Xbox One, PC
September 27, 2016
Driving down the Great Ocean Road in a Ferrari or taking a tour of the Australian Outback in your four-wheel drive no longer needs to be something you have to take a whole weekend, a loan and a holiday to enjoy, as Forza Horizon 3 brings the open-world driving experience right here to the land down under, and the results are incredibly satisfying. With an addictive and simple reward system, a huge range of different events to take part in and a presentation that is simply oozing with gorgeous locations, stunning lighting effects, wicked sound design and in-your-face confidence and attitude, Forza Horizon 3 is the most accessible and exciting racing game that I have ever played.
Horizon has always felt like the more playful younger sibling to the mainline Forza franchise, and with the third iteration, Playground Games has had more fun than ever in making a colourful and exciting racing game that is jam-packed with different things to do. Rather than just participating in the Horizon festival, this time you are the festival boss. Your mission is to expand the festival to all different regions of Australia, populating it with fun races, jumps, drifting challenges and more. Participating in these events will generate you more fans, allowing you to effectively create the biggest and most expansive Horizon festival the world has ever seen.
And what better backdrop than our very own home, the awesome and varied country of Australia, to spend all of your time exploring. From Byron Bay to the Australian Outback and down to the Yarra Valley, it’s pretty cool seeing our roads represented. The dense rainforests, wide open spaces and gorgeous beaches are shown off in all their grandeur, and the weather accentuates this even further, with some of the best water effects I’ve seen in a video game. The lighting is also stunning, with reflections bouncing off your bonnet. The shading, especially in the forests with the sunlight bursting through the trees, is just so damn pretty.
Along with the locations, which are instantly recognizable and include houses ripped straight out of Aussie suburbia and street signage that made me feel quite literally at home, is the attitude that comes along with it. While a couple of the really Australian accents are a bit jarring, there is a genuine love and appreciation for Australia and its vehicular history which accents everything that you do. Seeing a Holden Ute in all its glory while you’re passing a kangaroo and other random wildlife while Flume pumps through the speakers just feels right in so many ways.
The sheer variety in Forza Horizon 3 keeps things constantly feeling fresh; as you move your festival to other regions, you’re constantly unlocking other events to participate in, including your standard races, street races, drift zones, speed traps, jumps and more. Showcase races also show off a real sense of crazy fun as you race other vehicle types completely, and Bucket List challenges are back, which task you with completing a certain requirement in a specific car, usually showing off a particular asset or style of driving in a unique way.
The best part of all of this is the Blueprint feature, which gives you the power to create your very own Bucket List challenge and share it with the world. Not only are there more events than you can poke a koala at, but the ability to set your own and experience challenges set by others adds an almost infinite longevity to what is already a jam-packed open world. You can also play the campaign cooperatively with friends, meaning you can explore the world together and complete missions that will still contribute to your personal progression.
“…there is a genuine love and appreciation for Australia and its vehicular history which accents everything that you do.”
The integration of the radio is once again very well done; the music on each station perfectly fits the racing vibe, and the presenters are always discussing what’s happening in the festival at the time, whether it’s referencing a Showcase event you’ve just taken part in or talking about the rumours of a barn find with a rare vehicle for the taking. They feel integral to the experience and continue to be super-relevant, especially when certain songs trigger skill multipliers, heightening the tension further.
It’s probably rudimental at this point to mention this, but the racing in Forza Horizon 3 of course feels incredible. They’ve refined this system over the last several years; so much so that we probably take it a little bit for granted. The range of different cars is impressive and they all have their own subtle differences that are going to impact how you tackle them on the road. Fans of the franchise will have no trouble settling back in to the comfortable and tight controls, and you’ll be kicking the engine into gear and drifting around tricky corners perfectly in no time at all. It just makes sense.
- Freakin' gorgeous
- Heaps to do
- Solid, refined driving mechanics
- I suck at drifting.
Forza Horizon 3 is the most engaging open-world racing game I’ve ever experienced. From the moment it begins, the sense of adventure and fun that comes along with it is unmatched. It has a clear identity; one that is loud, bold and filled to the brim with attitude. The map fills up with an incredibly large amount of things to do at every turn, along with the user created content and online functionality at your beck and call. Australia, in all its wonder and majesty, is the perfect back-drop for the best racing game available today.