By Joshua Malcolmand
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Playground Games
Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed) & PC
Release: 27 September 2016
When you pay for a full price game, especially one that holds itself to the standards of an AAA title, you expect it to be good and to last a reasonable amount of time before it becomes stale. Forza Horizon 3 achieves this fantastically. From the very start you are graced with a beautiful and cinematic introduction to Australia, a foray of stunningly designed cars and a great soundtrack to boot. I grew up with driving titles such as Project Gotham Racing and Need for Speed, before the bad habit of simply recycling old games happened. So it’s absolutely refreshing to see a driving title that takes the fundamentals of the old style of driving games and mixes it with the Forza formula for superb graphics and fun simulation.
Anyone who has played the first two Forza Horizon games will absolutely love this new entry in the series. The game retains all the old features that made the first two games fun, ranging from the massive open world to the myriad of race types and cars. The big change that they have made to this game, however, is that you are not simply participating in the Horizon festival, it’s that you own it. You are the owner of the festival and it’s your job to promote it and make it the best festival that you possibly can. The open-world setting of the game compliments the festival theme excellently, with the ability to host multiple festivals throughout Australia, each of which have their own set of challenges and races to complete. The Drivatar feature is also present, which has been expanded to not only include your own Drivatar, but it also allows you to recruit other players’ Drivatars and create a team of elite racers that can gain you extra money and boost your reputation.
Forza Horizon 3 isn’t merely an event management simulator; it’s also a driving game, which it does sublimely. The cars are gorgeous, the audio is fantastic and the car handling is on point. Each car type is different to drive, as well as each biome having a completely different reaction depending on the type of car that you use, meaning that you can’t just throw a load of upgrades on to one car you like and win the game. You actually have to consider the type of car that you use, such as an SUV or off-road vehicle on the cross-country circuits, which would suffer against the more agile cars of the city races.
The car customisation features are what you would typically expect from a Forza game, with car tuning, appearance upgrades and the usual plethora of player-created car styles. As well as other customisation options, you won’t get bored playing around with the 350+ cars that are on offer. The game isn’t just for hardcore driving fans either, as the difficulty settings are massively customisable, allowing you to turn features such as anti-lock braking system (ABS), assisted cornering and braking, suggested lines and automatic gear shifting on and off at will. If you take all of these features and add the varied co-op and multiplayer features into the mix, you have a game well worth its AAA reputation.
This review isn’t just all blustering over a great game. While the game looks brilliant as a whole, there are some flaws that I just cannot overlook. The free roam is great, apart from when you are in areas that spawn large quantities of AI cars, which are guaranteed to turn into homing missiles with wheels the second you try and complete a challenge or gain any kind of speed. The AI in actual races, while not completely bad, is pretty mediocre to compete against. If you have the difficulty turned down, they will drive in a uniform line at a steady space whilst you cruise right past them without issue. However, turn the difficulty up too much and they become roving death machines. This can be rectified through fiddling about with the settings to find a difficulty that suits you best. My other problem is the way tutorial seems to last forever. It feels as though the game holds your hand through everything for the first hour or two, which can get a bit frustrating.
After playing Forza Horizon 3 for a good few hours, I can confidently say that this game is an amazing accomplishment for its genre. It’s not perfect, but it is a lot of fun and a much-needed injection into a boring and stale genre.
My name is Joshua Malcolmand and I study American History at Manchester Met. I have a love for all games, with a small fanaticism for Halo and Dark Souls. Anime and games are pretty much the start and end of my hobbies. With a background in both game testing and competitive gaming, I have a pedigree in all things digital.