The Forza series has done something very impressive over the last few years. At the surface level, both the Motorsport and Horizon series from Playground Games have barely changed. The same format gets thrown onto the table and they just slam a few new aspects on top and release a new game. Normally, this would be an outrage. Charging full price for something like this would anger me on most days, but not with this series. Forza Horizon 3 has the developers at the top of their game. Sure, it is just Horizon 2 in a new setting with a couple new features, but it does that amazingly well.
Horizon 2 was set in Europe, and this game is set in Australia. This tiny change was absolutely crucial to my enjoyment of the game. Australia has a few important parts about it that make it a paradise for McLaren’s and tricked out dune buggies. The most famous zone of Australia is probably the Outback. That section of the continent features the most fun I’ve ever had in a driving game. I launched my Lamborghini off a sand dune that threw my car over seven hundred feet, and I still finished in first place. The other parts of the map feature a country side and a lot of urban street racing. In Horizon 2, the off-road aspects of the game came in the first expansion pack. In Horizon 3, it is all in there from the beginning.
Forza Horizon 3 is actually fantastic, in a design aspect. The first twenty minutes of my time in this game blew me away. Speed is handled in perfectly. Going 250 MPH in a Hennessey Venom gives me a kind of anxiety that was crippling and caused me to slow down, and that is an incredible thing to accomplish. The speed of a car is translated so well to the player. The environment is stunning in this version of Australia. Dynamic Weather was added in an expansion to Forza Horizon 2, and it is in the base model of this game. The weather is amazing. Going into the in-car view and watching the windshield wipers actually do their job is hilarious and rewarding at the same time. The vistas and views that I came across while in the free-roam mode had me taking out my phone and posting Snapchats of the game. Forza Horizon 3 is so technically beautiful, it deserves as much praise as possible.
Forza has the best driving in any driving game. There are features to make the game more realistic and simulation-like, but for those who just want an arcade style of driving, Forza reigns supreme. I like to be able to drift around corners at ridiculous speeds while also having to remember that I might crash into a wall. This is the game that bridges the gap between racing sims and fast and high-action racing games.
Unfortunately, the progression gets mundane after a while. You earn experience points and credits while racing and doing various side events. The character you play as is a festival “boss” who has to earn more fans to expand his/her festival. The way to earn more fans is by crashing off of huge jumps and other insane “PR Stunts.” Fans are also earned by winning races. The more experience obtained directly correlates into gaining perks. My major problem with this game is how repetitive it gets. I tried to just cruise through this game as fast as possible because I love racing and winning events, but I quickly realized that that was not the way to go. Getting burnt out on Forza Horizon 3 is a real phenomenon. The events and side events are all actually fun, but going too fast on those events makes them seem boring and meaningless.
This series has never had a lack of online features. I started to spend a lot of time doing the online campaign mode when the game started to feel repetitive to me. My friends and I were knocking out some of the events in the group race mode. The game becomes a lot easier when the polished AI turns into sloppy speed demons that try to take turns at 200 MPH. The online free-roam mode exists in this installment of the series, as well. Other players can be seen flying through the air on Rolls Royces or crashing into your windshield in a Subaru.
The main campaign mode of this game is where I spent the majority of my time. Every since Horizon 1, this series has excelled in it’s ability to properly portray open world driving. In the campaign mode, you drive around this version of Australia and check off events. You continue to earn rewards for events you check off. A new addition to this game is it’s convoy aspect. I joined a Club of friends when I unlocked that feature. Whenever I see those friends in my open world, I start a convoy race to my current destination. It is a really fun feature that I did not think the game needed.
I was impressed with Forza Horizon 3. I have played every version of Forza since Motorsport 2. Every time a new Forza game comes out, it am confused by how amazing they are. If you compare Horizon 1 to Horizon 3, the games are so different. But if Horizon 2 and Horizon 3 are compared, the setting is the only major difference. Still, Playground Games managed to make an amazing game that makes up for it’s lack of improvements with stunning visual features.