The excitement that Forza Horizon 3 is capable of generating is truly astounding. Here we have the third edition of a racing game spin-off whose brash exterior and festival atmosphere manages to also play host to one of the finest driving experiences of any console generation. Its open world promotes joyous abandonment, wonder, and rewards curiosity in a way that many adventure games would kill for.
There’s no nitrous here, with the same set-up as the original Forza Horizon. Your e-brake is the most complicated tool in your arsenal, while the ability to rewind is the series’ sole consideration away from the core driving. As in Forza Horizon 2, the handling model is tight but forgiving, granting you the sublime ability to drive incredibly fast with both accuracy and alacrity.
Within moments of taking control of the Lamborghini Centenario I had an immense grin on my face, and the opening alone sees you rush through some truly astounding Australian scenery. Boasting a huge 488 roads to discover, and a stretch of one of the world’s most beautiful destinations, it feels like this is going to be a worthy successor to the preceding games in every possible way.
It turns out that you’re taking on the role of festival boss, with a limited selection of character designs open for you to choose from. Your role dictates that you’re out there growing the brand, driving like an insane person, and generally not being very boss-like.
Given that your first task is to race in one of Horizon’s frankly bonkers Showcase events in a 4WD off-road buggy against a jeep suspended from a helicopter, you can see what the rest of your employment is going to be like. Alongside these you’re expected to participate in various PR stunts, though these seem to be a reworking of the previous game’s bucket-list events.
You now accumulate fans, and as you reach a set level of fandom you’ll unlock the next festival to compete in. You can attract more fans by adding Drivatars to your line-up, so that rather than simply gaining credits for your personal Drivatars performances as you did in the past you’ll now gather fans, XP and credits for your four hand-picked team-members.
Simply challenging and beating a Drivatar in the open world allows you to recruit them, adding an extra layer to the personalised AI you see driving around the world. As someone who often gave such races a miss in the last game, it looks set to bring me right back into the fold and it ensures that you keep an eye out for the best drivers to add to your team.
There are 350 cars in the standard roster, which you can guarantee will increase exponentially with DLC additions in the coming months. Alongside the spectacular Centenario there are at least thirty new additions to the franchise alongside favourites like the Nissan Skyline GT-R V Spec or the Ford Shelby GT 500 – well… they’re my favourites. In a nice touch you can now also add a personalised number plate to your chosen vehicle, wherein you can truly express yourself. As long as it’s within eight characters.
As festival boss, you now sign the different radio stations to your label in order to access them in-game. At the outset that means you’re limited to two stations, but as you progress you’ll be able to add more and more variety to your roster. As ever, being able to switch from Blink 182 and Alkaline Trio to CHVRCHES or The Future Sound Of London is fantastic, and the range of music should be able to fit with pretty much whatever mood you find yourself in.
With the full release due in a couple of weeks and set to offer a whole host of online modes, including the option to play the entire campaign in co-op, Forza Horizon 3 looks set to be not only a worthy successor to one of Microsoft’s most popular franchises, but to one of the best racing games of all time.