|System: Xbox One, PC|
|Dev: Playground Games|
|Pub: Microsoft Studios|
|Release: September 27, 2016|
|Players: 1-12 Players|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Mild Lyrics, Mild Violence|
by Sean Engemann
The hills and plains of Colorado provided a great introduction for blazing untrodden trails in Forza's first open-world racing experience. The coasts of Southern France and Northern Italy offered a gorgeous backdrop to showcase stunning vistas and polished vehicles, the perfect venue for a sequel. But it is the Land Down Under that rises above the rest, placing Forza Horizon 3 in the highest class thanks to its loaded features and endless hours of joy riding. It supplies a satisfying blend of thrilling races, fun multiplayer diversions, and casual countryside roaming whenever you desire.
The steering wheel is nudged slightly for the first couple of hours as the game introduces different car types and how they handle on various terrains. As you gain credits, experience, and unlock new Horizon Festival venues, undiscovered events will continually get peppered around the map of Australia's southeastern coast, a microcosm of the country's different landscapes where beach fronts, farmlands, lush rain forests, and the rugged outback are all accessible to your driving whim.
In past Forza Horizon games your main goal was to win races set up by the festival architects. This time around, you are big boss in charge of the festival, ready to put your stamp on every event. But don't get too worried about being bogged down with clerical work, because even as the head honcho, your main job is still to drive around winning races. What your seniority does allow you to do is tweak the parameters of each event. So instead of a broad car selection with clear weather conditions, you can change it to perhaps a Dodge vs. Chevy exclusive showdown at night in torrential rain in a one lap dash rather than the standard three laps. Every race and challenge you complete will earn you fans on top of the cash and XP, and it is the fans that boost the festival's reputation, which in turn allows you to upgrade festival sites or erect new ones. It's a relatively linear progression, but it does give you a extra goal to continually work towards on top of winning races.
The extra vehicular activities are just as enticing as the races, which is why Horizon is Horizon and not simply another Forza Motorsport game. There are boards to smash, ramps to launch off, speed traps to trigger, classic cars to find hidden in barns, bucket list challenges to attempt, and plenty more, all with tangible rewards. Each level gained allows you to spin a prize wheel for more credits or a rare car. The credits can be used to purchase hundreds of different vehicles or customize a personal favorite with upgraded parts. Skill points are acquired by drafting, drifting, catching air, doing "landscaping" (i.e. smashing through things), and other maneuvers, that when chained together can amount to a hefty total, provided you don't smash into something hard before the points are awarded. Breaching the skill point threshold gives you a token to unlock passive perks that further improve your acquisition of wealth. There's always something fun waiting around every bend, and the constant stream of rewards makes it hard to turn off the engine.
The benefits and fun are bolstered when you join other players on the road. For the first time in the series, up to three friends can join your campaign, not only to race, but also just to cruise around Australia and tackle every single event available in the solo mode. The Online Adventure allows up to 12 player matches in some pre-scripted events, but the most entertainment is found in the Playground - an arena style construction zone where games of Infected, King, and Flag Capture can be played, all tasking you to "tag" other players and win the round.