Complete review of Forza Horizon 3 with gameplay video on Xbox One.
Technology: App / Software
Technology: Tips & Tricks
Games & Software: Windows PC
Games & Software: Xbox One
Games & Software: Xbox One S
This is a review of Forza Horizon on Xbox One. I'v enjoyed the previous Forza Horizon games which all follow this similar open-world design where you can just drive anywhere you want, explore, or race. Although the game shares a name with the Forza Motorsport series, the Horizon games are more about fun and come across in a more arcade-like experience. The Motorsport series is more about being a driving simulator, which it does well, but isn't my thing as you can see on my Forza Motorosport 6 Review.
If you're not familiar with the Forza Horizon games, the concept is simple and a little goofy. It's another case where the game developer desperately tries to stuff a story into a game that doesn't need one. In short, you're headed to Australia to set up new Horizon Festivals which are gather of various race and stunt events.
The idea is to drive in various events, races, and to attract fans. In this social media world we live in, this is the equivalent to getting more likes and followers. I find the concept annoying, but it does work here. As you get more fans you can expand each festival location which unlocks more events and races.
You can also just say "screw it" to the events and drive all over the map which is my favorite part. It's sort of a way to unwind. You'll get credits for outrageous driving like drifting, catching air, burnouts, and a variety of other fun stuff. Do one stunt after another and you'll chain your stunts together for massive credit gains. Well, that's assuming you don't crash while chaining them. One crash and the chain, and credits, are lost.
That system, along with winning races, also lets you earn XP. The XP system levels your character up. During these processes you'll also be able to unlock a variety of extra skills, much like the Fallout 4 (see Fallout 4 Review) "perks" system. It's neat, it's fun, it works for what this game is.
The Forza Horizon 3 gameplay is excellent. The controls work incredibly well in this game and feel perfectly balanced and refined. They're easy to learn so you can pick up and play and figure out crazy stunts but also difficult enough if you want a challenge in races.
Speaking of races, there are all sorts of different racing events. Some are straight up circuit style races, others are unsanctioned street races (because clearly they want the Fast & Furious crowd here), and some include all sorts of jumps and other crazy stunts like racing a train (clearly they like Top Gear). Sometimes it's more fun to just drive and as you drive you can find Drivatars (computer controlled drivers based on real gamers) and do a quick Point A to Point B race without any real setup or delays involved. It's all very well done.
You can now also recruit other players, or their Drivatars actually, to race on your team. As they race everyone gets more credits. It's an interesting system but I don't know if I get the point. Feels tacked on and pointless.
As you can guess, online play is a big part of this if that's your thing. I am not a fan of online play so I usually avoid it, as I have in this game so it's not really part of my review. If you like playing online with the random jerk-wad sprinkled in there, have at it, they have you covered.
You can also drive any number of a zillion or so cars. There are a lot of pointless cars in there (various random "family" cars) but plenty of high end supercars and hypercars as well. And those are really the entire point of the game if you ask me. Those credits you've been earning can be used to buy new cars and even upgrade your cars. It's neat, it's fun.
Previous games always made me feel like that was a chore. I'd get a car I like, tune it up perfectly, and then all of the races would require a different car. In Forza 3, it feels like they've addresses this quite a bit. Sure, some races require switching cars but I feel like I'm able to stick in whatever car I want most of the time and the race and competitors adjust to me, rather than me adjusting to the them. I love this!
Graphics & Audio
Forza Horizon 3 is getting a lot of acclaim on their graphics. It makes sense, it's easily one of the best looking Xbox games available right now. The Australia setting helps a lot with its own unique look, but the details and colors are what make this game amazing. The water splash on your windshield when it rains looks like the real thing. How your car slowly gets dirtier as you drive in the dusty desert is spot on. And the amazing way they've detailed the ocean, or even a puddle, is something to see.
The car audio is amazing overall. They've really captured every engine roar and tire squeal imaginable. In fact, there is so much tire squeal that it find of gets annoying, as does the engine sound. This especially true as the "gas pedal" (Right Trigger) is more binary (on or off) than a nice sliding scale of power, but it works. Fortunately, you can turn down the volume on these sounds separately from other audio bits if you want.
What I don't like is the music. If you're younger, well, you'll probably like it. To this old guy, it's 90% awful so I turn it off. Or, I actually sometimes hit the classical station for fun. Some of those songs pair very well with high speed driving and air time. They also put you through this nonsense of "signing" on a radio station as you progress in the game. It's pointless and feels like such an afterthought.
Also annoying is the over promotion and upselling of the Microsoft Groove music service. Once you unlock the Groove station you're prompted to sign up for a trial of Groove. They'll give you 2 weeks free but after that you'll be charged. Most annoying is how you want to hit "A" to bypass these screens but on this one "A" actually signs you up for the trial so you really have to be careful there. Bad Microsoft, shame on you! Then again, you're goofing up a lot lately (see Top 9 Customer Service Mistakes).
From time to time, the game will designate a song as a "double credits" song. So, for the duration of that song you earn double stunt credits. With this in mind, keep the classical song station on as those songs are generally longer than the crap music of today. Some of the classical songs are over 10 minutes long, a great chance to earn easy credits and XP!
If you don't like nighttime driving, look for a nearby lookout point. These are areas you drive up to, hit X on your controller, and it will do a quick pan of something like a mountain, rock formation, or other natural Australia wonder. The beauty is, if it's nighttime it will switch to day to show you the "wonder" and then remain in day mode when it's done.
If you want to get a lot of credits and XP fast, head right to the northwest area of the map. This is mostly the famed "outback" style desert area so it's filled with huge and wide-open spaces and tons of bumps (for great air) as well as plenty of smaller objects that you can plow through without killing your stunt chain. It's easy to rack up 200K+ point credit chains out there.
My biggest pet peeve here is all of the priced DLC they offer. I mean, you can buy different ringtones for your car's horn with real money! You can also buy all sorts of car packs and other nonsense. I feel so oversold when I see stuff like that. I'm happy to pay for DLC that brings more levels / areas, but not cars and horn sounds. It's so greedy.
Another issue is just one of my own, but it's the location of Australia. I love it, the Australia tourism board should actually have hooked up with Microsoft on this game because it makes me want to visit Australia in person now! But they drive on the wrong side of the road there so I'm constantly driving on the right side rather than the wrong (left) side. I don't hold that against the game, just wish I could switch it in the settings.
The nighttime is amazing to see because the lighting and graphics look so good, but nighttime driving is annoying outside of a well lit area. I wish the nighttime didn't last so long.
The final issue is a bug. It's a bug I experienced many times in Forza Horizon 2 so I can't believe it's in Horizon 3 still! I don't know the exact pattern, but sometimes when I enter a Festival site (garage mode) and then leave the brakes on my car stop working. I hit Left Trigger and I have about 10% of my brakes working. If I go back into the Festival site (garage mode) and leave or do something else like re-start the game or do a challenge that requires another car it works again. It's random but has happened a few times already.
Should you buy this game? If you like open world driving games then, yes, buy it. If you enjoyed Forza Horizon 2, you will certainly enjoy Horizon 3 even more. It has what every sequel needs which is bigger, better, more. It's an almost perfect game.
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