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Review: Forza Horizon 3 (Xbox One)

 

 
Overview
 

Game Length: N/A (30 hours played)
 
Developer(s): Playground Games
 
Publisher(s): Microsoft Studios
 
Platform(s): PC | Xbox One (reviewed)
 
Release Date: 27 September 2016
 
Platform:
 
Gameplay
9.5


 
Visuals
9.5


 
Audio
9.0


 
Gratification
9.5


 
Value for Money
9.5


 
Total Score
9.4
9.4/10


User Rating
1 total rating

 

Positives


Graphics that make you question how it runs on the Xbox One| The soundtrack has finally been improved | The Online Adventure mode is exceptionally fun | It'll last you for eternity | Photo mode is still addictive

Negatives


Navigation is a bit of a step back from Forza Horizon 2 | Co-op campaign has some flaws


Bottom Line

Third time lucky? No, third time perfection.




28
Posted September 20, 2016 by

 
Full Article
 
 

review-forza-horizon-3

In 2010 some of the most influential people in the racing game business got together and formed Playground Games. The aim for this talented group of individuals was simple – make the best driving game in the world. Six years later and perfection is on the horizon.

Forza Horizon 3 has instilled a feeling in me I’ve not experienced in many years. A feeling of excitement, gratitude and pure enjoyment all rolled into one moment. When you go to bed at ungodly times in the morning and wake up at sparrow fart just to get your next fix of driving you know that you’re playing something very, very special. As soon as you pass the loading screen you’re dumped right into an oasis of pure driving mastery.

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Forza Horizon 3 kicks off exactly where the demo got going, or the first bit of footage you would have seen at E3 earlier this year. You’re thrown into the thick of it right away as you make your way to the next festival setting in the featured car for this particular game, the Lamborghini Centenario. That’s followed by an off-road vehicle session where you can just about feel the wind blowing through your hair as you blast through the checkpoints on the beach on your way to Byron Bay. It ends up in a Showcase where you are tasked with chasing and beating a chopper that’s carrying another vehicle. Oh yes, the crazy has gone to cloud cuckoo land. This time however you’re not just attending the festival, you’re the owner. That’s why you’ll choose a look from preset avatars and decide what they’ll call you (of course there’s no Dawid, so I’m Dave…). This particular festival is taking place down-under in Australia and is now so big that it’s been split up into four territories: Byron Bay, Yarra Valley, Outback and Surfers Paradise – each with their own festivals. If I had to compare the map to Forza Horizon 2 I’d say it’s about double the size.

Where we’re going we don’t need roads

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Your main objective is to build these individual festivals by levelling it up. To do so you have to gather fans. Get the required number of fans and you get one upgrade point. How do you get fans? By taking part in events and, this is important, by obtaining recruits to join your team. Keira, your PA, will make you aware of a new potential recruit and mark them on the map. Challenge and beat the recruit and you can add that drivatar to your line-up. Once the festival has been upgraded you’ll now be able to host more fans and it’ll unlock more events for you to enter in that territory. Each territory comes with its own unique theme and it’s this in particular that really sets this outing apart from any previous Forza Horizon games. Keen on some off-road racing? Head to the Outback. Want to enjoy some dreamy twisty roads in a supercar? Visit the rain forest. Are you after some tight cornering and high speeds? Head to the city skyline that you can see in the distance. Want to just barge through to the next checkpoint and make up your own road? Go for it. It feels like an adventure game for cars.

As you would have gathered by now Forza Horizon 3 dips its sexy 22” wheels into both the sim and arcade racing waters

Every event type in Forza Horizon 2 has returned to this sequel. You can take part in exhibitions, or you can take on a championship made up of several races. There are 30 new Bucket List events and, if you feel there aren’t enough, you can now setup and challenge your friends (and the rest of the world) to a Bucket List of your own. Set it up and invite your friends to the Bucket List Blueprint Point. Let’s see if they can beat it! The setup is not perfect, as you can’t set your own checkpoints, but it’s a start. You’ll also once again be on the lookout for Barn Finds that has a bunch of Australian classic automobiles featuring this time, though you’ll still find a global classic or two here and there. At some point in all the racing you will find that you need a moment to do something silly, and you’ll be glad to hear that PR Stunts have returned from the original Forza Horizon.

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Think of PR Stunts as a fun distraction. The Speed Trap and Speed Zone events, that featured in Forza Horizon 2 as well (though not as PR Stunts), will have you pushing the limit of your car, but the return of Drifts and, the new kid on the block, Danger Sign, is where you’ll find you’ll spend most of your time trying to get a three-star rating. Danger Sign is just that – danger. Your aim is to hit the Danger Sign ramp at top speed in your effort to gain the ultimate distance. Be aware, some of these stunts are tough and you’ll be swearing when having to deal with traffic while drifting. These various tasks will earn you some fans, but also XP (to level up) and credits to buy cars. As you would have gathered by now Forza Horizon 3 dips its sexy 22” wheels into both the sim and arcade racing waters, and somehow they’ve struck this phenomenal balance in handling that just works.

