Forza Horizon 3 Review – Cannonballing the Outback

Cramming the largest motor possible into a 1957 BMW Isetta shouldn’t be a thing.

It’s almost smaller than a smart car, and almost impossible to flip over, which makes flying through the fields and sands of Australia at over 150 miles one of the funnest, most ludicrous experiences offered. A lot of people tend to find the distinct sound of each engine and the pinpoint customization of vehicles as the distinct divider between Forza and other known racers out there. As odd as it sounds though, I found myself more pulled in simply watching my vehicles suspension flex, tuck and fully droop as I flung it recklessly through the desert and farm fields. This, in itself, should show the distinct attention to detail that Playground Games achieved with the latest Forza Horizon title.

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Maintaining its culmination of fast cars and music, the Horizon festival returns in full swing. While prior titles relied on championships and former rivalries, this one focus’ more on your appeal to the masses. The more events you complete, the more ‘fans’ you bring into the festival, which in return become your main form of progression. Once you hit certain fan milestones, you unlock the ability to upgrade your Horizon festivals strewn throughout the outback. Within moments, it becomes extremely easy to litter the map in an almost overwhelming tide of events. Within the festival is where you will be doing most of your time tinkering away at the vehicle you either just bought or won. I usually found myself creating outlandish, and sometimes absolutely uncontrollable monsters. The Rally Fighter quickly became one of my favorites, yet one of the hardest to drive once you mashed a V12 into the engine bay. So, there definitely is a form of experimentation needed when you’re hoping to build the perfect race car.

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Almost all of the races follow the normal recipe. You’ll either take part in an A to B sprint, or a multi-lapped circuit. All of the races are positively structured for chaos though. I was actually surprised with the variety provided, whether it be through a construction site, or cannonballing through a neighborhood slamming through backyards and almost flying over the houses themselves. For the naturalist, there are still regular street races, yet I feel like you would be missing out if you came into this game expecting exactly that. If you aren’t the solo type, this is the first in the series to add a co-operative multiplayer, which adds another layer of depth to each race. I did notice, at times, the the AI actually became much more difficult once more people became involved regardless of the vehicle class. If racing isn’t what you’re looking for, you can even cruise with your crew through the streets if that’s more your thing.   

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Outside of the race events, both the bucket list and barn finds return. The bucket list events put the player into some of the faster cars as they try to achieve outlandish goals. Some of these can be simple, such as flying down an aircraft runway in a koenigsegg, while the more difficult events can have the player forge their own path through the wilderness in a top tier rally car while under the scrutiny of time. For the explorer, the barn finds revolve around the player searching for a classic car stowed away somewhere out in the open, figuratively speaking. Compared to the last titles, the new hiding spots can be much more difficult to find and somewhat crafty. Especially at dark, which is an almost impossible time to do anything, since it is the darkest night time I’ve seen in probably any game. The usual billboard collectibles return as well, offering a variety of items such as chunks of money, experience, or discounts on fast travel.

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Whether you like high speed stints on the freeway, or carelessly careening through the countryside, experience is rewarded constantly. With the amount of experience flowing in, it’s easy to level up, unlock a car, and upgrade your festival within a matter of minutes. The skill points range over three tiers of skillsets, and only add to the simplicity and constant ability to level up and unlock more items. Within an hour of starting the game, I had already accrued over a dozen cars and maintained an easy million dollars.  

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While away from the game, your particular avatar will take part in other players races, usually having a hefty chunk of cash for you to collect once you return. Apart from this, you can also recruit your online friends drivatars into your team as well. They will pop up on the map at random intervals, from which you will then have to beat them in a race to accept them into your team. Your only slotted for four, yet the game is sure to remind you much after that there are still many other racers on the field that you can recruit. It’s definitely being nitpicky once you look at how great the game actually is, but it’s one of the very few distractions that I just wasn’t on board for.

Playground Games did an amazing job pushing so much of the iconic pieces of Australia into their world. While everything is exponentially closer to each other, nothing was embellished or overcrowded. While it takes much longer to get from one side to the other in the real world, the drive in-game still felt real and believable as the scenery and terrain had a natural shift between each other rather than forcefully being placed. Forza Horizon 3 is well worth the vehicle enthusiasts time and may even create the spark and interest in newcomers alike.

4/5

Camron Willey

Just finishing school with a bachelors degree in Game Design, I now spend my time working between Cynosure, and my personal projects. Being a full-time military member, I try to pass the time behind the keyboard or controller. If it involves design or deep narrative, I will be there day one. You can check out my blog and smaller past times on CamronwilleyDesign.com!

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