Forza Horizon 3 Review: Raising the Bar

By staff writer Brenden Dalipe

Beautiful. Music to your ears. Addicting. Beautiful. That’s what critics would call the newest installment of the Forza spin-off series, Forza Horizon 3. Is it really that, however? Today, you and I are going to really see if Forza Horizon 3 is really worth all of those $60.

yet another forzaFirst of all, let me just say the amount of cars and places for you to roam are incredible. Horizon 3 takes place in Australia, and has four zones: the Outback (obviously one of the things that makes Australia iconic), Byron Bay, Surfers’ Paradise and Yarra Valley. There’s even a new expansion pack that released in December of 2016 where you can drive around in a winter wonderland! Microsoft and Turn 10 (the creators and publishers of the Forza games) have included Utes (sort of like pickup trucks) you can drive, as well as some cool new body kits from Rocket Bunny, Liberty Walk, and even the creators themselves!

Horizon’s first few minutes start off like this: you are the new boss at the Horizon Festival. Seems promising, especially since that jerk Ben from the previous Horizon game’s gone… Anyway, you play as Keira (your assistant through the game) for the first few minutes, driving a Lamborghini Centenario through the jungle and to the festival, and suddenly…

forza 1Out of nowhere, your friend (and mechanic at the garage) Warren shows up in a Baldwin Motorsports Trophy, driving across the sandy beaches of Byron Bay. Beautiful. I guess the critics were right about this game being graphically stunning. I mean, can you tell the difference between real life and this photo at right?

Anyways, in this game, you do get to choose your own character and name that Keira, Warren, and Anna (your AI system coming back from Horizon 2) call you, sort of like in the Test Drive Unlimited games. Unfortunately (and unlike Unlimited), the names and characters are preset.

Now it’s time for some real action. According to an interview with the creators (thanks to YouTube ads, by the way), they wanted to make the Horizon series more arcade like than it normally was. That meant they made the game a bit less realistic. By that I mean racing hot air balloons (again), trains (again), fighter jets, speedboats, and… a blimp. A… okay. It also meant speeds you could only imagine, crazy jumps only in your dreams, and drifts you could only pull off after 20 years of practice!

So… You’re finally yourself. You’re in a Penhall “The Cholla”, ready to rally race. Seems normal… right…? NOPE! Out of nowhere you have a helicopter carrying Warren in his Jeep Willys MB! To be honest, I wasn’t expecting this…

So, by the sounds of it, Horizon 3’s cars are much louder and sound much better than Horizon 2’s cars. The selection of music is much bigger than Horizon 2, with 9 stations (including Groove Music – more about that later) instead of 3! Those 9 include the 3 originals, Horizon Pulse, Horizon Bass Arena, and Horizon Block Party, as well as Epitaph Records, Hospital Records, Future Classic Radio, Vagrant, Timeless FM, and Groove Music.

Forza 2Groove Music is actually an application on your PC or video game console (Xbox One, for example) that allows you to play your own music whenever you want on your TV or computer. The app itself is free, but using it in a game like Horizon 3 costs money. In Horizon 3, you can use a free 14 day trial, however. After that, you need to pay money.

As the boss of Horizon, you can do almost anything you want! You can start championships, build festival sites, and host showcase events! That’s right, you have total control over the festival! You can design every little piece of the events (kind of like what you could do after completing the first Horizon Finale in Horizon 2) with Blueprints, from the weather to the cars allowed! Bucket Lists make a return, and you can design those, too! Be careful, though, as the car you’re using when you create the Bucket List will be the car used, unfortunately. I learned that the hard way.

Although you’re the boss, you can still compete in events (and your friends’ Blueprints!) and break records with Danger Signs, Speed Traps, Drift Zones, and Speed Zones! Speed Traps and Speed Zones make an appearance from the last games, but Danger Signs and Drift Zones are new. Danger Signs are locations specifically marked to not jump off of, but for the love of thrills, you still do, trying to jump as far as possible (and land in one piece). Drift Zones are a bit self-explanatory – drift in a zone (without going off-course or backwards) to earn as many points as possible. If you’re not Takumi Fujiwara, these Drift Zones are a bit hard to 3 star.

If you enter one of the festival sites, you’ll notice something on the tab all the way to the right: the Auction House. Anyone played Forza 4? Well, you may remember the Auction House from there. At the Auction House, you can auction off cars with unique designs and tunes for any price in the area of the original price of the car! Own a Nissan Silvia? That’s 25,000 CR (Credits, the currency of the game), so when you sell the car, the price range will be from approximately 8,000 to 101,000 CR! A pretty cool and unique feature, if you ask me.

recommended designJust like Horizon 2, Forza Motorsport 5, and Forza Motorsport 6 (which I have done a review on), whenever you’re about to buy a new car from the Autoshow (a.k.a. the car dealership), some recommended designs for the car will pop up (depending on what designs you usually choose). For example, if you’re about to buy a Trueno and you’re into JDMs (Japanese Drift Machines), you might get this recommended design, at right. You can do the same thing with tunes – if you’re looking for a tune for your Trueno meant for drifting, you might get that in your recommended tunes. Sweet, right?

Introduced in Forza Motorsport 5, Drivatars were the new generation of racer AI (artificial intelligence). Microsoft and Turn 10 analyzed your driving behavior and turned it into an AI driver that your friends could race against. This came back in Horizon 3. If you like to drift around corners, your Drivatar would copy that. If you like to smash the competition out of the way, your Drivatar would copy that.

Showcase events in the Horizon games have been one of a kind. However, they don’t just show up for you to dominate like that. You have to earn it. In Horizon 3, you have to earn fans. How? Well, you have to complete races, fly past Speed Traps and Zones, make marks on Drift Zones, and make a mess at Danger Signs. There are only 5 showcase events, surprisingly. I won’t spoil them for you, though.

forzaIn 2014, Horizon 2 took quite a risk, introducing a skill tree and the Horizon Wheelspin. Looks like that was a good thing to do, since both are well-made and have shown up in Horizon 3. This time, there are 3 skill trees, and you could win the “Horizon Edition” of cars in the Wheelspin – more on that later. The 3 skill trees in Horizon 3 include one-time rewards, festival boss rewards, and… well, the skills! One-time rewards include money, experience, and Horizon wheelspins! Festival boss rewards include temporary boosts (like starting at the front in events), discounts on upgrades, and new horn sounds! Skills are a bit self-explanatory – you can unlock Skill Songs, which allow double skill points (which will allow you to earn new skills in the skill tree – confusing, right?), perks in multiplayer, and earn free cars!

There are the regular cars you can buy in the Autoshow, right? Subaru BRZs, Dodge Viper SRT10s, and BMW M4s. However, Horizon pulled a twist on these three cars – and many more! There are special versions of these cars – Horizon Editions, if you will. These cars have special designs and tunes! You can buy them from the Autoshow (FOR A LOT OF MONEY) or win them from the Wheelspin.

another forzaThere’s a lot to go over in Horizon 3. There’s so much content in this game I couldn’t list it all if I had all the time in the world! That’s why I’m leaving the review here to let you go explore Horizon 3’s amazing world, stunning graphics, beautiful sound, and so much more! I’ll leave it to Carlo Gaytan-Flores and Ryan Chang, both 7th graders at Bay Farm School, who will express their opinions and comments on the game. Ryan feels that “it’s kinda cool seeing all the cars”, and Carlo believes that “Forza 6 was better”. Because of Ryan, Carlo, and my opinion, the score for Forza Horizon 3 by Microsoft and Turn 10 is… a 9.5 out of 10. One of the highest scores here on The Dolphin Tail