As the plane hit the tarmac in the Introduction video of Forza Horizon 3 I felt a tinge of excitement, the previous two titles had been my favourite racing games and I was sure the third one wouldn’t let me down. 10 minutes later, as I reached the site of the first part of the Horizon festival, it was clear the game was going to be one hell of ride.
The first race sets the tone, as you line up against a Jeep that is attached to a helicopter, it’s fixed, you’ll rarely lose the first race, and you’ll always hit the jump that starts a slow motion scene as the two vehicles almost touch, but nevertheless it’s an exciting race.
Forza Horizon 3 has moved over to the other side of the world (and the other side of the road), allowing us to explore the outback, the Yarra Valley the city streets and beautiful countryside of Australia. Put simply, this game is stunning to look at. Day or Night, sunshine, fog or rain, every setting is a treat for the eyes. Speeding through the pouring rain at 120mph is stunning, the rain drops bash off the screen and the reflection from the roads look perfect.
Things are bit different this year, rather than competing at the festival, you are in charge. You decide what events take place, recruit other Drivatars to take part in the festival and even create events. It’s a nice twist to the game, generating hype – perhaps by taking part in PR stunts or drift challenges – as you compete you earn more fans and as you hit a milestone you get the chance to upgrade a festival site or open a brand new site in a different location. The ‘upgrades’ are superficial ultimately, the site looks more impressive but really all it does is unlock more events.
A neat feature allows you to control how each event runs, choose the weather, class of car, even the amount of laps. It’s always fun to put supercars on dirt tracks in the rain at night… right? There are all the events you would expect from the Horizon games. Point-to-point, laps around a circuit, as well as PR events including speed traps, speed zones and stunt jumps, there is quite a cool event that challenges you to hit 250mph on an airport runway too. All of these events bring you more and more fans to add towards your upgrades and new sites.
Barn finds are back, but this year you can take advantage of a drone to help pinpoint where the barns actually are. The drone is quite a neat feature but the fact you can’t take pictures with it is a real shame. You can create some awesome racing videos though.
Not only are you in charge of creating events you can also share them with friends, the new blueprint mode for events and bucket lists allows to create your dream events, take part in them and share them with the community. It works really well, it would have been great to be more specific on routes as I’d love to create a lap of the whole map but it only seems to allow you to specify one point on a map and a route gets generated for you. Despite that it’s brilliant being able to take on different events with all sorts of combinations.
Ever present in Forza Horizon is the community, as your drive around Oz you’ll see all of your friends there too, some have proper Drivatar data with them while others just show gamertags. Honking your horn as you drive alongside them will allow you to create a convoy of drivers, which gives you a chance to earn even more skill points as you all work towards collecting them.
One of the first things you learn about is recruiting Drivatars to your Horizon team, depending on how much they have played the game determines what worth they are to you. Higher rated drivers bring more fans, XP and cash. You are only allowed four at a time, so as more are discovered you have to decide who gets hired and who gets fired. To recruit them you have to drive to certain locations, once you have found them you can challenge them to a race, win and they will join you.
There are plenty of options when it comes to teaming up. For the first time in Forza up to four players can play through a co-op campaign, while earning experience, fans and money for their own single player campaigns. Another new mode is Adventure mode, which gives you the option to play through pre-built events and games set up by the Forza team or a custom adventure that lets you be more selective about what you do. Online freeroam returns allowing you to do whatever you please. Further into the game you’ll be able to unlock clubs, so no matter what you do in-game, you’ll be contributing to your team. Getting online is a seamless experience, the only downside is that it takes at least 90 minutes to unlock the online features, which is frustrating when a friend has only just started playing.
Now you are probably thinking, that’s great Dave, lots of awesome features, but what about the cars? Good point, I say. Horizon comes with over 350 vehicles ranging from the Robin Reliant to the Lamborghini Centenario, the beauty of Horizon is that no matter what your driving ability is you’ll be able to handle any car thrown at you. They all drift beautifully around corners and you’ll nearly always feel in control whether you are on the tarmac, throwing up dust in the outback or smashing your way through the fields. It’s a just a joy to play.
Simply put, Playground Games have exceeded my expectations with Forza Horizon 3, this is how much fun driving games should be. Being able to quickly jump online with your friends to cruise around Australia is just so much fun and I can’t wait to spend more time doing it.