For the third time, the Forza series has gone open world with thanks to the team at Playground Games, this time to Australia where you’ll be racing through the rainforest, swerving round city streets and performing rally stunts in the outback. To do all of this you are presented with a choice of over 350 vehicles, ranging from 1967 Volvos all the way up to the state of the art 2016 Lamborghini Centenario, with a fair share of buggies, trucks, and old classics, among other categories, mixed in for good measure.
If you are not a car fan but are interested in the Forza games, then I would recommend the Horizon series over its longer established sibling the Motorsport series. Whilst the latter title certainly has a greater level of realism, with recreations of real-world tracks such as Silverstone, Laguna Seca and Road America to name a few, and a greater focus on precision racing, Horizon takes a different approach. If Motorsport is a simulation then Horizon is a game, and I mean this in no bad way. Quite the opposite in fact.
The clearest example of this is how I use the rewind system in the two games, a staple of the series. In Motorsport I use it more frequently as there is less room for error, especially on higher difficulties, and the game screams out for you to try and perfect every corner. In Horizon, as the world is open, and most of the environments are destructible to an extent, I found myself using the rewind function less often. I was more likely to hit other cars, the side barrier or break through crops and wooden fences (as you are meant to do in some off-road races), generally having a looser, and therefore more fun experience, as I could just enjoy the ride and not focus so much on each action I made. There is also the option of playing your entire career online with friends, an option not available in the main series.
Horizon 3 offers a bounty of options that blow its predecessors out of the water; everything from car customization to creating your own events are options in this game. In the previous entries in the Horizon series you were a driver trying to make a name for yourself, but here you’re the boss of the entire festival. This means then whenever you go to start a race you a given a choice between the premade variant of the event, one made by those on your friends list, or a blueprint option, where you can choose the driving conditions, time and vehicle selection. This ability is amplified however by the ‘blueprint bucket list’ events. Throughout the map there are bucket list events where you go to a start point, get in whatever car is at that location and are given a challenge such as get from A to B in a certain time, get a certain number of points in a drift challenge or try get the most airtime and distance on an off-road jump to name a few. Blueprint bucket list events work in exactly the same way, except when you arrive at the start point you choose everything. The car, the event type, the distance and any other challenges that are applicable.
The showcases are where the game really tries to show off and break some new ground in events not seen in previous games, such as races again but this time in speed boats, a train and a fighter jet. There are however only five of these and at times, especially in the jet showcase, that they can feel a bit scripted rather than an actual test of skill.
This is not to say the game is without flaws. During my first session the game froze a number of times, for more than a few seconds. An example of this is that I would be left hanging in mid-air after a jump only to be jolted back into the game as I suddenly hit the riverbed below after staring at car floating 20 feet above the ground for about eight to ten seconds. The more I played however, the less frequent this occurrence became, and as I was playing on the ultimate edition which released four days early, this could have been a minor bug fixed in a patch on the day of general release. The only other slight gripe I had was with the destructible environments, particularly in rainforests: there is no way to tell which trees are destructible and which are solid (apart from the big thick trees). When you are blazing along at over 200mph and break through whole rows of foliage before hitting a tree that looks near identical to many of those shattered behind you and crash to a complete halt it can be a bit jarring.
To put it bluntly, Forza Horizon 3 is a joy to play. If you are a fan of driving games, you should pick up this game if you haven’t done so already, and if you are merely interested, this a great entry point.