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Forza Horizon 3: The New Standard of Open World Driving

Patrick Hoffstetter September 21, 2016 Featured, Forza 9 Comments

It seems hard to believe that the Forza Horizon sub-franchise has already reached it’s third game, as just years ago I was tearing through Colorado, or the south of France. And while the last game might not have stuck with me as much as the first, the games have always been some solid open world fun. But now we have a bigger map, more cars, redone water and off-roading. Oh, and did I mention you are in charge of the festival now?

It’s evolution and revolution at the same time. This is Horizon 3.

When I first heard that Horizon was moving down under I thought it was the absolute best place to take the franchise next. Utes, crazy off-roading, and just the general attitude towards hooning made the fake festival a perfect match for Australia. Add in the fact that you are not only competing in the festival, but choosing how it grows and what events are going to be held. You choose the car, the event, and what can compete with you. It sounds like a ton of work but ends up being some really good fun.

But more on the fun later, let’s get some of the technical bits out of the way. Water and off-roading physics have been completely overhauled to make it feel more real while still letting you have fun sliding a million dollar supercar across the dirt. And while you are sliding across the outback, you’ll be blown away by just how good this game looks. Forza Motorsports 6 was already a looker, but the added work the Playground Games folks put into the engine really shines.

I was playing the game on an older HD TV and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Knowing that the game supports HDR graphics on the new Xbox One S makes me long for a new TV and console just to see how pretty this game really can be. If you want to be blown away by how far games have come, look at the taillights in Horizon 1, then come back to this game. Nothing has ever looked as good as the taillights in this game.

Along with HDR support, new features for the game all revolve around making it more of a total experience. Wide-body support is in for the first time, and gives you access to some of the coolest body kits in the world. The auction house is back for the first time on the Xbox One, and I have to say it’s nice to have back. You have free reign to make events up as you go along, or you can choose between one of the couple of default options the developers have created for the game. And in that same vain, there are make-your-own Bucket List events scattered all over the map. Oh, and the map itself is huge without feeling too giant. I never felt like I was spending too long driving from one point to another. And the amount of cars is crazy.

For the first time, race cars are available via a day-one DLC pack, which is really cool. That and you get access to a bunch of off-road vehicles like the MINI X-Raid, and the Ford Raptor. I really didn’t find any massive holes in the game’s available cars minus the lack of VW and Porsche vehicles. Which seems super odd considering how a VW group car is on the cover, but I imagine that is another story for another day.

Other than that, do I have any issues with the game? Yes, I do, but they are almost so minor I really feel like I am nitpicking to a degree which most of you would find arbitrary. I don’t like that you can’t just straight up trade in cars from your garage anymore. You must sell them at theauction house. I feel that the new modification system was just messing with a good thing, even if it seems like it is actually saving a bit of time. Car ratings seem to have gone a tad wonky in a weird mix of Motorsport and Horizon 2. That and I had a few game breaking crashes before the first big content update went out.

Overall though, the game has taken the formula of fun that was born with Burnout Paradise on the 360, the Forza Horizon flavor of Horizon 1, and the absolute attention to detail that the Forza name entails. The game isn’t afraid to be silly and outlandish to create stunning moments. The amount of times that I have had my jaw drop at a cool jump, or stunt, or just how pretty everything looks is higher than I care to mention. If you only buy one driving game this year, you need to make it Forza Horizon 3. And hey, if you see my drivatar online, maybe hire me to help out with your festival. I think I should know a thing or two by now.

[Disclaimer: Microsoft was nice enough to provide a review code for the ultimate edition of the game. Forza Horizon 3 will be available for $59.99 on September 26th, 2016.]

  • Ross Ballot

    Have yet to read a bad review of FH3. Wondering if the positive press keeps up, if it’ll have a chance at game of the year…

    • I don’t know about that. It might be my personal game of the year, but enough high profile games have come out this year that might overshadow this.

      • Zentropy

        I agree. It’ll likely top my list, but not all gamers are gearheads. I’m seriously looking forward to it.

        • Jeff Glucker


    • caltemus

      Found one:

      looks like most of my fears are true. It’s gotten much farther away from “forza in open world” and more towards “need for speed with slightly better physics”

      • Ross Ballot

        I don’t know– it didn’t seem that way from the demo. Maybe Pat can weigh in; it really just seems like an expansion upon the existing series in every way

  • Krautwursten

    I fail to see how you could have made driving more realistic while still enabling supercars to slide across dirt tracks at 150 mph. It’s a contradiction in itself, and for a game this voluminous and detailed on the models and modifications it’s a shame it’s as arcadey to begin with.

  • caltemus

    I’m really interested in the changes to the upgrade system, as I think the current one is perfect and has been largely the same from Forza 2, the first game I played. What specifically did they change? This is a big enough deal that if they botched it I’ll cancel my pre order and wait for the price to drop. Turn 10 has an awful habit of completely ruining anything good about the menus with each new iteration.

  • Marto

    (More Marto travel brag…)

    By blind coincidence, me and my Canadian mate Caleb, hit most of the FH3 map in real life back in May. It’s a lot more spread out of course. We did 5556km (3450 miles) from Byron Bay to the Apostles and back in two weeks (in my 20-year-old Commodore no less). Anyway, when the game map was announced a month later, I sent him the link and we were both like “What! We literally just did that!”

    Oh, and the weather at the Apostles was hectic. Forget sun. It’s next stop Antarctica down there, the weather changes dramatically at the speed of the wind – about 60mph. And the waves! So big, so fast, blowing so much spray off their crests. Imagine an endless succession of steam locos running head first into a cliff. It was damn near apocalyptic. And it was for my camera (hence file photo attached).