It has been a year since the last Forza Motorsport 6 release, and as much as we loved it, we longed for something more arcade-like. Enter Forza Horizon 3, probably the greatest racing game to grace the racing genre in years. No really, there has been nothing that has come close the pure awesomeness that is Forza Horizon 3.

Platforms: Xbox One, Windows 10
Reviewed On: Xbox One
Developer:  Playground Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Distributor: Prima Interactive
Release Date: 27 September 2016
PEGI: 12
Price: R999

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Moving away from the rolling hills of the coast of Europe, The Horizon Festival has now gone down under to the outbacks of Australia. Sure, a location change might mix things up, but it is the greatest thing to ever happen to the series. Playground Games has managed to deliver personality and pleasure in one package, without compromising on the Forza Horizon 3’s main racing aesthetics.

Forza Horizon 3

Unlike previous Horizon games, Forza Horizon 3 feels more like a personal experience. This compared to the over-the-top feeling we got when we played Horizon 2. It was great, but its music lineup and obnoxious approach made us cringe. Forza Horizon 3 moves away from the loud and arrogant experience, and becomes something so loveable, it is almost a whole new game. Forza Horizon 3 starts off slower than previous entries as you are eased into the action. You now get to choose what soundtracks you want to listen to throughout Forza Horizon 3 and learn the basics of the map and navigation system.

Right from beginning we were drawn into the spectacular beauty that Forza Horizon 3 had to offer. We often thought we were watching a cinematic, but it immediately cut to a race and we realized that we were playing. Dense forests, damp roads, and even the dry outback comes alive like we have never seen before in a racing game. Car details are on-point, and even interiors have been polished up. Lighting effects add so much detail to the world around you, and it often feels like you have fallen into the perfect world, where beauty is everywhere. If anything, we thought that there was no beating the beautiful coastlines of the Mediterranean Sea, but it has been done in Forza Horizon 3.

Forza Horizon 3

Driving on the left-hand side of the road? That is something you do not get to experience every day in a video game. It was awesome to experience this as we drive on the left-hand side in South Africa too. As we sped through the small towns that reminded us of the road to Bloemfontein, towards the isolated farms in the outback. Every landscape in Forza Horizon 3 deserves some sort of mention as they all make up this magical experience.

As you are racing through Forza Horizon 3, sound plays add an important part to the experience. Music and sound effects are on-point. Instead of being subjected to music you do not want screaming at you the whole time you play Forza Horizon 3, you can listen to the radio station for the Horizon Festival. This means you have control of the game’s tunes. You can also play your own music. Car engines sound fantastic as you speed away and hear their exhausts pop. This again feels great in your hands thanks to the Xbox One’s haptic feedback in its controller.

Forza Horizon 3

We miss the classic days of having those really over-the-top customizations in a racing game, and Forza Horizon 3 has brought them back. Think classic Need for Speed, but in a Forza game. Decals can be placed anywhere, and your car is your car. There is no limitations to the customizations you can put on it, and you will always drive away happy knowing that it represents you. Talking about representing you, up to now there have been very few games that have managed to perfect the name in-game feature, and Horizon 3 nailed it. It has our names, and whenever our PA/GPS guide wanted to chat to us, she would use our names fully.

With so much to do and create in Forza Horizon 3, the racing often takes the backseat while playing. Distractions will occur as we often found ourselves driving around and taking in the beauty. Forza Horizon 3 mixes things up when it comes to events as this time you will not be restricted to the specific car for the event, rather it will adjust the competition to fit your vehicle. It also allows you to re-do the entire event to your liking. If you want to race with friends, just create an event and jump in. The entire event feature of Forza Horizon 3, which is the game’s core mechanics, have been perfected to feel seamless. Time of day, start point, music, and even the weather can all be edited to craft your perfect racing event. Participating in events you created, or your friends’ events, will give you the same rewards as playing the pre-created ones in Forza Horizon 3.

Forza Horizon 3

Then we have the cars themselves, which feel great to drive. You will never feel like they are gimmicky, and a simple tweak before a race, will change any issue you are having with tire pressure, control, and acceleration. There are so many cars to obtain in Forza Horizon 3, over 300 to be precise, and they’re all as polished and feel as great as the next one. As you perform well in events, you will earn CP to buy new cars, and as you level up by performing well in general to earn XP, you will open up more to buy. It is really an endless supply of cars. The brand new mechanic here, is the new off-road vehicles to choose from. There are tons of events that will see you really pushing the metal in these buggies while skidding through muddy water, or over sand dunes.

In Forza Horizon 3, the Horizon Festival is all about you. You are basically in charge of the organizing and promotion of it. By completing races and crazy PR stunts that see you ramping off cliffs, you will earn more fans. Once you have reached a set fan base, more events will unlock. When you reach a high fan base for one specific Horizon location, you will then get to choose the next location in Australia for the Horizon Festival. These decisions are tough as they will dictate the next few hours of your gameplay. You will get to choose from the dry Outback to the dense forests, with tailor-made events for each location.

Forza Horizon 3

We loved this idea of the Horizon Festival being in our hands, and we had more control of it. We kind of felt like a badass to be honest, signing off on radio stations, levelling up specific perks as we reached a certain popularity. Best thing of all, you visually see the festival transform as you progress through the game, so all your hard work pays off.

Verdict

Gold Award

Forza Horizon 3 has taken the spot right at the top of the podium of great racing games. The bar has now been raised, and we want to wish the industry good luck in creating something to match this. The game is a magnificent experience that challenges your senses, and takes you on one wild ride through the most beautiful racing game environment we have ever explored.

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Forza Horizon 3 Review: What A Beaut
Forza Horizon 3 takes you on one exhilarating ride that will excite your senses.
95%Masterpiece