Forza Horizon 3 Review: The Long and Winding Road

The Forza Horizon festival continues its international journey, this time landing in Australia. With new races, new social modes, and new environments, Forza Horizon 3 is hands down the best Forza game ever. Our review.

26

Microsoft took a risk with its Forza Horizon series back in 2012, which brought the series’ iconic driving mechanics to an open world setting. The series originated in Colorado, then went international when the Horizon festival found itself in Southern France & Northern Italy.

Forza Horizon 3 continues the festival’s international journey within the great Outbacks of Australia. But this time, instead of being a participant, you’re the boss of the entire Horizon festival, thus giving you even more control over what you do, who you race, and where you go. With nearly unlimited freedom and an equally nearly unlimited locale, I found this to be the greatest iteration of the Forza series I’ve ever played.

Welcome to the Outback

Things appear to be going very well for the player in the Forza Horizon world as they now find themselves to be the boss of the entire festival, which has expanded to Australia in Forza Horizon 3. From the start, the player is tasked with being in charge of festival locations, what kind of objectives can be carried out in races, and what kind abilities you want to unlock, among other things. Thankfully, the only way to improve your festival is by completing lots of races, stunts, and additional activities which is much better than having to sit behind a desk all day signing stacks of paperwork.

Fans play a huge role in Forza Horizon 3 as the only way you can open a new festival site or expand them is through the power of the people. I earned fans across nearly every activity in Horizon 3, and the larger my festivals, the more activities popped up all over the map within a particular region. Let's just say that after playing Forza Horizon 3 for nearly a week, I'm kind of a big deal in the virtual world as I'm beloved by millions of digital people.

The progression system is very gradual as you’re going to sink many hours into this game in order to earn enough fans to complete it. Just like an RPG, you’ll earn fans fairly quickly in the early portions of the game, but the late game progression gets slow as it’ll take several races to earn enough to reach a milestone. These milestones kept my eye on the prize throughout my experience as it tracked the amount of fans needed to open or expand a festival, or to take part in crazy Showcase races. These races vary in what they offer, but I’ll never forget their experiences as taking on a jeep being towed by a helicopter or racing against speed boats has left a lasting impression on me.

Bloody Beaut

Australia features a total of six different ecotypes and they’re all gorgeous. I was able to drive from the beautiful skyscrapers of Surfers Paradise, to lush rainforests, get wet and wild across sandy beaches, and bounce around the Outback. Unfortunately, I didn’t spot any wild kangaroos jumping around during my gameplay, but they did pop up in various cutscenes.

The open world of Australia is twice the size of the European environment in Forza Horizon 2. After spending countless hours in Forza Horizon 3, I can tell you that I have yet to experience every little inch of Australia and I’m often impressed with what I discover, like beautiful vistas, historic sites, and breathtaking environments. Forza Horizon 2 already blew me away with its environments and views, and Forza Horizon 3 continues this tradition by wrapping a downright beautiful world around a massive game. And if you’re anything like me, you’re going to love its new Drone Mode, which allows me to explore the world freely with a remote drone to take in the game’s beauty without having to be behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Grab Your Mates

Turn 10 Studios and Playground Games have made a lot of improvements to the Forza Horizon series in its latest iteration, but its social aspect is its biggest improvement as in addition to offering 12-player multiplayer, 1000-player Clubs, and seamless matchmaking, players can now take part in co-op races with their friends for up to four players. And since it’s an Xbox Play Anywhere supported title, both PC and Xbox One players can take part in all of these social game modes with PC players even being able to play without needing to be an Xbox Live Gold subscriber.

I found the social aspect of Forza Horizon 3 to be completely seamless as I was able to join a friend in a co-op game with great ease, created and invited other racers to my Club, and take part in multiplayer matches and convoys without any issues. For those who prefer to keep to themselves, Forza’s iconic Drivatar system is present once again, which seamlessly integrates your friends and other players’ driving abilities into virtual racers.

