Forza Horizon trades the Mediterranean landscapes of Europe with the country that eats its own national icon.
The Forza festival travels to the land down under in Forza Horizon 3, the next instalment in Playground Games’ beloved racing franchise. Taking you across some of Australia’s most iconic scenery and landmarks, as well as having the ability to showcase a wide range of ecosystems and climates, the continent is a perfect fit for a series like Forza Horizon.
In Forza Horizon 3, you take on the role of a festival director who’s in charge of growing the Horizon festival into the biggest car haven the world has ever seen. You start off in the coastal town of Byron Bay as you gain popularity by doing various racing objectives such as your standard street races to stunt jumps. Being the spin-off to the main Forza franchise, in Horizon – you’ll expect the usual casual racing experience such as street racing to stunt jumps and various other modes like my favourite drifting. Being open-world, racers are given the free will to pretty much explore the map, pick one on ones with randoms and even jump off a cliff while completing your sole objective and that’s to grow the number of fans for the festival. For Forza Horizon veterans, it’s a familiar affair but it seems Playground Games has taken advantage of the map filling every nook and cranny with more things to do and discover.
Since you’re the director of the festival, you have been given the keys to various things to personalise. One of the newest feature called Blueprint allows you to customise different races to your liking. Want to make to make it a set brand only? You can and call it whatever you want. Since the Maloo ute is one of my favourite Australian car, I made a race called the ‘Sausage Roll Run’ that involves that make car only on a selected course. The coolest part of this is the ability to send it to your mates (friends) to try out as well and see if they can hit a personal best or beat your own.
Drivatar, a signature feature from the Forza franchise also makes a return allowing your friends to be a part of your world even though they’re not actually playing with you. In Forza Horizon 3, you can even hire your friend’s Drivatar to be part of your posse. This will earn you rewards as you and your friends progress and if they’re not performing (which you can see) you can dump them from your crew.
The world map without being too bias as I’m Australian is probably the most interesting one yet for the franchise. We’ve seen the previous titles hit Europe and USA but it doesn’t really have the sheer amount of variety that this map based on Australia has to offer. Australia is a big country and yes, games have limits but they did a very good job cherry-picking the best of what the country has to offer and cramping it all into one map. At the start, you’ll start off in Byron Bay as Australia is known for it’s beaches and laid back lifestyle but the map extends across into the desert featuring places like Cooper Pedy and even the bustling city landscape of the Gold Coast city to give international players a taste of everything.
Playground Games has done a great job and while the map is said to be twice as big as the last, it doesn’t feel as empty as well with every nook and cranny looked after. There’s a lot of exploration you can do in Forza Horizon 3 and with the game replicating real-world locations, it’s definitely interesting to just sit back and go for a cruise around the map to see what the map has on offer which is a lot. There’s also bucket list missions which are quite unique as it places a challenge on you to do a certain route or stunt in a pre-selected car. There’s things like drifting around Surfer’s Paradise in a 2017 Nissan Skyline GTR 35 or jumping a ridge in a Ford Falcon Pursuit Ute. These are fun and are often challenging which adds another element to the already massive list of things to do.
At times, you can find it hard to decide what to do next. I had troubles actually deciding what to do; take this drift route, find undiscovered routes in the rainforest etc. This is why ANA has been introduced to help you choose your next objective. Need more fans? Ask ANA and she’ll point you in the right direction.
The car line-up in Forza Horizon 3 is tremendous offering incredible variety across pretty much all makes and models. At the start, you’ll have a spin in the cover car which is the Lamborghini Centenario LP 770-4 to give you your thirst for speed and after that you must earn credits to buy the cars you want. While earning credits to buy vehicles has always been grindy, the speed at how much you earn in Forza Horizon 3 is pretty fast. After 3-4 races, I had enough to buy myself the cars I wanted.
The starter cars are actually pretty decent as well, you have some fast street cars such as the Silvia S15 but if you don’t choose the Aussie HSV GTS Maloo Ute then there’s something wrong with you. Since it’s based in Australia, the car line-up is compromised with many signature Australian cars from Holden and Ford. There’s variations of models available and I was quite amazed to see the VL Commodore, an iconic car in the local Australian scene become available in Forza Horizon 3. Playground has really done their homework not only on the map but for the car line-up as well offering some homegrown choices.
Car customisation also makes a return and basically every car on the list is your toy. Enthusiasts will have a joy here spending hours like myself buying your favourite cars and swapping out the different parts available as well as repainting the parts and applying vinyl. There’s also the introduction of the Auction House where you can bid and sell cars. This new place allows players to sell their unique or cars which provides another avenue for the community to share their setup and allow others to buy them.
The music in Forza Horizon 3 is also curated by yourself. There’s different stations offering different genres in music which should cater to everyone. Some of the biggest highlights was the Australian label – Future Classic which basically plays my favourite songs by local artists like Flume. There’s also Epitaph for the heavier tunes and many more. The selection like the rest of the game is broad and if you’re not happy with the stations and new labels, Forza Horizon 3 also allows you to play your own tunes.
It’s hard for racing titles to impress me with every release but the Forza Horizon series has always managed to do so with their games. Playground Games has managed replicate the vast and beautiful Australian landscape and implement their formula into Forza Horizon 3. Not only did they do that perfectly they also respected our local car culture with a great line-up of iconic Australian rides. Aside from a few load issues, I couldn’t really fault Forza Horizon 3 – it seems with every release, they managed to take it even further and is truly one of the best open-world racing title this generation.
Developer: Playground Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platforms: PC/Windows 10, Xbox One (reviewed)
A review copy was provided by the publisher.