Though I wouldn’t call myself a petrol head, I do enjoy cars. I like the way cars look and sound, and I love racing games. Probably the funniest part about my love for vehicles is that I don’t actually hold a full driving license… That being said, that didn’t stop me from rolling up on Byron Beach in the latest Lamborghini with the power to build my own Horizon festival in Forza Horizon 3.
This instalment of Forza Horizon has gone bigger and better than ever before. Although the same festival concept is here, this time you’re in control. For some unknown reason, Turn 10 has decided to put the power in your hands so you can run the festival however the hell you want.
For the most part, Forza Horizon 3 is the same game we’ve played through a number of times, just in a different setting. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, eh? And that’s probably the best part about this game, it’s instantly familiar despite having more vehicles than ever before, and a completely new environment to tear arse around. What makes Forza Horizon 3 stand out from its predecessors however is the sheer control you can have over what you do, and when you do it.
So, you roll up at the first Horizon festival location, and immediately you’re given a choice of vehicle as well as what your character will look like. There’s also the added creepy bonus of having the entire cast know your name which completely threw me off the first time I heard it. It is however a nice touch.
The Forza Horizon series has always excelled in being the more accessible game of the series. You don’t need to be an enthusiast to enjoy roaring around city streets or smashing through forests in a 4×4. If you have some enjoyment for racing games and have some idea how to control a vehicle, then you’ll have a blast, that’s a total guarantee. In Forza Horizon 3 however, there’s an essence of the Forza Motorsport games in here thanks to the customisation options.
Seeing as this is your Horizon Festival, the choices are yours as to what races you take and what those races are called. You can even edit details such as the time of day and weather if you so wish. These races and championships are then available not only for you to play, but your friends to play through too bringing a more social aspect to the game.
Speaking of social, Forza Horizon 3 is probably the most socially active game of the series. Not only are their hundreds of the game’s AI powered Drivatars rushing around the stunning environment, most of them are named after your Xbox Live friends, regardless if they’ve played the game or not. If they have played the game however, their current progress will always make an appearance when you discover new roads, smash boards, or discover locations.
This adds an additional challenge to the game, especially if you’re a competitive person, as you’ll want to drive more roads, smash more boards, and speed through speed traps faster than your friends.
If we put being the best of the best aside for a second though, there’s also a new fantastic feature which has been added to the game, and that’s the ability to start a convoy with these Drivatars. By simply honking at them, they’ll join your little group and drive wherever you drive. You can also create convoy races. It’s perfect for those forever alone type who don’t necessarily have friends to play with.
Back to the customisation. While for the most part you can tweak race parameters, or even create your own Bucket List events. You don’t actually have to do this. There’s a good chunk of Horizon curated content available if you’re not in the mood to fiddle, allowing you to get back to the good stuff: racing.
For me, Forza Horizon 3 is a barrel of fun, whether you’re racing, just cruising around, or challenging yourself to find all of the Barn Finds in the game. This does mean that there’s an element of unrealism to the game, like being able to drive off of a freeway, smash into the ground, and drive away with just a few dents here and there. But it doesn’t matter, because it’s fun. Whether you’re speeding through the map in the fastest car you can find, or creating your own Gymkhana lines in one of the many playground locations, there’s something for everyone and it’s just thoroughly enjoyable.
Visually, the game has never looked better and that’s likely thanks to the game being set in Australia. This fictional map has it all, there’s beautiful beaches and a sea front bay area to cruise around, there’s a bustling city centre you can drift around each corner, there’s also a thick rain forest location as well as a sprawling desert. No matter how you want to drive, there’s an environment for it all, and it’s not all cramped together nor does it drastically switch from one to the other like The Crew. It also probably helps that it’s an absolute pleasure to drive around.
Progression, as you’d expect, is done by completing races and heading from one Horizon Festival to another. However, unlike Forza Horizon 2 which had you racing from one location to another after a handful of races, the game begins by offering just a few locations which gradually get expanded. In fact, half of the aim of the game is to expand your core festival locations. In total there are four that you’ll unlock eventually, but it’s up to you which ones get the much needed expansions first.
All of this is done by gaining fans. Each race, whether you win or not, will award you with fans that’ll, presumably, attend the festival. Perform a PR stunt, earn fans. Win a race, earn fans. The more fans you earn the bigger your festivals become. Simple. However, the addition of illegal street races also make an appearance giving you the option to stay clean cut, or go a little rogue and race in order to save face within the street racing community. These don’t earn you fans, but they do earn you a sense of pride.
The game once again has mutliplayer, which in the Open World mode can be interesting, though there are a larger percentage of trolls than anyone actually keen to have a nice, clean 1 on 1 race. A new addition to Forza Horizon 3 though is the ability to play the entire game in four-player co-op, allowing you to complete the entire campaign with friends. Progress at the time, will be tied to the session leader’s campaign, but any progress made will transfer to your own game. In addition, you’re awarded more for your team effort rather than competitive, which is a great addition. Though it makes sense considering in the main game, you hire upto four other drivers to compete along side you to earn credits and other rewards.
For the most part, the online portion just works. If you want to play certain races, you’ll be able to do that in the Online Adventure. If you’d rather just cruise around with other players, you can do that too.
Forza Horizon 3 has to be one of the best Horizon games in the series. The game been improved tenfold over the previous, and even then, Forza Horizon 2 was a pretty decent game to begin with. There’s an absolute ton to do in this game, and despite there being an ending in sight, the added ability to play other players’ races and championships makes for endless possibilities.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of Forza Horizon 3 provided by Microsoft.