One improvement to the Drivatar system I enjoyed was now having the power to hire and fire my friends if they’re not working hard enough to earn me those sweet, sweet credits. Hiring a Drivatar is as easy as completing a head-to-head race against it, although the game needs to specifically tell you a driver is available to hire, thus not allowing me to randomly hire anyone as I’m driving around. You’re only able to hire four drivers, so you’re going to have to make the tough decision of literally firing your friends if they don’t make the cut.

Best. Forza. Ever. Period.

While racing games may not be for everyone, I feel Forza Horizon 3 is good enough that anyone can pick up and enjoy. The game adjusts its difficulty depending on your performance, allowing players to decide whether or not they should be playing against more challenging drivers, and its lineup of stunts have something for everyone. I can either hit a ramp to launch my vehicle across a ravine, or I can challenge my driving skills to hit a speed trap going as fast as possible. And with online leaderboards, there's never a moment where I'm not challenged to do better than my previous score.

After playing every game in the Forza series, I can say without any hesitation that this is, by far, the best Forza game to date. The open-world driving mechanics are seamless, the amount of content is vast, and the social game modes deliver the most variety the series has ever seen. While previous iterations from the Forza Horizon series were used to first introduce and fine tune the open-world mechanic, Forza Horizon 3 feels like the series grand crescendo as all of that work has lead up to the best Forza game I've ever played. I already was a big fan of the Forza series, but Forza Horizon 3 is beyond anything I could have ever imagined for the series and I can’t wait to discover more of its beautiful world.

Senior Editor

Review for
Forza Horizon 3

9

Pros

  • Being the boss gives you more freedom
  • Gorgeous representation of Australia
  • Social and multiplayer game modes
  • Seamless driving experience
  • Multiple ecotypes

Cons

  • Late-game progression gets a bit sluggish

From The Chatty

  • reply
    September 20, 2016 6:00 AM

    Daniel Perez posted a new article, Forza Horizon 3 Review: The Long and Winding Road

    • reply
      September 20, 2016 11:01 AM

      Great review, Daniel!

    • reply
      September 20, 2016 11:03 AM

      I can say without any hesitation that this is, by far, the best Forza game to date. --.-- Suspicious.

      • reply
        September 20, 2016 11:21 AM

        Suspicious how? That I loved a video game that I reviewed? It happens.

        • reply
          September 20, 2016 11:45 AM

          Suspicious that it would beat out all ten, er, eight other Forzas. It is a bold claim.

          • reply
            September 20, 2016 2:24 PM

            I don't think it's bold as much as slightly odd to compare it to the main franchise games. If he's saying it's better than the previous two games, I'll buy that.

      • reply
        September 20, 2016 5:43 PM

        Exactly. It is extremely dubious to claim any of the Horizon games are "the best" in all of the Forza games. It's two distinct racing series of games.

    • reply
      September 20, 2016 11:24 AM

      Pretty clear that there will be differing levels of love for this game. As someone who's more interested in sim style racing games, I hate all the things that you loved and left an impression on you. The impression they left on me was completely unrealistic and over the top to the point of taking me out of the game and not really enjoying it.

      It feels more like a Burnout game than a Forza game to me. Not what I was hoping for and I'll definitely pass on this one and wait for the next one.

      • reply
        September 20, 2016 11:58 AM

        Hasn't the horizon series always been a burnout type of game? And the motorsports series is the for the simulation fans?

        • reply
          September 20, 2016 12:15 PM

          It's pretty far from Burnout. Much closer to a free-roaming PGR with countryside - somewhere in between sim and arcade. In fact I wouldn't be surprise if Playground has plenty of ex-Bizarre staffers.

        • reply
          September 20, 2016 12:17 PM

          I haven't played it since the first Horizon so I don't really remember but I don't think I remember helicopters carrying jeeps and jumping your cars off 100' cliffs like it's nothing.

