The Horizon Festival has returned and players aren’t just participants, as they have been in years past. This time – you’re the boss. The racing festival takes place in Australia, with locales based on their real-world counterparts, such as Surfers Paradise and Byron Bay. Choosing Australia as the location for Forza Horizon 3 proves to be such a great decision, as it offers a stunning array of different terrains. From beautiful beaches, to crowded city streets, lush rainforests, and open deserts – the possibilities feel almost endless.
There is an attention to detail in the Forza series that is second to none. Not just in Horizon, but in Motorsport as well. Horizon 3 features a staggering amount of rides (over 350 of them) and they all look absolutely amazing. Every square inch of each car is painstakingly etched out to perfectly mirror its real world counterpart. The world that supports these vehicles is no exception either. The development team spent weeks filming real skies in Australia and it shows in the final product. Horizon 3’s skies are beyond stunning. The open world of Horizon 3 is double the size of Horizon 2 and environments are all photo realistic, which helps to provide the atmosphere for a very immersive experience.
Being the boss of this years festival allows for some very interesting additions (and cool changes) to the game. Everything is centered around the number of fans your festival currently has, which provides the baseline for pretty much all progression in Horizon 3. Thankfully, more fans can be earned from just about anything. Racing events or championships, rival races, PR stunts, showcase events, and coasting through speed traps – all add to your festivals fan base. A fan meter on the pause screen will show players exactly how many fans are needed to reach the next milestone. This usual consists of opening a new festival hub, upgrading a current festival, or unlocking a new showcase event.
Showcase events are a staple for the Horizon series, tasking players with outrageous and over the top objectives – such as racing against a car that is attached to a giant helicopter. Circuit and sprint races both make returns, with the former involving multiple laps and the latter racing from a single point to another. Bucket list challenges are back as well, tasking players to complete a certain objective in a specific car. These are a ton of fun, while also encouraging players to come out of their comfort zone and try new vehicles. The real star of Horizon 3, however, is Blueprint events. As the boss of Horizon, you can create your own events – customizing the location, car type, race type, weather conditions, number of laps, etc. You can also take part and play in blueprint events that have been created by friends and other players. I always love when games incorporate user created content into their structure, and blueprint events add a tremendous amount of replayability to Horizon.
There are tons of other fun distractions in Horizon 3 as well. Wooden boards have been placed all over the map and smashing them will net players XP bonuses and travel discounts. Furthermore, Barnyard cars have returned. There are 15 in total and occasionally, players will hear a rumor over the radio about an area where one can be discovered. Driving to the marked area and searching for the barn will reward players with the car inside and add it to your garage. Everything players do in Horizon 3 will net them with fans, XP, credits, or a combination of the three. Simply driving around in free roam and stacking up your skill multiplier can earn XP. Which brings to mind a new addition in Horizon that I really enjoyed – convoys. While driving around, players can honk their horn at any Drivatar they pass by on the road to start a convoy. Drivatars in your convoy will ride with you, assisting in skill bonuses. If a destination is set, you can also choose to race other players in your convoy to the destination.
As always, when you earn XP – you level up. Doing so will net players with wheelspins and skill points. The wheelspin is a slot machine and essentially the same as it was in Horizon 2. Pull the lever and get a random reward, which ranges from credits to cars that are exclusive to the wheelspin. Skill points, on the other hand, are spent in a shop that can be accessed from the pause menu. These are broken into three different categories – Festival Boss, Skills, and Instant Rewards. Festival Boss perks allow players to earn more XP and credits from their festivals. Skill perks offer small but helpful bonuses, such as increasing skill scores, times, and multipliers. Instant Rewards give players a chance to get fast credits, bulk amounts of XP, and free wheelspins.
On the multiplayer side of things, Horizon 3 features campaign co-op adventures for the first time, in addition to competitive multiplayer modes. Players can race events and tackle challenges together, or play against each other. Along with traditional races, the King and Infected multiplayer modes have returned, in addition to a new capture the flag mode. King mode designates one or two players as King, while other players attempt to steal the King status by wrecking into them. Infected begins with one or two players infected, spreading the infection until only one player remains as the winner. The flag capture mode will spawn multiple color coded flags onto the map. Players attempt to drive over and retrieve a flag before racing toward the corresponding goal to score a point.
All of the customization options that Forza is known for are still here in Horizon 3. Players can fully customize both the look and performance of their rides, fine tuning each car down to the last detail. Simulation fans have a wide array of advanced customization options at their disposal, while players looking for a more streamlined or arcade-style experience can opt for auto-upgrades. There are a wide array of custom paint jobs and vinyls that have been created by other players to choose from as well. Anna, the GPS personality from the previous Horizon has returned too, making it super easy for players to set way points and get moving to the next race or objective. Horizon 3 can be as accessible or as in-depth as you want it to be, and that’s what makes it so intriguing. In Forza Horizon 3, players can play any way they wish, fully customizing their own experience along the way. There is no wrong way to play Horizon, as all the game really wants you to do is have fun and enjoy yourself.
Forza Horizon 3 is the complete package. The attention to detail is absolutely stunning and driving around the many different types of locations in Australia is a blast. With the games single player campaign, co-op adventures, competitive multiplayer modes and the endless array of user created content – Horizon 3 is infinitely replayable. The theme of Horizon has always been to play however you want, and this third entry is no exception to that rule. A players experience with Horizon can be as streamlined or as in-depth as they wish it to be. I can easily see myself playing this for the next two years until the inevitable Horizon 4 makes its way to my Xbox. Forza Horizon 3 isn’t just the best racing game this year – it’s the greatest racing game of all time.