Body modifications makes you car look sexy… sometimes…

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You’ll get a feel for each car you drive in seconds as each vehicle feels unique and you’ll drive that particular car to its strengths. If you feel like tampering with the car you can as before play with the settings and tune the car as it best suits you, but if you’re really feeling like being a daredevil you can now, for the first time, add body modification kits to your car. Not all the cars can be improved, but I can tell you that I had a 1957 BMW Isetta 300 Export in a D tier upgraded to a S1 tier (pictured above). Yes, it was unbelievably funny when witnessing another local media person playing it online and watching the little bug-looking piece of metal shoot off in record speed down the straight, or seeing him adding training wheels to a three-wheeled car. Another player? Online with me… in my campaign? Well, yes.

Each car is drenched with detail, and when you’re out on the road you’ll notice it changing as bits of mud or blades of grass stick to the body

4-Player campaign co-op is a thing in Forza Horizon 3 and it’s a blast. Suddenly championships become more competitive and in free-roam you’ll find that you and your mates (we’re in Australia, okay?) are pushing to see who can perform the best PR Stunt… or anything that looks goofy and fun. There are however some drawbacks. When searching for a Barn Find, and the Barn Find appears on the other player’s map, and not yours, it’s somewhat of a pointless co-op search, though using a drone to help you search does help a bit. The co-op works, but it’s not as if you’re about to play a shooter in co-op with friends. It feels a little disjointed from the single player experience that feels like something you want to experience at your own pace. The other drawback is that you can’t use the rewind feature for obvious reasons, though I believe it made the races all the more enjoyable, and photo mode is completely disabled, which is a massive disappointment. Other than using the screenshot mode on the Xbox One you can’t setup a beauty shot of you and your mates being a bunch of idiots. Hopefully that gets added when the inevitable sequel launches. When you do play in single player mode the photo mode is a reminder that Forza Horizon 3 is quite the graphical showcase.

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There were many, many moments that simply had me observe the beauty that was unfolding in front of my eyes. Each car is drenched with detail, and when you’re out on the road you’ll notice it changing as bits of mud or blades of grass stick to the body. The weather system is like something I’ve never seen before. Yes, we’ve seen real-time weather in a game, but not like this. When you see dark clouds building, in an unbelievably realistic way, and soon after it starts raining it adds to the realism. You’ll also now drive through pools of water, not just the little puddles that Forza Motorsport 6 introduced. Get to the Rain Forrest and you’ll get to take images that look something like the one at the top of this paragraph. Details such as smoke hovering over the festival once the fireworks come to an end or the details of bushes, fences, sign posts and everything else you can plough through is just of the highest quality, with the damage model on the cars being just as good. There’s just something mesmerising about the colour palette in the game. Each area you visit has a distinct look and feel to it, and you’ll find yourself siding with a particular area. For me it was the beautiful rain forest. The production quality of this game sets a new benchmark for racing games.

The perfect sound for any track

If the purring sounds of the cars have overstayed their welcome then the music selection, which was a major issue for me in Forza Horizon 2, will fill any gap that might exist. You now have access to eight radio stations with at least one station appealing to your tastes (you can find the entire listing here). As an owner you’ll sign up radio stations, two at a time. Once you’ve unlocked all festivals you’ll have access to all the stations, and if you’re still not satisfied you can play your own music using the Groove feature, though you’ll have to switch to a UK locale to get this working.

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Forza Horizon 3 is filled with content. You can buy your cars at the auction house (for the first time since Forza Motorsport 4) or put your car up for sale after having spent hours working on the perfect design. You’ll get to challenge your rivals and your drivatar will take care of matters in your absence. In fact, that difficulty curve can be set to perfection because of the use of drivatars and you’ll truly feel like you’re racing real people. Throughout all this you’re also building up skill points to unlock unique perks such as earning 20% more credits per race or 500% more skills score for drifts taps. Keeping the skill chain combo going is tough, but highly rewarding. Street races are also available for you to take part in, which is especially grand when you have your club members joining the event. Hoot at passing drivatars on the road and they’ll join you by forming a convoy. There is never a dull moment, and there’s no greater example than the Online Adventure mode.

In Online Adventure you can join your friends or random people and take part in races, challenges or games. You get to vote for the discipline you’re most interested in and then face off against up to 11 other players. I had an enormous amount of fun doing course and point-to-point races, but nothing beat the games. I got to play Infected and King and sat there with a huge grin on my face. In Infected you’re basically playing ‘Zombie’ mode. One player starts off as the infected car and its his or her aim to touch another car to infect it. The last car standing wins, but if you are infected and touch other cars you will be awarded points too. King is basically a game of touchers, but there are two cars who are King. Touch the car and you become King. Your aim is to remain King as long as possible. The winner is the car that dodged pretenders to the throne for the longest. It’s an enormous amount of fun and will likely last players until the next Forza Horizon game. You can also still meet friends and other players at car meets that exclusively take place at the airport and lets you dice your friend or another stranger down the airstrip to claim bragging rights. As I mentioned earlier – there is so much content in this game.