          • reply
            September 20, 2016 12:33 PM

            They've always had goofy events, like racing airplanes in the first Horizon. It's been very burnout-esque from the start, even more so if you have cosmetic damage only on. You can plow through traffic without even stopping your ride. The only thing grounding Horizon is that it's based on Forza's physics model, but it's still far more forgiving.

          • reply
            September 20, 2016 12:37 PM

            As for jumps, the first Horizon was very gated and mostly contained by guardrails on nearly every road. But there were still a few big jumps in there. Horizon 2 was slightly more open with a lot more off-road sections and less guardrails, and Horizon 3 appears to take that approach even further.

            • reply
              September 20, 2016 1:02 PM

              I just played a little bit of Horizon to remember and I like the feel of those events much better. They feel a lot more grounded in the real world. I do sort of remember racing an airplane but it still didn't seem too bad because it's the kind of thing you could actually do.

              A jeep being hauled around by a helicopter and then dropped to finish the race at the line? Yeah. No.

              • reply
                September 20, 2016 1:19 PM

                Okay. The showcase events are meant to be over the top. Not sure why it has any bearing on the rest of the game. I always thought they were dumb and unrealistic and something I had to do to progress through the campaign, but it didn't detract from the open world cruising and all the other more normal stuff. Makes no difference to me

                • reply
                  September 20, 2016 1:24 PM

                  Well you certainly don't have to agree with me, but that's still not going to convince me that I want to play it after the demo I went through.

                  • reply
                    September 20, 2016 3:02 PM

                    Just seems like a minor and frivolous of a thing to latch on to is all. The showcase events were like 4 of 100s in the previous games.

                    Be like me skipping out on skate 3 because I could do flatland backflips in the demo. Not realistic in the slightest all, but still didn't affect the rest of the game.

                  • reply
                    September 20, 2016 4:01 PM

                    There is more to the demo after that jeep race, which shows the variety of events and open world cruising. Did you play that stuff?

                    • reply
                      September 20, 2016 4:06 PM

                      yep

                      • reply
                        September 20, 2016 4:10 PM

                        Cool, I guess it isn't your kind of racing game. That Fast and the Furious DLC for the last Horizon really hammered home the silliness aspect of this game series, but I still enjoy it.

                        • reply
                          September 20, 2016 5:46 PM

                          Now I'm playing Horizon (original) again and they definitely changed the way the cars feel in 3.

      • reply
        September 20, 2016 5:42 PM

        Forza is two racing game series. Reviews and such should really take note of this fact. It doesn't make a lot of sense to compare the two.

    • reply
      September 20, 2016 11:27 AM

      Awesome, I can not wait to get this game day 1 for me!

      Thanks for the review, sounds really good(I thought as much) man I loved Horizon 2 and this is way better that is crazy! Not to mention it is also on the freaking PC.

      Cool

    • reply
      September 20, 2016 11:45 AM

      this kotaku article claims you need xbox live to play multiplayer on the pc: http://kotaku.com/forza-horizon-3-is-a-good-upgrade-1786855892

      who do i trust, shacknews or kotaku?

    • reply
      September 20, 2016 12:30 PM

      How is the PC port, gfx settings etc.?

    • reply
      September 20, 2016 12:41 PM

      Shit, I want this game.

    • reply
      September 20, 2016 12:48 PM

      Great review! I can't wait to pick this up. I loved Horizon 1. 2 felt a bit souless, however. I am hoping they recapture some of what made 1 so good while mixing in a bit more of the Burnout flavor.

    • reply
      September 20, 2016 12:50 PM

      For some reason, last night Microsoft sent me a code for a free Halo Warthog I can use in FH3. So that should be fun.

    • reply
      September 20, 2016 2:48 PM

      Do you have access to the PC version? I'm really just curious about performance and how pretty it looks.

    • reply
      September 20, 2016 3:43 PM

      I haven't been this stoked about a game in a while. I probably should have bought the more expensive version but I'll be sticking with the base game for now.

    • reply
      September 20, 2016 4:13 PM

      I was born near Byron Bay. This landscape confuses me.