Forza Horizon 3 Review
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Much like it's predecessors, Forza Horizon 3 is not a racing game. Sure, there are cars and you'll benefit from placing first in the occasional competition but Playground Games latest is firmly in the simulation territory. It's a loving simulation of the relationship between man, machine and the open road and it's absolutely stunning in almost all regards. With the third game in the series, Forza Horizon 3 isn't the huge leap forward that previous games were, but like a car fresh out of a tune up, it adds just enough to make it the best game in either Forza series yet and a must play for fans of cars and adventure games in general.
Forza Horizon 3 once again centers around the Horizon musical festival but this year there are two changes; the festival has moved to Australia and oh yeah, you're in charge of the whole thing. While you won't be setting prices or negotiating contracts like a traditional owner mode in sports games, it is up to you to grow the festival, it's fan base, sign drivers and more. Instead of doing this through series of menus and sliders like most games, Forza never forgets why it's here and you'll sign new drivers to your festival by beating them in races, you'll gain new fans by completing PR stunts like driving off of cliffs in expensive cars and you'll open up new locations for your festival simply by discovering more roads and gaining more fame. It's not the most realistic version of resource management, but it is a whole lot of fun.
Of course, you're bound to be a terrible festival manager, and that's because Forza Horizon 3 is a game that strongly believes that the journey is worth far more than the destination. Australia's Pacific coast is lovingly recreated and packed with fun things to do and discover. Your virtual assistant (side note, you can have her call you El Pollo Diablo the entire time) is constantly telling you new things to do and how to get more fans and I'll get there...eventually. Much like in previous games, Forza Horizon 3's world is completely open for you to explore and there's truly nothing like it. Tear through the rain forrest, kick up sand on the beach or just speed down the highway.; there's never a shortage of things to do or see in Forza Horizon 3. Take for instance early on in the game when I was told that I needed to expand my festival because we were bursting at the seems with fans and had more looking to get in, I went in the direction that my GPS told me to but then I saw a path I'd never been on before and it wasn't long before I had a ton more credits, had been in three races, went off a ton of jumps...but still hadn't expanded my festival...I really hope no one had to pee.
Then there are the real stars of the show, the ones with four wheels. The depth and selection of the garage in Forza Horizon 3 is simply unmatched by anything currently available. From sleek sports cars to heavy duty muscle cars and everything in between, Forza's deep list of available cars is sure to have something for everyone. Finding new cars to tool around Australia with is always thrilling but customizing the ones I have to my exact specifications is incredibly rewarding. These cars feel weighted right; heavy duty trucks rumble while sleek sports cars maneuver nearly silently in comparison. In true Forza fashion all of these cars are recreated so authentically that they're a marvel to look at and I almost feel bad when I launch such a work of art off of a bridge for more fans; I seriously thought eventually they were going to stop giving me new cars, haven't you seen what I did with the last ten you gave me? I'm traditionally a first person view kind of guy when it comes to racing games but the cars in Forza look so good I found myself switching to the standard behind the car view for a lot of races.
That level of detail is persistent across the entire game but nowhere is it as noticeable as in the world around you. Dynamic lighting and weather effects offer a sense of reality that few games even come close to. Rain drops populate on your windshield, moving in a. physically believable way, and it's amazing to see how the different lighting effects the in game action. Driving down the beach at sunset is something to behold but driving through the rain forrest at night is a harrowing experience unlike any other. The Xbox One version of the game is locked at 30 FPS and it looks stunning but the PC version (the game is part of Microsoft's Play Anywhere line where you buy one and you get the other for free) is only restricted by how much your rig can handle and is jaw droopingly gorgeous.
That same level of detail is given to the game's audio as well. As festival manager you're going to be responsible for signing different radio stations to sponsor events and provide the tunes and just like previous Forza games, the selections here are a lot of fun. From techno beats to punk rock, there's something to drive to for everyone. The biggest addition though is the integration of Groove Music, which allows you to literally drive to anything. I'm driving a powerful muscle car down the Australian highway with Motorhead's Ace of Spades blaring in the background and damn does it feel good. The cars are given a similarly detailed treatment too as engines purr and tires squeal in a huge improvement over the previous games.
What I was most impressed with though was just how malleable Forza Horizon 3's core structure is. Playing through the game with friends (or their Driveatars, in game AI controlled recreations of their driving habits), you can take advantage of the game's blueprint feature which allows you to change up any event and get rid of the restrictions. No more class, vehicle or location restrictions, Blueprint is for all intents and purposes, Forza without the seatbelt and it's a lot of fun to come up with new invents and challenge your friends.
With Forza Horizon 3, Playground Games and Turn 10 studios have created the ultimate virtual road trip. There's great tunes, scenery, adventure, friends and of course, the open road. Through it all though it never loses sight of it's focus, the bond between man and machine. It's a fantastic racing game but an even better adventure and simulation game. Forza Horizon 3 is an astonishing accomplishment and most importantly it's a lot of fun to play.
Joe started off writing about video games for small fan sites when he realized he should probably do something with his communications degree and didn't want to get into the grind of daily reporting. Joining the team in late 2008, Joe is the featured game reviewer for Cheat Happens, producing up to 10 CHEATfactor Game Reviews per month.
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