Forza Horizon and the sequel were amazing games. Taking the precision driving from the Forza series and placing it in an open world setting was always going to equal success. With Forza Horizon 3, the series may have hit its peak.
Starting off as most do with a flat out drive in a hypercar to the festival site. Horizon 3, put you in the position of the festival organiser. In reality, this gives a much-needed context to the endless racing, drifting, and bucket lists found in the previous games. You have to assemble a team of drivers and go around attracting fans to join the festival by doing increasingly difficult and dangerous stunts. After so many fans are gained you get the chance to expand the festival or open a new location on the massive map. Compared to previous games this added focus really grips you and stops your attention drifting to the detriment of the game. In previous games in the role of just a driver, you would very quickly open up the whole map and then be left to check things off a list. While there is still this feel in Horizon 3, the need to hit a certain level before being able to operate out of a new base, makes you appreciate the design of the area you are in and focus on completing one area at a time. Before long, you will find you have ticked off more than you ever could if your focus was spread all over the map.
This game is massive, each area features around two hours of races, bucket list challenges, speed traps, drift zones, boards to smash and head to head races. Even from this list, you get an idea of how dense the activities are in the game. There are now drift zones and street races available to add to the multitude of other races. All these will increase two-fold when you realise that all races and challenges are now customisable. You can now select the blueprint option and make your own version of each event you encounter. This can then be published online to your ever present list of friends. Despite being offline, the drivatar system populates the game with people from your friend list. They then can be added to your driver team and earn you bonus points. The constant messages that appear on your hud with how your friends have done in races add the asynchronous competition, that is sorely lacking from many games. The messages pop up every time you log in, showing how many races your drivatar has done and how many credits they have earned. In all, it feels like a massive package that you will never reach the end of. The only blemish is the barn finds. These seem unnecessarily complex and really disrupt the constant flow of the game. The vehicles revealed from them as well are usually disappointing when compared to the other vehicles already available. Why spend 20 minutes looking for the needle in a haystack only to be presented with a van instead of a vintage Ferarri? They really disrupt what Forza does best. There is a technique however that eases this a bit. A new drone mode allows you to take control of a drone to quickly sweep the area. Luckily this cuts down some of the random searchings. If only the game made this a bit clearer rather than having to use your ingenuity or common sense.
All this praise is before you get into the real gameplay. Forza always had the real feel of the tyres on the road. This game is no different. Every aspect of your car can be tweaked, the wheels, body kit, paint jobs and decals are the easy part supplemented by other people’s designs in the auction house but under the hood is where the real gearheads will find themselves. Thankfully for the uninitiated, there is an auto upgrade function that allows you to upgrade any car to the class you want it to be in. There are also drift specific set ups and more meaning that your favourite shape of the car can compete with the supercars of the world no matter what its actual power is. The wheel to wheel racing is not as ferocious as in other games and the main challenge is getting the car around the track. The game does a good job of auto adjusting the difficulty as you go. Sometimes it suggests upping or lowering the challenge as you go. Win a few races in a row and they will ask you to up it for more XP. Despite this, there is no pressure or no penalty for staying where you feel comfortable. Like the rest of the game, this is only an easy going suggestion as you cruise around Austrailia.
The best compliment to this game I can give is how it makes you feel. The combination of the music and the flow of the game from one event to another makes you feel happy. There is a definite feeling of youthful abandonment missing in many games. There seems no pressure to win races or even discover things, there is just a friendly voice telling you to head in one of a couple of directions. Because you aren’t being denied anything you just seem to lose hours after hours in the game. Add in the integration with groove music and the built-in tracks, this makes Horizon 3 one of the most relaxing and joyful experiences ut there. You just seem to spend so much time at full throttle, weaving your way through the sparse amounts of traffic only being interrupted when you run out of ability and wipe out. Thankfully the rewind feature is less intrusive in this game than other track based racers. in track based racers you feel any use of rewind is cheating. Here it is more like a way to prolong the flow and mood of the game. Why should a simple altercation with a tree at 170 mph ruin your day?
Forza Horizon 3 (Xbox One)