During the PS2 era if you asked me what my most played game was, or the game I have the fondest memories of, it would be Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec. The amount of hours my roommates and I dumped into that game probably could have been used to solve all of the world’s problems, but it was that addictive thanks to its cutting edge visuals for the time, and its faithful attention to detail in terms of car builds and racing.
Since then I’ve curiously shied away from the racing genre, mainly due to games in it getting a bit too lifelike and punishing, but my self-imposed ban may lift in full after spending time with Forza Horizon 3. I have never played a Forza game, but after taking on Forza Horizon 3’s open-world setting in the various beautiful landscapes that Australia has to offer, it will now become a franchise I look forward to. That’s an impressive feat for a game in a genre that I’ve all but given up on.
As I mentioned earlier the game is set in Australia, and features six unique locales to unlock, all of which offer stunning visuals and lighting to bring them to life with pristine clarity. This time around you are the Festival Boss, so you have complete control over the types of races and other settings you can tinker with while at a Festival location. To unlock the game’s six locales you must open up a Festival in them, but to do that you have to become a legend amongst motor-heads first.
The only way to open up more areas is by earning fans, and fans are earned throughout the game’s various side missions and unlockables scattered throughout the massive world. These range from races with ghost versions of your friends list buddies, to finding races ripe for the taking, and basically exploring the massive world as if you were controlling an actual character in an open-world title. It’s safe to say that those with ADD may be overwhelmed with all of the potential gameplay options, but I found the variety to be awesome and always provided me with exciting gameplay moments and things to look forward to.
My personal favorite types of races are the Showcase Events, which put you into Hollywood blockbuster type of scenarios. For example, one of the first you can unlock has you racing against a jeep being towed by a massive chopper to try and cheat you out of a win. It provides some awesome action movie moments and definitely changes up the pace of the traditional lap-based races. These too require fans to unlock, so once again you’re encouraged to explore each locale to keep unlocking this game’s extensive content.
Speaking of which, car fans have plenty of rides to choose from thanks to the game’s 350 available models to purchase with in-game currency, or through DLC. Each car looks immaculate and lifelike, but can also be tuned and upgraded to the point that Dom from Fast and Furious would be impressed. If you don’t know much about car tuning that’s just fine as Forza Horizon 3 has custom user built upgrades you can quickly toggle, or an auto-upgrade button that recommends the best gear to purchase. I really appreciated this, because I’m not a huge fan of tuning cars in a video game, or real life for that matter, so I loved being able to lean on the community and get some impressive builds with the click of a button. This also extends into the various paint jobs you can apply, which are many thanks to the community.
You’ll definitely want to take advantage of this feature because this flavor of the Forza Horizon franchise supports 4-player online co-op, so you don’t want to be the one driving a jalopy and costing your crew valuable fannage (it’s a word now) and cash. There are also 1000-player clubs to join and 12-player online multiplayer races to enjoy, so Forza Horizon 3 has a deep social aspect to it. Plus, thanks to it being a Play Anywhere title with cross-play, you can also play with friends using a PC, which is a nice touch and very value added feeling.
While the driving, missions, and cars are all expertly handled in this game I have to say that its HDR visuals are what stood out to me the most. As in punched me in the face and reminded me of why I became an early adopter of 4K technology. To realize this jaw dropping feature you have to have a Xbox One S and a 4K TV capable of rendering HDR using the HDR10 specifications, but even on a standard HD TV this game’s visuals are a notch above most current-gen titles. I wrote an editorial on just how impressive this game’s visuals can be with the right equipment, so you can read more on it in that article. Just know that Forza Horizon 3 is hands down the best looking title to release in 2016, if not this console generation. PC Master Race people no need to poke fun at the console crowd, yes we know your rigs make our consoles look silly, but let us have this moment please.
Racing games may have taken a backseat in my gaming hobby, but thanks to the amazing package that is Forza Horizon 3, I’ve been reminded why I used to love the genre so much. The gameplay is deep, the world is massive and full of activities, and thanks to HDR the visuals are next level for a console title. You could easily rack up 50+ hours of gameplay, if not triple digits worth, so it definitely offers value for your $60. It’s just one of those games that is hard to find an issue to bitch about. I guess you could claim that it lacks a narrative to engage in, which is mostly true, but in all honesty as an open-world racer it is near perfect. I fully recommend this game to racing genre fans, and those who may have stayed away from the genre like me. I also urge those of you with capable 4K hardware to check it out, because if its visuals are a representation of what is to come over the next few years in game development, we’re in store for some eye meltingly awesome visuals to justify the expense of going 4K. I call that a win win type of situation.
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Review Statement: The author of this review received a code from the publisher for the purposes of this review.