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Review: Forza Horizon 3

by on September 30, 2016
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After being totally amazed by Forza Horizon 2 (and the awesome DLC expansion Storm Island), Playground are back with the aptly name sequel Forza Horizon 3. After discovering Colorado with the original game, followed by Italy with the second episode, we now go down under with the Australian western coast, with a first port on the PC platform as well thanks to the Xbox Play Anywhere feature. So is the outback and coast pacific setting a success for this licence? Let me take you all for a spin.

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If the formula remains broadly unchanged from Forza Horizon 2, one would quickly be tempted to call it “Forza Horizon 2.5”, by simply changing environment, leaving behind the Mediterranean coast to discover Australia, but it is far from a simple cosmetic change. The new playground is the main novelty of Forza Horizon 3, and like with Forza Horizon 2: Storm Island’s new setting, this is what allows this new sequel to give us an experience full of new sensations. While the first Forza Horizon was a simple desert and very monotonous, the second game corrected this defect by offering more varied environmental topologies known to be found around the Mediterranean sea, but this time with Australia, Playground clearly took one step forward. It seems that thanks to a switch to only PC and Xbox One, ditching the Xbox 360 version,  the developers went wild and created as a huge chunk of the island continent, offering a variety of landscapes ranging from roads along the pacific coast and its beautiful beaches, the vast outback, wine country, rocky mountains, lush rainforest and of course urban areas whether it is suburban villas or skyscrapers.

In the context of an open world racing game, not only this new racing area is two times bigger than the previous opus, Forza Horizon 3 also offers a thousands spots that will surprise you and push you to have fun, be curious and discover Australia. A new land will also help you discover new types of vehicles, and coupled with the variety of environments with offer new experiences. Kind of introduced in  Forza Horizon 2: Storm Island, Forza Horizon 3 brings dune bashing races and events thanks to adding oversized 4×4 machines but also buggies, which will see you ram through the rainforest’s trees until you reach the sands of a ship graveyard.

All in all, Forza Horizon 3 is a visual and technical slap in the face!

Like its predecessor, Forza Horizon 3 is simply splendid to look at. Not really a surprise considering how the other editions looked, but the developers Playground made a lot of effort to push the boundaries especially since it’s using the full potential of the Xbox One and PCs. There is though some small problems such as weird popping and other tiny hiccups (on Xbox One at least), but all in all, the Forza Horizon 3 is a visual and technical slap in the face! Forza Horizon 3 is impressive in terms of technology and aesthetics used, and despite doubling in size the open world, there is not a single square meter of the map that feels like it was rushed.

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In terms of gameplay, you’ll find the same Arcade-ish mechanics that is in other Forza Horizon games. While the term Arcade can sound demeaning when it comes to racing games, it’s mainly because you can ride a Lamborghini on a beach or through the vineyards. Nevertheless physical models don’t lack consistency, accuracy, and always deliver a deep driving pleasure that is inimitable, whether off-road buggy or crazy cars like the Koenigsegg One. To newcomers of the series, Forza Horizon 3 features an adjustable gameplay to everyone via an aid system which you can turn things off or not, such as the Dravatar AI difficulty, ABS, TCS and more.

If previous episodes had you play the role of a young rookie driver, gradually rising through the ranks of the Horizon Festival, you are now in the shoes of the festival organizer. Your goal is to set the foundations of the Australian Horizon festival in different parts of the map, and then expand each one gradually by gaining more fans. Each festival has a level which at each level-up, unlocks new events thanks to your PR team. It does not fundamentally change the way of understanding this open-world racing game , but under this new perspective hides a really interesting novelty: the ability to customize the races and events themselves. When you were forced in previous Forza Horizon to play a races with such a certain vehicle type or class, you can now totally change the rules to suit your tastes, and share it with your friends like a challenge. Want to theme a drift competition with restricted to old-school Japanese GT classics? Or maybe an intense sprint cross-country with Ferrari racing cars!

