Even though I’ve grown up with racing games, I’ve always had a soft spot for arcade style racers. You know, the Burnouts, the Cruisn’ USAs, the Blurs of the world. Any game that hands me the keys, lets me go as fast as possible, and not care if I slam into traffic or cause mass chaos on the roads is okay in my book. I don’t care about perfecting my car through customization or driving carefully along racing lines, just let me drive like there’s no tomorrow.
It’s probably for that reason alone that simulation style racers like Gran Turismo, Project Gotham Racing or Forza Motorsport have never really caught my attention. By extension, the Forza Horizon series was lumped in there as well thanks to its association with its big brother series. Afraid of the difficulty curve and being forced to drive legit, I stayed far away.
I won’t lie though, the appeal of driving buggies around the sunburnt sands, urban centers, and lush forests of Australia proved to be mighty enticing when Microsoft finally revealed Forza Horizon 3. Since it release, I’ve always kept one eye on Forza Horizon 2, knowing that the game emphasized fun over simulation. I mean, considering it tasks you racing oddball things like planes, trains, and other sorts of outlandish vehicles, I think you kind of have to throw the word simulation right out the window.
More after the jump…
Needless to say, I took the plunge and I’m really glad I did because Forza Horizon 3 takes the best things about racing games and throws you into an absolutely stunning and fun open world. It’s pretty much a gorgeous looking party for car enthusiasts featuring a massive roster of cars to drive, crazy stunts to perform, fans to win over, and major events to win.
So the basic gist this time around is that your character is the Horizon Festival boss in charge with throwing one hell of a party mixing together cars and music. Not only can you select a character that is fully modeled in game, but you can even name them something that the game will use when talking to you. I picked my first name and I’d be lying if I said hearing my name spoken by the other characters in game isn’t cool. It absolutely is.
Customization is the name of the game and since you are the boss, you make the decisions. Winning races and partaking in events raises your XP, earns you some cash, and brings in more fans which helps expand the festival further into Australia. Hitting fan thresholds enables you to either open up new venues or expand existing ones, unlocking even more events to participate in.
All races can be fully customized as well. Don’t like the stock version? Want to spice things up a bit? That’s fine, make it your own through setting different rules, weather, time of day, restrictions, and anything else. These creations can then be shared with your friends as well. I love how you’re not forced into something you don’t want to play and can instead replace it with something you do.
Better yet, the game has something for everyone, whether your an expert car tuner or a person like me who just wants to drive fast. Horizon 3 does an admirable job straddling this line, easing up on the realistic simulation bits to ensure that all skill levels can race and have fun. Technical skill is still somewhat required for certain vehicles, but for the most part, players will find something to love. Better yet? The game rewards me for crashing and breaking things, so I’m fully on board.
What’s refreshing is that I’m probably about 8 hours in and the game is still showing me new things, peeling back the layers slowly like an onion. Bucket list challenges can be customized and shared with the community, and the auction house is a great place to find something unique, while also dropping a ton of cash on expensive rides. There’s a ton of stuff in Horizon 3.
I haven’t dipped my toes into the online world all that much, but outside of an initial loading screen connecting everyone together, the experience is seamless and lets you continue to earn rewards and do things which carry over into your solo game. There’s no separation of solo and multiplayer anymore. Online games include campaign co-op, free roam, or adventure which throws some fun minigames into the mix like flag rush, where players race to collect flags, and infection, which should be familiar to veteran Halo fans…only now with cars.
Honestly, I could make this a super long article as there’s a ton of things I haven’t touched on like convoys, barn finds, photo/drone mode, the crazy and over the top Showcase events, and midnight races to name a few. As someone who has traditionally steered clear of the Forza series, I’m absolutely glad I dove in to Forza Horizon 3. If you enjoy racing games on any level, this is one to check out for sure.