Watching the sunrise as you drift around a dense rain forest will make your jaw hit the ground. Off roading in a buggie, watching the tires kick up all the dirt off of the ground and then splashing into an unexpected stream of disgusting, yet beautiful water feels invigorating. Speeding around the city streets, curling around corners and onto bridges that oversee the bluest water your eyes have ever laid upon. These are some of the scenarios that Playground Games have managed to bring to your living room. They take the arcade racing genre and bring it to a new standard and sets the bar. This rich and pretty open world is one that everyone should experience.
The one thing that is apparent upon starting the game is that it looks and runs phenomenally. Right off the bat you are thrown into this imagined world of Australia and taken on a journey to your first festival. The main goal is to grow and expand your festival by gaining fans. To gain fans you need to complete exhibition races, these pertain a few different types of races. Some of which are basic races where you have a set path and you complete it in multiple laps. You also have a race in which you go from point A to point B in a laid out route. Depending on where you are in the world the races can vary from a city street, to a dirt sandy street, etc. The only downside to this is that if you need to change cars for different events, it does not change back to the car you were using prior to the race. This is a small gripe but the only way you can change it back is by driving or fast travelling to a festival. Another way to gain fans is through PR stunts. These are either small areas in which you need to maintain your speed and you are graded on how fast you can go. There are small drifting areas in which you need to get skill points. And lastly there are jumps where you need to travel as far as you possibly can. The better you do, the more fans you earn. The last way to earn fans is through showcase events. If you like the Fast and The Furious movies, you are going to love these races. They are over the top races where they pit you against boats, airplanes and other bizarre vehicles. These are scripted events and the chances of losing is slim to none, I wish these events were a bit more challenging.
Crashing will happen a ton because everything around you just looks sublime. If you own a TV that is HDR (High Dynamic Range) compatible you will be in awe the entire time. In the settings you can adjust the HDR brightness and you can tell a subtle, yet satisfying difference. The colors glow and the shadows bring out better looking textures. Do not fear, if you have a TV that does not support this feature everything still looks top tier. A nice way to capture the beauty of the game is in photo mode. I found myself using this feature more in this game than I ever have compared to others. You are given control of a camera and given a bunch of filters so you can move it around your car to capture your adventure. Later on in the game you can be paid credits for this when you unlock one of the seventy-five perks.
The feel of the game is what will keep most drawn in. It is easily accessible to both fans of the genre and those who are not. Since crashing does not give you any huge penalty besides cosmetic damage, it is super satisfying to ride without worrying about any repercussions besides potentially getting behind in the race. Even then, there is a rewind button that takes you back a few seconds and you are able to retry that portion of the race. If you do enjoy the more simulated type of racing, you can change it through the settings. Turning this on can cause tire wear and you can risk the engine in your car to be destroyed. There are some traffic throughout the streets but to populate the world there are Drivatars. These Drivatars are spread out throughout Australia, the majority of these are your friends names slapped on top of random cars with randomly generated statistics. But if they have played the game before, the Drivatars will act similarly to their playstyle. If they happen to crash into cars and corners often then so will the AI. If they race cleanly, the AI will as well. These Drivatars can be challenged for credits and XP to help you level up. If you join a club you will see Drivatars of the members appear in your world as well.
Online play makes the replayability of Forza Horizon 3 quite supreme. For online you can roam with your friends on the same exact map as you do in solo play. Everything you have completed solo gets transferred to your online endeavors and vice versa. You can also play on online adventures, this lets you race with people in a random list of events. As past Forza’s have always had, you can auction off cars and designs online for credits.
There is enough variety and amount of races, events and collectibles to keep you entertained for hours on end. Personally I am not a person who plays racing games but this one definitely caught my eye and I am glad it did. Forza Horizon 3 is a pleasant surprise, Playground Games blends beautiful visuals and excellent gameplay to be one of the better games to release in 2016 thus far. If you are a fan of racers then it would be ludicrous to not pick this game up and if you do not usually play racing games then you should still give it a look.