Review: Forza Horizon 3, the best Aussie racing game ever

The most Aussie racing game ever.

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Make no mistake, if you’re Australian, this is easily the best driving game ever created. There’s something uniquely engaging about racing through environments you’ve been to in real life. From beaches of Byron Bay, to the city streets of Gold Coast to the gorgeous regional Kiewa Valley, Forza Horizon 3 does a very decent job of reflecting the vast array of geography available in Australia.

While the connections between locations are obviously not accurate, it still doesn’t make driving the Great Ocean Road any less amazing.

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Gameplay

Forza Horizon is the side series to the main simulation of Forza Motorsport and where Horizon shines is the substantial diversity of racing, surfaces and environments you get to experience. Off-road isn’t an option, its encouraged and thanks to an ever-changing time of day and weather conditions, the massive open-world takes on new looks constantly which dramatically helps replayability.

The game (with help from an upgraded voice-assistant “Anna”), will invite you to races that build your XP, gain fans to unlock more events and new Horizon Festival locations. These locations can be uprgaded, although its not exactly clear what the differences between levels gives you. Its not like there’s new and different cars available for purchase at different levels, it’s the same money talks model of acquisition.

To get the best vehicles in the game, like the gorgeous cover car, the Lamborghini Centurion, you’ll need to save up millions. Helping you build towards that is the familiar barn finds, where off-road discovery is rewarded with rare old vehicles that get restored and find their way to your garage.

When it comes to accumulating fans, you do that by essentially adding style to your driving, something that’s individually tallied at the end of race events. Horizon fans will be familiar with the Skill unlocks and the slot-machine cross your fingers and hope for bonuses. These come in the form of XP as well as cars. If you happen to buy the VIP edition, you’ll get 2x the credit on spins, making the grind to affordability of the best hypercars a shorter one.

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Graphics

There’s no question, this game looks stunning, one of the best so far on the Xbox One and with aging hardware, it continues to impress me how much more performance can be extracted from the original hardware. The vehicle models are detailed to a ridiculous level, best demonstrated in forzavista when you use the explode feature to open every door, hood and boot. This uncovers the meticulous detail modeled, like the crowded engine bays of the performance monsters, which by the way, are places you will never see when racing.

Fortunately there’s just as much detail in the interior and exterior of the cars. Its as if the developers got the CAD models of the more than 350 cars, from the manufacturer, then understood the vehicle dynamics and applied that the handling characteristics while also paying devilish detail on the sound effects like turbos spooling and upgraded exhaust notes. It’s simply top shelf work when it comes to the cars.

As for the environments, its the forest that truly blows me away. Don’t get me wrong, the beach, the city are stunning, but the level of detail in a forest environment is seriously impressive.

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Controls / Steering wheel support

Straight off the bat, I noticed a fundamental difference in Forza Horizon 3, compared to Forza Motorsport 6 and that comes in the form of steering wheel controls. There’s been a fundamental rethink on how driver inputs translates to vehicle dynamics. Something I was continually frustrated by was the lack of grip through turns. Despite upgrading the tyre compound and spending up big on the top end of the market, the tyres in Forza 6 would start to protest if you through in even 30-40degrees of steering angle. This meant you could accelerate through turns like the vehicle performance should allow, instead it would understeer and no amount of configuration fixed this problem.

I’m happy to report the Logitech G920 connects you to the vehicle and your inputs are realistically translates through the turns and the vehicle co-operates as expected. This makes for a far more enjoyable driving experience and really lets you push this limits, but just lets you move further into the world of fooling your brain that you’re actually driving the car, many of which you’ll; never get to in real life.

Another aspect to this realism feeling stems from the inclusion of many vehicles in right-hand drive. As many games we play come from the US, its understandable they have heavily featured left-hand drive, but as an Aussie, this left me using the central bonnet view, instead of the first person, driver’s view.

When you’re driving, you’ll not the Australian road rules apply. The most obvious of which is the fact the traffic is on the left instead of the right, like every other driving game you’ve played. This actually took longer than expected to adjust to, proving just how many years we’ve been programmed to drive on the opposite side of the road.

The game feels like someone high up in the development team took a holiday to Australia and fell in love. From the Give Way signs, to roundabouts and the Australian rubbish bins, the game is uniquely Australian and is such a fantastic place to race. I have to think this is the most engaging tourism advertisement our country could ever hope to have displayed on the world stage.

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Video 

There’s words and pictures, but nothing shows off Horizon 3 like some video. There’s lots new, so you get to enjoy my commentary over the top. If you’ve skimmed the article, this will highlight the best bits in 3 minutes and show just how beautiful the graphics really are.

Price & Availability

Forza Horizon 3 is available on September 23rd. There’s 3 versions to choose from and if you’re someone who owns previous versions, you’ll definitely want to consider getting the Car Pack which will deliver DLC over the coming months.

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Overall

This game is stellar, whether your on-road or off, racing the Aussie landscapes on the left-hand side of the road with the best cars on the planet is an absolute fun fest. I can’t recommend it highly enough and any driving fan should seriously consider adding it to their collection.

2016 has been a great year for racing titles and I thought Dirt Rally was going to take the tile of driving game of the year, but Forza Horizon does so much right, is so large and diverse, I think we have a new winner.

If I had to knock the game on anything, its for including the old front of the Tesla Model S and only shipping with the P90D version, instead of the more recent top-dog, the P100D. There’s also no sign of the Model X which while new, we’ve known about it for years and there’s certainly more recent models included.

 

9.3
Forza Horizon 3
The Good
  • Graphics
  • Gameplay
  • Australia
The Bad
  • Specific vehicles missing
  • Tesla Model S has old front
  • Graphics
    9.5
  • Gameplay
    9
  • Sound
    9
  • Features / Replayability
    9.5
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