We have it pretty tough here in Australia when it comes to being a motoring enthusiast. We are labelled as ‘hoons’, outcast by society, frowned upon by older generations and generally made out to be pretty bad dudes. A recent example of just how ridiculous it is – for the first time ever Ken Block was denied access to the country to make his next Gymkhana film because he is sponsored by ‘Hoonigan’, which some people (i.e. the media) believe would encourage stupidity behind the wheel and probably result in the murder of tens of thousands of people. Somebody please think of the children! In consideration of this, imagine our surprise as a nation when an automotive racing video game is announced to be set in Australia with complete free roam across many familiar locations. Surely not…no way. Surely it will get banned…right?
Introducing what can only be described as one of 2016s most anticipated video games: Forza Horizon 3! Before we jump in on my thoughts of the game, here are a few tidbits of information to get you up to speed with what it’s all about:
- Forza Horizon is a separate entity to Forza Motorsport – the Horizon series focus’ is on free roam and city scapes with no race tracks or seriousness in sight.
- Forza Horizon 1 was set in Colorado, USA, Forza Horizon 2 was set in Southern France/Northern Italy, and now Forza Horizon 3 is set in Australia.
- Included in the Australian map is the Northern Territory, the Great Ocean Road, Surfers Paradise, Rainforests, Byron Bay, the Three Sisters, and much more.
- 350 cars on launch with 50+ promised for DLC in months to come.
- Open online free roaming capability like never before including 12-player races, 1000-player club capacity and seamless matchmaking.
- For the first time ever in a racing game, YOU can customize how you play the game.
- In-game HDR included for Xbox One S owners (the next generation is here!)
- Play your own music using Groove.
There is a few ways you can look at a game. Most of the reviews out there would look from a strictly gaming perspective, but since here at Downshift we are primarily automotive-focused, it’s cool to look at it from an enthusiasts perspective too. Firstly, this game is good looking, and I mean RIDICULOUSLY good looking! I have to say that I am yet to see another game on our current generation of consoles that looks this good. Mind you, I am not even playing it on a Xbox One S, just the first generation 500gb Xbox One, so the S would be something else with in-game HDR. The have really gone to town on the car details too, including Forza Vista for every car. This gives you the ability to have a detailed walk around and look at a car as you please.
Within a few minutes of gameplay you realise the first and largest differentiation between FH3 and the previous installments: you are not an entrant in the ‘Horizon Festival’…you run it. This was a big surprise for me and it adds a different approach to playing the game. In previous iterations if you found a race to enter, you needed a specific car to race. But now, using the new feature called ‘Blueprint’, you can customize the event around the car you are currently driving allowing MUCH faster game progression and ease of finding races. Other than Blueprint, the game is much the same as the previous ones with a few more different events added in. Things like Cross Country Races (different terrain types), Stunt Jumps, Drift Zones and Street Races (for pink slips too!) all bring a nice change to the formula we are familiar with, without going too overboard and trying to reinvent the wheel.
After probably an hour of play time, you finally unlock the Autoshow and this is where we find the most important changes and the ones you’ll enjoy the most. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Forza. It’s my favourite racing franchise by a mile, but they have kept the same cars, mods and tuning since Forza 1 in 2005. Since this time around the setting is Aus, they have included a HEAP of Australian cars in the mix including models like the FX Holden Ute, Holden Sandman, Ford Falcon Phase 3 GTHO, HSV VF Maloo GTS, FPV GT-F, and many others. Along with the newly added Aussie cars, there is of course the roster update with all the latest and greatest from manufacturers around the world such as the Ariel Atom Nomad, Ferrari F12 TDF, Koenigsegg Regera, Lamborghini Aventador LP750-4 SV, Corvette C7 Z06, Ford Mustang GT350R, and a heap more. But not only have they bolstered the car roster, the tuning and modifications have had a good dosing of upgrades too. A welcoming introduction to widebody kits for certain cars like the Rocket Bunny/Pandem can be had for the Toyota 86, Honda NSX, Nissan Silvia S15 and others too, along with Liberty Walk for the Ferrari 458, Nissan GTR and BMW M4 among others. The icing on the cake for me, being such a huge wheel whore, was the long overdue makeover to the wheels department. I realise in FH2 they introduced HRE which was welcomed with open arms and suitably carried over to Forza Motorsport 6, but now the game also supports three new big names: ADV.1, Rotifrom and Fifteen52 which is fantastic news.
Obviously I have my issues with the game, but I consider them minor and not really detrimental. The ‘Blueprint’ idea of designing your own races is cool, but almost never used and it feels almost as if it was done solely to try and make the game somewhat different from FH2. With games like Forza, as long as you change cars, locations and give us enthusiasts new things to do with mods, you can keep the same formula because it works so well (if anyone important is reading!). The lack of Porsche (once again) and this time, oddly, Volkswagen is a little disheartening. Definitely expecting a DLC Pack for the VAG (Volkswagen Audi Group) add ons. Also, once again, wheel offset tuning has escaped the game, having been requested by so many since day one in 2005. I was hoping Turn10/Playground Games would finally give in and provide with the fitment goodness, but no dice this time. No LS swap for the Sand Rails (buggies) either :(
Overall though, this game is in another league to everything else automotive that resides in the relaxed-racing genre. While it is certainly nothing new (in fact it is exactly what we played two years ago with FH2), that doesn’t affect the experience at all. It is a huge game that you can sink endless hours into, with familiar locations and a fantastic multiplayer system that lets you enjoy it with friends. I like to think of the Turn 10 team in the same vein as Porsche – they have been doing, technically, the same thing since the beginning and honestly haven’t changed much since, but there is a reason they are still number one. As the saying goes: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”…just make incremental improvements to leave the competition further in the dust. Turn 10 and Microsoft, I salute you for listening and appealing to the nerdiness of car enthusiasts around the world year in and year out!
– Rory O’Donovan