Do you like fast cars? Do you like choice? Do you like Australia? Do you like no-consequence, peddle-to-the-metal racing?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, have we found the game for you. Enter Forza Horizon 3, the octane filled open world designed for you to explore the land and dominate the track.
So where does a wildly successful franchise take its third installment? Australia of course; the perfect setting for the ever growing Horizon Festival scene. Now, for those who aren’t familiar with the franchise, the Horizon Festival is typically a car and music festival that you race your way through, trying to make your way to the top of any and all leaderboards. While Forza Horizon 3 doesn’t deviate too far from the formula that makes the franchise so special, they do make one major alteration: giving the user full control and choice. Instead of the traditional gameplay style, Playground Studios changed it up and made you the festival boss. At first, I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical with the change. I rather enjoyed picking a car based on the racing series I had entered, souping it up, and moving on to the next area. However, this grew on me rather quickly as I now had the opportunity to choose everything from race type to which radio stations I wanted to sign to my festival.
Starting with car customization, in true Horizon fashion, it’s not always about what’s on the inside that counts but more so what’s on the outside. All options, from vehicle skins to simple vehicle modifications are always at your disposal; making the exterior of your ride reflective of your personality. However, on a more disappointing note, it’s nearly impossible to make your vehicle faster by simply swapping out parts under the hood. While I can appreciate that Forza Horizon 3 is the arcade style brother of the popular Forza racing simulator. I can’t help but wonder if this was a miss that could cost them players. I mean, you are racing with some of the world’s fastest and most expensive cars, why not make them faster?
As for gameplay customization, here is where Horizon switches gears and makes the most of the situation they have created. Enter the blueprint, your full access, no limit, rule making tool that literally lets you control how the game is played. Let’s say you hit a new level and the game offers you a choice from four random cars and you reluctantly pick a car to show up with for the next racing series. On the way, you decide that you don’t like your new ride and you don’t feel like racing with it. Worry not, as you can either follow along with the races the game has provided for you or you can make the call as festival boss and change the race entirely. You read that right, you can now make that unappealing race into whatever you want. So do you want it to be a 5 km supercar sprint in the rain? Or would you rather have a three lap, off-road race at night? The choice is all yours and I can tell you from experience it’s always worth it! This choice isn’t just limited to the cars you drive or race style you prefer; it goes even deeper. As the festival boss you have control over what areas of Australia you would like to build up and populate for your festival.
Out of the box Forza Horizon 3 is more than just a deep and customizable racing game. It’s a cavalcade of stunning graphics and well-balanced sound engineering. The Forza game series is known for it’s impeccable details when it comes to some of the most exquisite automobiles our generation has seen and this new installment is no exception. Playground Studios really went all in when it came to creating the setting for this game. Never have I spent this much time looking around in a game just to see what I can not only find, but enjoy. From the stunning coastline to the sandy hills of the outback, no roadway seems out of place. The weather and time of day add both a challenge and an alternate view of roads often traveled, while the smallest, most intricate details help define the hundreds of character models lining the streets in the forms of racing fans and buildings.
Forza Horizon 3 doesn’t just stop after being visually pleasing, the sounds of the game really take it to the next level. Listening to the noises made from each vehicle you play with, it’s evident that they wanted to get each and every sound right. Right from a high revving engine to a downshift through a tunnel, you have the most realistic sounds coming at you. As a complement to these sound effects, the somewhat underwhelming soundtrack from Horizon 2 has been expanded dramatically. It’s transformed from the typical Horizon pulse and bass radio station we have all grown accustomed to. Throughout the game, you will get the chance to unlock radio stations and sign them to your festival for all to enjoy. Genres include a mix of dance, rock, EDM, classical, and punk. While this feature just shows off another way to customize the game, it also gives us a chance once again to go even DEEPER into the customization. At the launch of Forza Horizon 3 you will be treated to a 15 day free trial to Microsoft’s Groove Music services. This service allows you to compile playlists and bring them right into the game. If you don’t want to take the time to set up Groove Music but still want to enjoy it’s vast library of content, it loops through a playlist of Top 40 hits that can be accessed at your leisure.
Finally, we are going to look at the game’s overall value. I mean, that’s what you came here for right? You want to know if the third edition of the franchise is going to be worth it and the simple answer is yes. Never have I ever complained about the expansive amount of things to do in an open world racing game and I won’t start today. From ongoing championships to online play, your backside will be comfortably seated on your sofa for quite awhile as you race your way through the world of Forza Horizon 3. In true form to its predecessors, the launch title will offer two versions; both a standard and more expansive ultimate edition. Both of these versions offer hundreds of cars, cosmetic designs, and various amounts of DLC. However, if history dictates anything, we could be looking at a long line of car packs and vehicle customizations to be available for purchase using the game’s microtransaction system. It also wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see another Fast and the Furious expansion heading our way when Fast 8 races into theaters in 2017.
While I have covered a few racing games over the past few years, I can confidently say as an Xbox One owner, you want and need Forza Horizon 3 in your collection. Don’t own an Xbox? This is one title that can easily change your mind. It’s fast, fun, and easy to pick up. Like others before it in the franchise, Forza Horizon 3 boasts ample amounts replay value while you get the chance to race around in some of the world’s fastest cars, consequence free.