Review : Forza Horizon 3

‘Thunderstruck’ is banging on my stereo and the tacho needle is banging on the redline. This is Forza Horizon 3 for me; an experience that could only get more Australian if it was delivered inside a giant jar of Vegemite by Paul Hogan crashing into your living room riding an actual crocodile.Like, really matter. When the original PlayStation was launched against Sega’s Saturn almost 22 years ago, the two consoles were judged on their respective racing sims: Ridge Racer and Daytona USA. Before fighting games took over, these were the standard bearers of polygonal visuals that introduced players to the concept of real-time graphics rendered in three dimensions.

 

Forza doesn’t turn into a building simulation or make you micro-manage anything along the way. When you have enough fans tallied, you’ll simply choose one of multiple next destinations based on the type of environment you want to explore next, or press a button to upgrade a location and unlock another wave of events. It’s simple stuff, but helps frame the experience a bit differently than before.As with every well-made open world, Horizon’s lands are rife with distractions; in this semi-fictionalized setting of Australia’s Pacific coast, every mile between you and your presumptive waypoint can feature dozens of detours. Before you know it, you’re up five levels, 1 million credits richer, and you still haven’t arrived at the music festival that you meant to reach an hour ago.Since its founding in 2010, developer Playground has only ever worked on Horizon titles. The team is made up of people who previously worked on driving series’ like Project Gotham Racing, Driver, MotoGP, Formula One, Burnout and Need for Speed. Turn 10, the development house behind the core Forza series, had a hand in the making of Forza Horizon 3.

 

Forza Horizon 3 sound like a game for anoraks – the sort of eccentric hobbyist’s scrapbook that the latter Gran Turismos, much as I love them for it, have become. It’s far from it. It’s a racing game for everyone. You don’t need to love cars to enjoy this game, and you don’t need to be into the current racing game scene either, which seems squarely focused on serving hardcore genre fans’ craving for authenticity.Seriously, I have no idea where Playground Games can go with Forza Horizon from here. The map is huge, yet well-populated with things to do. The car selection is vast, the controls are spot-on, the game looks gorgeous in all areas, the musical options are diverse, the online play is excellent, and the community tools are rock solid. I have little doubt that we’ll see a Forza Horizon 4 down the road, but I think you’ll find Forza Horizon 3 leaves little room for improvement. It’s an A+ game top to bottom, and absolutely one of the best games you’ll play all year.Seriously, I have no idea where Playground Games can go with Forza Horizon from here. The map is huge, yet well-populated with things to do. The car selection is vast, the controls are spot-on, the game looks gorgeous in all areas, the musical options are diverse, the online play is excellent, and the community tools are rock solid. I have little doubt that we’ll see a Forza Horizon 4 down the road, but I think you’ll find Forza Horizon 3 leaves little room for improvement. It’s an A+ game top to bottom, and absolutely one of the best games you’ll play all year.

That’s just one of many fantasies this game will fulfil for you. It is pure escapism of the sort video games excel at, and that anyone can respond to. It’s an adventure, a lark, a holiday that lasts forever. It’s competitive if you want it to be, and social if you’re into that, but over and above that it’s just inherently joyful, like a 16-bit platformer or an over-the-top arcade cabinet or a rambunctious open-world action game. It’s here to make you smile.(It feels plenty big enough.) Diversity and epic scenery were their goals, and they’ve delivered. You’ll drive over ochre sand dunes in the Outback, along brilliant white beaches, up thickly jungled hillsides, through rolling vineyard country and into a glittering modern city. It’s a vivid landscape under huge skies, and it’s quite breathtaking to look at.f you have a display that supports the HDR10 standard and an Xbox One S (and have correctly set up your system), you’ll be greeted at Forza Horizon 3’s title screen with an HDR brightness adjustment slider. My impulse was to dial this all the way up, which, as it turns out, was a mistake, as I was subsequently rubbing my eyes within minutes.

 

Verdict

So it’s also a collection game. There’s a deep pleasure to be had in trying out new cars in different environments, rejecting those that are unsuitable and lavishingly love and upgrades on those that find favor. Forza Horizon 3 is nothing if not a fetishization of that most sexy of consumer products, the automobileThe new emphasis on off-road options isn’t at the expense of traditional races, thanks to the sheer volume of activities. All the while, Playground Games’ calculated kitchen-sink design philosophy and rich reward system persistently tempt you to explore beyond your comfort zone, whether it’s gifting your first Ariel Nomad buggy or reminding you that stunt races can impress thousands of fans.