Release date: 2016
Version played: Xbox One in 2017
Developed by Playground Games, published by Microsoft Studios, Forza Horizon 3 is the ninth entry in the Forza racing series, and third in the Horizon sub-series. Set in a (horribly not to scale) version of the east coast of Australia – Surfer’s Paradise (Queensland in Australia’s North), Yarra Valley (New South Wales, Central) Byron Bay (Victoria, to the South) and The Outback (the middle of Australia) – players take the role of the head of the Horizon festival, and must win races to earn money, experience points and new fans to buy and upgrade cars, unlock new skills and expand the festival, respectively.
+ most importantly, the racing is great. A huge number of difficulty modifiers (manual or automatic, visible driving lines, the choice to use the rewind feature (more on that below) etc.) alter how much bonus currency and experience you get from racing, allowing players to customise the game to be the perfect difficulty. Each of the huge number of cars play differently enough for you to learn how to handle different styles of vehicles for whatever the race requires
+ there are over 500 real-world car makes and models, and each car varies in quality and usefulness in each race type (and can be tuned to exact specifications, if you so desire). I was having lots of problems trying to win turn-heavy inner city races in my heavily upgraded Mustang, so I just switched to a less powerful, more agile Porsche instead, and smoked the opponents
+ aside from just the racing, there are an incredible number of side activities. Speed cameras, speed zones, drift zones, long jumps, billboards and Barn Finds scatter the map, some hidden and some in plain and inviting sight, and getting “three stars” on each challenge will test even seasoned drivers
+ I’m a sucker for a good ‘camera mode’, and this game has one of the best I’ve seen, allowing for whatever beauty shots you could want to take. There is even ANOTHER side challenge in the game to photograph one of every car – I’m currently on about 100 of the 500+
+ there are so many names you can choose to be called, and several physical avatars, which adds a personal touch to the otherwise rather repetitive gameplay. Personally, I played as the cute girl, with the code name “Goose”
– the ‘rewind’ feature is far and away the biggest crock of shit I have ever seen in a racing game. Carried over from previous Forza games, players can rewind time to “undo” any crashes or badly timed jumps, or just to try and take a corner more smoothly. It is ridiculous, and makes the races almost entirely inconsequential
– the single player progression is lacking, with the idea generally being: win races to earn fans, use fans to upgrade festivals to unlock more races, repeat. Five ‘showcase’ races are unlocked at certain intervals, and whilst they are exciting, there are only five, and the final race is not nearly as exciting as the ones before it
Should you play this game: I was having racing game urges when I bought this on the Xbox store sale, but having played it I would easily have paid full price for it. The racing is tight and intense, the difficulty is entirely customizable and there is so much to do I can’t see me putting this down for a long time yet.