Forza Horizon 3 review for Xbox One, PC

Platform: Xbox One
Also On: PC
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Playground Games
Medium: Blu-ray/Digital
Players: 1-12
Online: Yes
ESRB: E10+

I?m still pretty amazed at how well Playground Games managed to outclass their previous efforts with the release of Forza Horizon 2 just two years ago on Xbox One. And they?ve done it once again with Forza Horizon 3, releasing this month on Xbox One and PC. There?s a number of areas where Forza Horizon 3 improves on its predecessor, but it also doesn?t mess with an already winning formula. As trite as it is to say, if you loved the previous games, you?ll absolutely love this one. But if you haven?t jumped into the world of Forza Horizon prior to this, you?ll still want to give Forza Horizon 3 a shot, no matter what your affinity for racing games is.

Like previous Forza Horizon titles, this sequel revolves around a party-like event called the Horizon Festival. This time it takes place on the continent of Australia, and runs the gamut of diversity when it comes to unique areas, such as beaches, city streets, rainforests, the outback, and more. Each area on this expansive map feels wholly unique, peppered liberally with events, speed traps, stunt jumps, drift zones, barn finds, and more Forza Horizon staples. You?ll never be at a loss for what to do or how to progress, and generally will have multiple event types to choose from. The world is also populated offline by Drivatars, A.I. controlled drivers that roam the streets and backroads of Australia and add a little life to the overall surroundings, even if you?re not playing online.

forzahorizon3_review_05_traincrossing_wmBut, on the plus side, online offers a fair amount this year. In addition to your standard online free roam, you can also participate in race events and games against strangers or friends. However, the big addition this year is the inclusion of campaign co-op for up to 4 players. It?s easy enough to jump in and out of a game, and you can also set private matches or custom searches for event types you?d prefer to play. While my online experience has been limited prior to release, everything I?ve seen so far has run smoothly, with little to no network hiccups. That can change when the game goes live, but based on how well Forza Horizon 2 worked at launch, I?m not expecting huge issues here.

forzahorizon3_review_06_blimprace_wmYou?ll find the Australian setting is absolutely breathtaking, giving multiple moments where you?ll just be awestruck at how great this game looks. There?s so much detail packed into the environments, the skyboxes look amazing, the weather effects are very realistic, and even the puddle physics from Forza Motorsport 6 have been included here. Of course, the cars, buggies, trucks and other vehicles look and sound equally amazing. Controls are on point, with multiple tuning options for players of varying skill levels, tons of livery options for customization, and even the ability to create custom license plates. Seriously, there?s no lack of visual and control options here, much like we?ve come to expect from this series.

forzahorizon3_review_03_widebodies_wmAnother neat addition this year is the ability to create custom events, which you can share with friends if you?re particularly proud of what you?ve put together. You can control laps, race types, weather, time of day and a handful of other options. Other player creations are randomly pulled as well, along with the standard developer created events. This also extends to the Bucket List events, which generally consist of more skill specific challenges. So you can now create your own drift events, time challenges, and more. There?s a lot of freedom given to the player in Forza Horizon 3, and it shines through in multiple ways.

Seriously, I have no idea where Playground Games can go with Forza Horizon from here. The map is huge, yet well-populated with things to do. The car selection is vast, the controls are spot-on, the game looks gorgeous in all areas, the musical options are diverse, the online play is excellent, and the community tools are rock solid. I have little doubt that we?ll see a Forza Horizon 4 down the road, but I think you?ll find Forza Horizon 3 leaves little room for improvement. It?s an A+ game top to bottom, and absolutely one of the best games you?ll play all year.

Grade: A+