There are times when games take you away and becomes a few moments of relaxation and bliss and I felt that with Forza Horizon 3. The series has now relocated to Australia and includes excellent community features, a beautiful and diverse world, and some of the best racing ever seen in a game making it one of the best racing games to release in years.
Unlike the previous Horizon festivals, you are the boss in Forza Horizon 3. This isn’t a superfluous addition but rather changes how events are structured. Before, it was all about winning races, leveling up and obtaining different coloured band to make it to the next destination of the festival. Here, you simply have to reach certain fan thresholds to expand your festival by either opening at another location or expanding an existing one.
This opens the structure of progression so you can simply enjoy the events and everything the Horizon event has to offer. As you reach thresholds, you can open new locations or upgrade current ones. Both will offer new events. You can have a simple one-race event, a championship, or Rival events. When you choose one, you can select one of a few pre-selected, or create your own using the new Blueprint feature. This easily makes Forza Horizon 3 more replayable than it ever has. In previous iterations, playing through multiple championships in the same discipline sometimes lead to some dull moments but there is never a dull moment in Forza Horizon 3.
And speak of disciplines, Forza Horizon 3 has more choices to take to the road or off-road. This is down to both the vehicle selection and the diversity of the locations in the Australian landscape. While it’s set in Australia, it is a truncated one that picks the more distinct locations and brings them all closer together. The areas of the map feel vastly different and offer different styles of driving. From the closed urban spaces of the city to the sand dunes on the beach, to the beauty of the rain forest, and so much more. Variety is the spice of Forza Horizon 3.
Visually, Forza Horizon 3 is one of the best looking games to release this year. Like ReCore before it, Forza Horizon 3 is a Play Anywhere title meaning you can play the game on both Xbox One and Windows 10 PC. The save transition is seamless however optimisation on the PC isn’t great. Getting to get the game running at 30 frames a second is possible with any decent rig but reaching 60 fps is much more demanding to the point where you may never get it consistently enough to enjoy. Therefore, even though the PC version looks slightly better, the Xbox One version is the best option for a consistent experience.
The driving model of Forza Horizon 3 straddles the line perfectly between the simulation nature of the Motorsport series and the looseness of an arcade racer to make it one of the most satisfying racing games I’ve ever played. Vehicles and disciplines feel vastly different but all offer their own enjoyable aspects. There are hundreds of cars to get into and all feature stunning detail throughout.
The lack of the feeling of forced progression allows for you to feel completely open to do whatever you want. This can mean doing the campaign with others online,exploring the world on your own completing a number of PR stunts like jumps and speed traps as well as utilising the excellent decal creator to make the exact design you want to just completing events and increasing your level. The options feel endless almost. It feels like a hub that allows you to fulfill whatever car-related fun you want to have. I had sessions where I went from race to race, gaining fans and gaining levels and then the next day I simply explored the world which is much larger than previous games in the series. I always felt like I had choice and plenty of things to do. There doesn’t feel like there is an end and you can continually jump in and do something new every day. It’s simply satisfying in every aspect.
What Forza Horizon 3 does best is how incredible it feels to simply drive around. Cars feel right, locations are stunning to look at and explore, and the options available to mix things up keep everything fresh. This isn’t just an excellent racing game but it is a celebration of car culture, one that exudes joy. I had a smile on my face exploring the rain forests, completing showcase events and even joining a convey and taking the campaign online with others. This feels far beyond a game that’s centered around a music festival. This is a celebration of a shared love of car racing.