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Obviously, Forza Horizon 3 introduces other novelty to its formula. There are particular “Custom Challenges” that you’ll be able to create yourself via blueprints, and challenge the community on record times or points. In addition to the conventional radar speed breaking challenges, you will also have now areas with drift challenges (a stretch of road where you need to set a drift record) but also big jumps challenges where your landing distance is your score (also subject to a global ranking with friends). Then you got all the other typical collectible and challenges, such as finding and bashing through all 150 XP and Fast Travel boards, street racing duels, championships, the barns which hide legendary cars, showcase races (like trying to beat a train to a certain location) and you got yourselves a vague mountain of challenges and entertainment awaiting you.

As you would assume, an empty open-world is kind of boring without any sort of competitive element, but Forza Horizon 3 is the opposite of a void! You are literally bombarded with challenges, which are unlocked with a vengeance. Once you feel like you made some good progress by completing challenges, your map will be filled with dozens of small colored dots. You have the impression of never see the end, but without either discouraging or boring you, as there is variety and different pleasures to tackle. Oh and I almost forgot a new feature related to Drivatars (the AI drivers based on your friends’ Forza performance, and powered by the cloud): the Forza convoys. You can actually “recruit” 4 different Drivatars in a kind of close-knit team, which will sometimes escort you in free mode, to accumulate skill points and share them with you, as well as discovering treasures and collectibles once you unlock a special perk.

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Now how can I talk about a Forza Horizon game without mentioning the soundtrack, always so conducive to the hearts and the creation of this special festival mood. The game features as always different radios, each based on a genre, and the musical choices are once again excellent. There’s dance, indie rock, pop, electro, hip-hop, hardcore or even the classic, with a well-chosen repertoire of artists and bands. But my favorite thing is the integration Microsoft’s Groove Music (the Redmond firm’s version of Spotify if you would like), which basically to build your own track list to listen on the road. While this option will need you to have an active Groove Music subscriptions (priced at $9.99 a month), you can either stream from the large library offered like any other music streaming platform, but also create playlist with your own files if you have enough space on your OneDrive. Bravo for the idea in any case, and since it’s well implemented, it should allow Microsoft to gain more paid subscriptions for its music application.

Finally the notable big update is found in the online mode, or rather modes with an S. These are a total success once more, accessible instantly model first, and allows you to start your own online session with races and challenges, arena based games such as Capture the Flag, but also the great way to play the whole “adventure” in co-op with up to 4 players (a new addition to the franchise). Races, bonuses, points, and experience will all be shared as a team, which helps uncovered and boost all of you friends. It works very well and almost lag-free even on my very slow 4Mbps internet line.

Forza Horizon 3 was reviewed using an Xbox One downloadable code of the game provided by Xbox. The game is also available on PC via the Xbox Store and Xbox Play Anywhere. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published

What we liked

• Greater variety with the Australian setting and new vehicles.
• The OST and the ability to play your own Groove Music playlists
• Technically and aesthetically beautiful.
• Such a fun driving sensation and gameplay
• The density of challenges and its gigantic lifespan.
• The excellent online modes,
• Online Coop mode.
• The ability to create your own challengs

What is not fun

Some small texture popping and minimal technical defects.
No local multiplayer modes

Editor Rating
 
Concept
9.5

 
Graphics
9.8

 
Sound
9.8

 
Playability
9.5

 
Entertainment
9.7

 
Replay Value
10

Final Score
9.7


Our final verdict
 

Forza Horizon 3 is a great achievement for both Turn 10 Studios and Playground Game, setting a model of its own kind and a must for any racing game fanatic whether you prefer the Arcade or Simulation driving experience. At first glance, Forza Horizon 3 may seem very similar to its predecessor, but do not underestimate what its new playground Australia can provide. The land down under brings an exciting diversity in the first opening minutes of the game, either visually or in terms of gameplay. Add to that an open world twice as large as the previous Forza Horizon 2, challenges by the hundreds, excellent online modes and of course new cars, you'll have so much to enjoy in this game.

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