in those events if they so choose. You can set up Online Adventure and Online Freeroam to be publicly available if you want or set up a private session for just your friends.
The new addition for Forza Horizon 3 is the co-op campaign. Co-op campaign is a four player mode that allows you and three other friends to enjoy the Forza Horizon 3 campaign together. Whether it is trying to find collectibles, see who is the fastest in a showcase event or who can get the most points drifting, it is an even more fun way to experience the standard campaign. Being able to joke around with friends as you are experiencing the same thing is a lot of fun and it is a welcome addition to the Forza Horizon series.
The community creative aspect is still going strong in Forza Horizon 3 as well. You can create designs for your car and upload them for others to download. If someone really likes your work they can follow you. You can tune up your car to try and get it just how you like it. There are also featured designs, such as some of the designs from the development team. Of course if you don’t want a design on your car you can elect to just have it be red, blue or whatever color you want.
I mentioned up above that the graphical fidelity in Forza Horizon 3 is something to behold. There were frequent occasions when I would come across an amazing looking landscape and then hit the brakes on my car to come screeching to a halt so I could open up photo mode and take some pictures of my surroundings. I also used the Drone mode in Forza Horizon 3 to get some amazing screenshots from the game. There were waterfalls that I took a picture of, my car sitting on a dam, the skyscrapers lit up at night and much more. You could honestly spend hours just driving around and trying to find that perfect picture. The audio in the game is done just as well with eight different radio stations to choose from as well as Groove music. The radio stations cover a wide range of musical tastes from rap and hip hop to classical to metal and more. You’ll also hear DJs on the radio talking about current events in the game which is a nice touch. If you want to pick your own music to race to you can also do that with the Groove feature in the game. Simply choose the Groove station and you’ll be either listening to your own stuff or streaming other music in no time. If you want to stream music off of Groove there is monthly fee, however, if you want to stream your own stuff that is free of charge. It is a great feature that helps to make sure you won’t get tired of hearing the same songs over and over again.
Forza Horizon 3 has so much going for it that I could go on and on. At this point you just need to go download the free demo and try it for yourself. If you like what you see (and what you read in this review) then by all means go pick the game up when it is released. The Forza Horizon series started out as a simple spinoff from the more simulation based Forza Motorsport series but it has really found its own identity and personally speaking I think I enjoy the Horizon games more than the Motorsport entries. Whether you play Forza Motorsport or Forza Horizon (or both!) Turn 10 and Playground Games consistently deliver and raise the bar with each new iteration. With the new Xbox Play Anywhere functionality built in you can basically play anywhere as well.. Start your game on Xbox One and then continue it on your PC or laptop if are going to be away from your console for awhile. When you buy one version you get access to both which makes it really easy for you to stay connected to the game whether you are at home or on the road. Forza is the king of the road and has been for a while and it doesn’t look like it is going to relinquish that title anytime soon. Forza Horizon 3 is going to be a game I play for quite a while and I am excited to see where the festival will take us next.