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I’ve unfortunately not had the opportunity to test the cross-play feature with the PC version as it was not available at the time of writing, but we do plan to write an in-depth feature on that as soon as we have access to it. Other than that there was not much that could be faulted, besides me bitching when the wheelspin would have me missing out on a vehicle I really wanted and gave me a measily 2,000 credits instead. I should also point out that I don’t think the navigation system, using Anna, works as well this time round using the Kinect, though that could be down to the lack of decent voice support for our territory.

Forza Horizon 3 is the Godfather 2 of the series. It’s taken everything you loved about the first two games, added some 100s and 1000s sprinkles of pure magic, and you now have what is arguably one of the best racing games of all time. It’s for both the driving enthusiast and the clueless among us. Forza Horizon 3 is really for everyone. If you own an Xbox One or PC you owe it to yourself to be part of this vibrant festival celebration of automobile crack.

Gold-award

Below you’ll find an image gallery showing off various photos I took. Yes, it’s highly addictive:

raru-buy-now





Dawid Venter

 
Married to a gamer wife who kicks my ass at most shooters. If it's got analogue thingies, with buttons that's connected to a big box I'll play it no matter the format.


  • Gareth Lagesse (eXCheez)

    Great review, Dawid! Just three more sleeps…

    • Thanks man, those 3 sleeps are going to take forever though… and thereafter you won’t sleep for a few days – because who needs sleep?

  • The Infamous Kong

    The images are so compressed it looks like a ps2 game…

    • You will give me a heart attack.

      • JC

        I had to settle for “Jay”… Half my name isn’t bad I suppose. You sure there’s no “David” option? I only found the two other tabs full of real-name male & female options a bit later.

  • Wesley

    This is on my want list!

    I played the demo, found it creepy when they say my name…

  • Mohammed Abdulla

    We doing a convoy this friday then dawid? 😉

    • Sounds like a plan to me. Join the SA Gamer club, it’s open to all.

      • JC

        This time I’ll be joining you guys at [SAG] as well! Took Friday off work. This is gonna be EPIC!

  • ShadowR

    Where can i preorder this game for PC? I am aware it’s cross platform so do i just pre order the Xbox One version ?

    • That’s a very good question. I’ll see if I can find you an answer. For the time being I think you might be right in that you get the PC version when buying the Xbox game, but I’m not sure how it would activate without you owning the console. I’ll reply as soon as I can find some clarity on it.

    • I received the below link of where you can pre-order it for PC, but it’s the digital version of course: https://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msusa/en_US/pdp/Forza-Horizon-3-for-Xbox-One/productID.5061286000

      • ShadowR

        Thank you dawid, i presumed i would have to buy it directly from the MS store.

        Now the big question is which version to buy.

        Im thinking of getting the standard version and adding the car pass for 19$ from gamestop.

        • I got the Ultimate edition and I tell you what, it’s probably worth the extra $$$. Whenever you get a wheelspin you receive double the credits. It’s a little shady, but it REALLY helps in acquiring expensive vehicles you’re after, and you get some car packs included.

          • ShadowR

            double the credits, lol ok i’m sold, time to break the bank.

  • JC

    It’s going to be fun dissappearing this weekend playing this game and not wanting to drive on the wrong side of the road on Monday!

    • Believe it or not, but you actually drive on the right side of the road, as in – compared to SA. And, strangely enough I found it very weird actually. I’m so used to playing racing games on the other side of the road.

      • JC

        That’s exactly what I was referring to. I’ve found that prolonged sessions with previous Forza & NFS titles left me a bit disoriented in real life driving, so it will be refreshing to *not* have that conflicting “realities” this time around :). I get what you say though, it took some getting use to in the demo – I kept driving into oncoming traffic!… coz I could only play the demo… coz I had to pay a premium to get it later than you did but earlier than the hoi polloi.

  • PSN: KGHorns

    I still fail to see how people are still trying to compare Forza Horizon 3 to Driveclub, Sony ain’t got a response to this, and that’s why it’s games like these which make me wish I could get an Xbox One.😥

    • It’s definitely in no way DriveClub, that’s for sure. If it’s anything like any game before it I’ll say it’s Test Drive Unlimited.

      • PSN: KGHorns

        Thaaank You, but at least I’ve got The Crew on PS4 to drown my sorrows with, even with its incomparable driving physics, IT’S ALL I’VE GOT!!!

  • Jaco Liebenberg

    Was waiting for this review. Thanks a lot, now I have to drag myself through the last few day before launch, and then a few more days extra to actually be able to buy it. Think I’m gonna settle for the Standard Edition though, that way it’ll force me to work for the cars I want. At least I’ll have fun doing it, then it won’t be work. I’ll join you guys within the first week of October, so better get some practice in before you all eat my dust…

    • The challenge is on! I’ll see you online! 😀

  • Darksirius

    Awesome review! And I went back and looked at this article: http://sagamer.co.za/2016/09/01/games-releasing-in-september-with-predictions Considering all the reviews out there; looks like you guys were spot. 9 is the lowest score the game is getting on average. Now I just have to wait for next week:(

    • Thanks man. Hey, so Jarred got his prediction right? He’s obviously closet racing fan.