Thunder from down under.
How do they do it? That is the question I ask myself every two years when a new Forza Horizon game drops. Microsoft has crafted a finely-tuned machine of releasing complementary versions of their racing franchises every two years. Forza Motorsport satisfies the simulation junkies, while Horizon has always been more of a mass appeal for everyone else. With each new iteration the team at Playground Games manages to outdo themselves in almost every area. Forza Horizon 3 is absolutely no different.
This season’s outing takes place in Australia, and it is gorgeous. From the city areas drenching the night sky with a luminous glow, to the barren dunes of the outback, each area in Forza Horizon 3’s map is just as beautiful as the last. One would be hard-pressed to find a better looking game on Xbox One. The lighting when driving through a dense forest area is second-to-none, and for those who have splurged for that fancy 4K TV, and of course an Xbox One S, Forza Horizon 3 offers up HDR, which delivers dynamic color range that makes it even more jaw dropping.
Platforms: XB1, PC
Price I’d Pay: $59.99
Forza Horizon 3 is once again an open-world racing game packed to the brim with events and features scattered around the world. The festival returns, but the big difference this time around, is that it is run by the player. This adds a bit more customization, not only in the races, but also the main character. Players are able to choose an avatar, as well as a preset name that the coordinators will call them. It isn’t revolutionary, but it does add a personal touch the series had been lacking.
The world is broken down into areas, and as I progressed further and gained more fans, I was able to unlock new places to host races. Each new area carries a theme, and completing races in them opens up upgrades, more races, and simply more things to do. This game is massive; players could spend dozens of hours unlocking new events and buying cars, and still not see half of what it has to offer. Of course, bigger doesn’t always mean better, and I love that FH3 straddles that line by keeping things interesting whether I was barreling down the critical path, or simply exploring the Australian landscape.
Getting around the world is much easier thanks to Anna. This GPS system now works without Kinect, and instead has players tap on the d-pad to bring up a quick menu. Anna will make suggestions on places to go, such as Barn Finds and recruiting new racers, or I could opt to set routes to the closest race or festival hub. It is extremely handy, keeping me from loading the main map after every race just to move on to the next event.
Speaking of events, they are now customizable. When players pull up to one, they can opt to create their own based on set parameters, like time of day, song on the radio, and in some cases, even the route itself. It is a cool feature that adds even more opportunity in a game already overflowing with them. Like everything else in Horizon, these can also be shared with the community.
While racing with friends has always been an option, the new co-op campaign really takes the experience to a whole new level. Players can form up in a group and tackle the massive collection of events around the world together. Of course, everything can also be completed solo as well. The Horizon series seems to have an answer for everything, and it truly feels like the definitive racing game.
Being the second title to feature Play Anywhere, Horizon 3 carries all the same features as ReCore when it comes to sharing data between versions. The PC version of course supports higher resolutions, but the XB1 version still looks fantastic. The biggest difference is that the PC can run at 60 FPS, while the console version is capped at 30. Sadly we were not able to test the PC version for this review.
Forza Horizon 3 is one of the best racing games I have ever played, and somehow continues to prove that this series just keeps getting better. How Playground Games continues to make what already feels like the definitive arcade racing experience even better is beyond my comprehension. If you have any interest in racing games at all, this is a can’t miss title. Now if you will excuse me, I have some bucket list challenges to create.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.