By now, those familiar with Turn 10’s racing sim Forza Motorsport, also know of the bi-yearly release of the fantastic open world spin-off racer, Forza Horizon, courtesy of Playground Games. The music festival themed concept of bringing music and car lovers together in various locations, starting in Colorado, and then moving to Italy, has acted as a gateway for those wishing to live out lavish fantasies which include driving exotic cars across miles of open roads.
Forza Horizon 3 takes this whole setup a step further, once again occurring in an entirely new location, but this time putting the power in players’ hands.
You’re the boss now
No longer are you just a driver looking to participate in the Horizon Festival and rise in rank. This time, you’re running the entire thing. Don’t worry, though; Playground Games didn’t turn the series into a glorified management sim. You’re still spending nearly every minute of game time behind the wheel, but this time, you have a lot more say in what gets done.
Instead of rising in ranks as you race, you’re accumulating fans. The more fans you have, the bigger the festival, needs to be to accommodate those fans. The best part is you do get to see the Festival grow and get bigger over time. Not just unlocking new Festival locations across the map, but each Festival site getting bigger with larger venues.
For those worried about the management aspect getting too overbearing, trust me when I say that it all boils down to just choosing from a few options now and then. The core of the game remains focused on the driving.
So many options
Forza Horizon 3 is one of those open world games where you’ll quickly get distracted by a slew of activities before ever reaching your given waypoint. Whether it’s the various PR Stuns to entice more fans to join the Festival or the Bucket Lists which always have some crazy and fun objective to tackle in a given car, there’s always something to do. It was great fun when I would happen upon a Barn with a broken down classic to rebuild, or simply racking up style points and chaining together moves just because I could. Simply put, the drive from point A to B is rarely, if ever, dull.
Horizon 3 takes this whole thing a step further by also allowing to customize each and every event you find, and then uploading that event for others to tackle, so technically the game has an infinite amount of content in that regard, as long as users utilize this feature.
What’s even more impressive are the custom Bucket Lists that you can build from scratch. Whether you want to challenge players in getting to a location in a given amount of time or rack up a certain amount of points, among many other options, you can completely customize them, and then upload them for others to challenge. It’s fantastic and extends the game’s lifespan way past its completion. The interface for creating these custom challenges is also incredibly intuitive, and as long as you can beat your own challenge first, uploading them is a breeze.
A paradise of cars
Horizon 3 once again showcases an insane amount of cars, over 350 in fact, all meticulously detailed, with full modeled interiors as well. The game also constantly encourages you to constantly try out new cars by either awarding you free ones when you level up with a lucky spin and free or discounted cars when you’re building or upgrading a Festival location. So while I do have a few favorites, I’m constantly trying out new vehicles because the game constantly nudges me.
Australia is yet another fantastically realized location and has an incredible amount of visual variety. There are lush forests with a dense population of trees, a barren desert that provides fantastic off-roading experiences and even a city area filled with traffic you’ll need to weave through to come in first through the finish line. Sometimes I don’t even set a waypoint and just cruise along the coast and take in the sights; that’s how gorgeously realized this location is.
Social without needing to be social
While the game does provide a wealth of multiplayer options for those that want to take their racing online, even going as far as adding a co-op feature to the entire campaign, you’re now allowed to experience a breadth of the social content without actually needing to play with others. Periodically you’ll be able to recruit racers that inhabit your world directly from your friend list, even if they don’t own the game. Furthermore, you can also start your own convoy by simply honking your horn at other Drivatars, as you’re driving from one location to the next.
Aside from looking cool, doing this has its share of benefits. First, you can start an impromptu race against whoever is in your convoy to make the trek a bit more interesting, but you also get more points for pulling off various skills and skill chains.
Couple that with the perk that activates a Skill Song that gives an even higher multiplier during Skill Chains, and you can rack up a ton of points that way.
Music to my ears
There are eight radio stations (nine if you include Groove Music that requires a subscription) spanning the gamut of various genres. From the thumping EDM of Horizon Bass Arena to the more laid back sounds of Horizon Pulse that are returning from past entries, there’s music for every kind of driver here. Also new to the series are Horizon Block Party which includes some fantastic Rap and Hip Hop tunes, two Rock stations in the form of Epitaph Records and Vagrant Records, and even a classical station for those that just want some orchestral accompaniment to their sightseeing treks across the coast of Australia. There’s always something to fit your current driving mood.
Enough for Sim fans?
Forza Horizon was always meant to be the more Arcade-inspired spin-off to the Forza Motorsport, so by the third installment, we already know not to expect the more realistic take on driving.
However, for those unfamiliar with these titles, interested in jumping into Forza Horizon 3 expecting a Sim Racer, will most likely be disappointed. This is entirely subjective, but knowing what the Horizon series is, goes far into accepting its style of gameplay.
Even with the ability to toggle various settings to make the game harder, it never fully reaches Sim status.
I loved every single minute of Forza Horizon 3. Maybe it’s because I prefer the more Arcade-oriented gameplay of the spin-off, but I much prefer it to the main Motorsport franchise at this point.
There is so much to do that the minute-to-minute gameplay never feels dull. You’re always coming across new events, new boards to smash, new jumps to conquer, new perks to unlock, new cars to acquire, new barns to find, new Festival locations. I mean, you get the point. And if you’re thinking “Man, I wish I could race a freight train,” rest easy, the game’s got that too.
It’s a gorgeous game, and even though it’s locked at 30fps on Xbox One, it still feels incredibly smooth regardless. Horizon 3 is also part of Microsoft’s new Play Anywhere initiative, meaning once you buy your copy of Horizon 3 on Xbox One, you get the PC version as well, and vice versa.
Great music, fantastic location and a myriad of exotic cars make Horizon 3 an absolute must-have.