If you look carefully at the back of the case that your game came in or in some cases the accompanying literature, you’ll notice the brief health warning that advises you to take breaks between periods of play. This is mainly for those who might suffer from headaches, sore eyes, or, more rarely, seizures. What it doesn’t say is the overwhelming propensity for owners of Forza Horizon 3 to be reduced to severe bouts of dribbling, especially when the new Lamborghini Centenario roars into view or the stunning Jaguar F-Type Project 7, or the ridiculously gorgeous Ferrari FXX K.
Seriously, Playground, you need to think about the effects of displaying so much car pornography in your games.
Anyway, once I had overcome the need to reduce the floor of my very own man cave to a saliva-induced ‘slip n slide’, I set about the task of reviewing this beautiful game. Have I mentioned that before?
Okay, let’s get the obvious out of the way. The game, the environment and the cars especially look absolutely sublime. Whether you are a fan of the aforementioned Centenario or the relatively humble 1981 Fiesta XR2, you are well catered for. Each vehicle has been wonderfully recreated, both inside and out. And the accompanying audio does a great job of reinforcing the effort that has gone into making each car a realistic joy to drive.
Like the previous two iterations of the series, Forza Horizon 3 is set in an enjoyable back drop that you can thrash around in. In this case Australia, which ranges from the harsh desert of the outback to sweeping coastal roads and lush, tree-filled forests. In short, there’s something for everyone.
Each environment has something different to offer. The coastal roads provide scenic routes that mix twisting urban sprawls with high speed motorways, allowing you to really max the speed of your 7-speed throb machine in competitive and leisurely trips alike. The desert focussed outback provides a near unlimited canvas on which to paint your chosen art. This can include leaping from sand dune to sand dune, or drifting along the numerous dirt tracks that pepper the map. The forest environment provides something completely different. With lush green trees and flowing streams it’s a stark contrast to the dry desert of the Outback and is frequently hit with torrential downpours that turn the road into a slick, twisting ribbon of asphalt. The end result is a varied set of environment-driven races that test your driving abilities.
Customisation is taken to a whole new level this time round. Previous to Horizon 3 any customisation was limited to the cars. But now, as the Horizon boss, you can customize the racing events, recruit drivers for promoting the festival, sign music talent and turn your typical timid-looking saloon car into a fire-spitting, road eating, rival destroying monster. The customisation has evolved to a whole new level, allowing you to utilise wide body kits or choose from a selection of avatars instead of the generic one from Horizon 2.
The one thing that will stand out here, besides the Australian countryside, is the huge selection of cars. More than 350 initially. And they all look superb. To makes things even better, and to test your abilities, the variable weather and day-night cycle is back. Torrential downpours result in slick racing conditions and cars that look even better when coated in rain that beads and threads its way along the paintwork.
But racing is where it’s at here. It doesn’t matter if you favour the baritone roar of the new Lamborghini Centenario or the perky 1981 Fiesta XR2, it’s all good here. And thundering along the road has never been better. And there is plenty to do and see. In-between events and races is the simple act of exploration, aiding a plentiful supply of Barn Finds, more so than in Horizon 2.
But, despite the glitz and the gloss, Horizon 3 isn’t without its faults. The AI drivers seem to drive with almost no awareness of their surroundings. They drive with seemingly dogged determination in their effort to maintain a racing line, regardless of who or what gets in the way. Human drivers will react differently in races, either by a more aggressive counter steering should you tap them during a race, or they find a better position and aim for the gap in the wall of drivers that race off the line at the start. The AI drivers just don’t do this. And I’m sometimes left wondering if the whole ‘Drivartar thing is still in effect’ or if a simplistic AI has now stepped in.
Having said that, this is by far the best looking and most entertaining Forza Horizon game to date. And is best enjoyed with friends. As in real people. Believe me, it’s far more interesting when racing against a human driver, and more rewarding. No, really. The credit reward is pretty good this time round when driving with friends, taking on one race after another.
I’ve stated before that the Horizon series could be perceived as the younger, upstart sibling to the family. But this game is a good indication that that is very far from the truth. The Horizon series is as pertinent as the Motorsport series, both of which feature achingly beautiful cars. It doesn’t matter if you like the hardcore side of racing or the open road. It’s all Forza at the end of the day.
You don’t have to be competitive to appreciate it. You just need to be human.
Out of 5, I give Forza Horizon 3…
Flugel Meister (Dave) is a longtime video gaming fan, who's love for all things pixelated began way back in 1980, when he ventured onto his brother's Grandstand console before progressing to a Dragon 32 and then a Spectrum 48K. That's right. he's old. When he's not gaming, he can be found swimming in the country's reserves of cheesecake.
Follow him on Twitter: @DavidPMcDougall