Independent British Based Development Studio Playground Games elevated the Forza franchise to new heights when they released their second spinoff title on Xbox One and Xbox 360 approximately 2 years ago this month. Forza Horizon 2 went on to receive critical acclaim from various media outlets around the globe and I stated in my review that it’s easily the best Forza game currently on the Xbox One.
With the imminent release of Forza Horizon 3 as an Xbox Play Anywhere title, Playground has not only outdone their previous efforts but have succeeded in delivering the perfect blueprint on how to make both an exhilarating and addictive racing game experience. Here is a detailed overview of my thoughts on why this title is without a doubt the best racing game so far this generation.
Forza Horizon 3 takes place in Australia and propels the player into the role of an up-and-coming Horizon Festival Boss with goals of growing a brand and establishing a strong fanbase. Shortly after an awesome introductory sequence in which you test drive both the Lamborghini Centenario and a dune buggy, a character select screen appears and you’re given the ability to choose 1 of 14 different boss representatives of various genders and ethnicities. Moments later, you’re able to name the character, create vanity license plates, sign radio stations that are unlocked simultaneously throughout the campaign, add body kits to vehicles and determine the sound of your car horn. It’s also worth mentioning that if you don’t like any of the radio stations, you can Groove Music to create a custom station filled with your favorite type of music. Collectively, these simple, yet effective customization options add a level of personality to each selected boss and truly makes players feel like their choices are an integral part of the overall experience.
As a Horizon Festival Boss, you’re expected to participate in various types of racing competitions including exhibitions, street races, championships, and more. Drivatars are more meaningful too as you’ll be able to recruit them after winning one-on-one matchups and hire or fire them to your heart’s content. Bucket List challenges make a return and are rebranded as PR events that help to generate buzz and fan interest over time. Likewise, Showcase Events also remain intact and are equally important to the over-arcing goal of obtaining and maintaining success.
New to Horizon 3 is a feature called Horizon Blueprint which essentially allows you create and share custom race events in both single-player and multiplayer sessions. The customization options within Blueprint enable you to determine the car type and manufacturer, number of laps, time of day, weather conditions and event name. A handful of event flyers are then generated and you’re able to start the race after choosing one of them. In addition to this feature, there’s also danger sign jumps, convoys, and drift zone activities to partake of throughout each region. You can take your exploratory escapades even further by viewing your surroundings in a free flow camera setup called Drone mode. These new and exciting ways to play keep the core concept fresh and the replay value plentiful for both casual and hardcore racing fans.
Much like the previous games, completing each race earns you both Cash rewards (CR) and Experience points (XP). CR is determined based on your finishing position, difficulty level, and assists. XP is gained through the amount of skillful maneuvers that you use during the race. While CR can be used to upgrade and buy new vehicles, XP can earn you random wheelspins where you have a chance to either win money or new cars. There are over 350 cars available within the game at launch and you’ll definitely have more incentives to keep playing, earning and buying them all. Skill points also allow you to purchase 75 different perks as you steadily progress through the game. Using style and finesse in every race is instrumental to increasing fan attendance and reaching certain milestones grants you the ability to expand your festival to different parts of Australia.
Speaking of Australia, it’s worth noting that the map is twice the size of Forza Horizon 2 and spans across 6 different regional areas of varying conditions and difficulties. For example, players can expect to drive through wild rainforests, sandy beaches, rugged outback off-roads and vast areas filled with skyscrapers. The beauty and detail captured within this living, breathing environment is a direct result of the ForzaTech engine used to create dynamic weather effects, water puddles, and HDR formatted skies. You’ll need an Xbox One S and HDR compatible TV to truly tell the difference, but even if you don’t have either one of these things the graphical detail is still impressive to look at.
Racing game aficionados and completionists who are in search of a game that will keep them busy for a long time will definitely want to pick up Forza Horizon 3 as soon as possible. Below is a quick list of a few things you can expect to start exploring in further detail the minute you decide to purchase this title:
- 488 Roads To Discover
- 16 Street Races
- 15 Barns
- 30 Bucket Lists
- 29 Speed Traps
- 21 Landmarks
- 100 XP Boards
- 50 Fast Travel Boards
- Numerous Auction House Events To Sell And Buy Vehicles
- A Voice Enabled GPS System Called ANNA Is Available For Use In Every Vehicle
It’s worth noting that all of this content is available right out of the box and it’s more than likely that Playground Games will add more content with various expansions down the road. On the surface, this is an insane amount of value in the package already and guarantees that the single-player career mode will take some time to complete.
After you’ve finished career mode, several new multiplayer modes are available for you to try with friends on either Xbox One or Windows 10 compatible PCs. While free roam is always an option to casually cruise through Australia, Online Adventure, and Four Player Career Co-op are two additions that are instant game changers. Online Adventure allows 12 players to complete in competitive multiplayer matchups that are set up by a designated host. Some of the games included in these multiplayer matches include the following:
- Infection – All vehicles start out infected except for one. Whoever avoids getting infected or hit the longest wins.
- King – One vehicle is made King and must avoid getting hit by other cars. Whoever remains King the longest wins.
- Flags – Vehicles collect color-coded flags and must avoid being hit by opponents while reaching designated areas. Whoever scores the most points wins.
Four Player Career Co-op allows you to play through career missions with both new and old friends alike. After successfully completing a mission, your progress is carried over to your single-player mode along with any CR or XP you’ve earned. This mode is better suited for anyone who has trouble finishing a mission and needs help. Last but certainly not least, 1,000 player clubs and Forzathon special events are also expected to be added to the game fairly soon. I had a chance to experience both Online Adventure Four Player Career Co-op in extensive playthrough sessions and there were no performance issues. The online and loading time from single-player to multiplayer sessions were fairly quick and seamless and I’m very interested to see if this remains true when more people are playing the game later this week.
With so many positive things to say about Forza Horizon 3, there’s at least one problem that annoyed me throughout most of my experience. As I mentioned in this review earlier, there are a ton of things to do in Australia and you’ll sometimes find different objectives and areas of interest within the same vicinity of each other. This usually leads to ANNA asking you if you want to do another objective that often times distracts you from completing the goal you already was focused on taking care of. This isn’t necessarily a major issue though as you can easily ignore the question and stay committed to your original plans. Obviously, some may or may not be annoyed by something like this and I wanted to address it briefly in case some of you encounter these scenarios during your playthroughs.
Minor gripe aside, Forza Horizon 3 is a fantastic racing title that’s certainly worthy of both your time and money. If you’re a racing game fan and you own an Xbox One or Windows 10 PC, do yourself a favor and pick this game up right now. Playground Games really knocked it out of the park with this sequel and I look forward to seeing what they can and will achieve on Microsoft’s next console.
This review was based on a digital review copy of Forza Horizon 3 for the Xbox One provided by Microsoft.