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Forza Horizon 3 Review

Forza Horizon 3, just the sound of it makes your heart skip a beat. If one was to expect greatness based only on the history and prestige that past Horizon titles have delivered, you would be part of a huge majority of players. Hell, even the Windows Store page of Horizon 3 had almost a 100% hit rate for 5 stars when the game hadn’t even been released yet.

This year Microsoft and Turn 10 studios have developed an exciting new entry into the Horizon series. As well as being probably the first HDR-ready game available, it also takes advantage of the Xbox Play Anywhere initiative. This means you can boot up on either PC or Xbox, then continue the fun on the other platform, all at your leisure. Those gamers amongst us who only have a PC can now finally be a part of the Forza fandom, and what better way to be introduced to the franchise than starting out in the luckiest country in the world, Australia.

He bought a Jeep.

Forza Horizon 3 is an open-world racing game where the main premise is trying to put on the biggest and best music festival at several locations throughout Australia. From the East Coast paradise of Byron Bay all the way to the sprawling plains of the Australian Outback, you will gain fans and win rewards, which all add to the progression towards success. Naturally you do this by racing against countless AI challengers, rivals and friends or foes online. You will be tasked with locating and competing in hundreds of Horizon-sanctioned events across the countryside to ensure the success and growth of your Horizon festival. These events include signing up for race events with pre-defined entry restrictions, or building your own with what’s called a blueprint event. Here you have final say on every variable of the race, like vehicle class and competitor difficulty. Other unique challenges like joy rides and jump events will see you given a brand new shiny ride to hoon across the Australian landscape and record the fastest time over a planned route. As for those jump events, you will have to locate several of these locations which are clearly marked “DANGEROUS”. Once you find it, get a long run-up, floor it and launch your car as far as possible. After you do each of these you will be rewarded with cash and more fans, because nothing gets a music festival more ticket sales then someone launching their car over a giant cliff. Nevertheless it works and it’s a helluva lot of fun

Before we get started please note that Forza Horizon 3 requires some serious hardware. Even at the minimum requirement level, you will need a fairly beefy rig to boot up. Take warning folks, if you don’t meet the minimum it’s possible that you will be unable to install the game, as the Windows 10 store will most likely block you from doing so.

Other unique challenges like joy rides and jump events will see you given a brand new shiny ride to hoon across the Australian landscape

Everything you do in Horizon 3 counts towards something, be that the festival itself, your bank balance or just XP; you never feel like the game is a grind, which some XP game systems do fall victim to. There are always skill points to use, reward wheels to spin, experience points to gain and new cars to collect, which keeps you busy but also entertained.

Visually the game is breathtaking. Simple weather events like a thunderstorm will see you marvel at the particle and shader engine that this game runs on. Small details like water drops beading off your windshield as the wipers do their thing are simply incredible. You can take advantage of the awesome scenery and polished paintwork by pulling over and using the new drone camera to frame some unique and stunning photos, which are definitely worth an Instagram upload. Unfortunately, the damage system is very dulled down, and even after colliding head on at 300km/h or sliding off a hillside and rolling several times you will find your car is miraculously un-damaged. The best you will see are some surface scratches, a missing spoiler and some window cracks. Even if you turn the damage system onto ‘Simulation’, the worst it gets is a slight tendency for the car to veer to one side. Apart from this, everything from the smoke of burning rubber, dust flying behind as you race off-road, lights reflecting off surfaces at night or just the clouds in the sky, you will find yourself fully immersed in a truly heart-stopping environment.

Catch me if you can!

dem graphics though

Up to this point the game sounds pretty perfect right? In Forza 3 using a controller or a keyboard will suffice and you will have a truly enjoyable experience with the game – after all, it has been developed for that audience. Annoyingly, for those of you with a racing wheel, Horizon 3 will disappoint in a big way. On my first playthrough I originally didn’t know I had been given control, as my steering wheel had not stiffened up and the wheel felt loose and it all was very unnatural. I even booted up other racing games to make sure my wheel wasn’t broken but I quickly realised that steering wheel support was an afterthought by the development team. In-game there are no Force Feedback (FFB) settings to tweak, just dead zones and a vibration scale. Even boosting the vibration up to 100% you will feel almost no feedback through the wheel, it’s just a loose, oversensitive mess that will see you exit and reload for hours as you try to get a semi-decent setup. It’s one of the biggest missed opportunities of this game and it’s one that open-world racing games seem to commonly suffer from. A huge disappointment for a gamer who enjoys playing with a racing wheel.

Fancy a race along the coast of Byron Bay anyone ?

Unique to the PC version of this game is also one of the biggest collection of bugs, glitches and issues that I have ever had the displeasure of experiencing. When the game was first delivered for review there was a disclaimer from Microsoft that some issues on PC are known to exist and would be patched fully by the 23rd September. That date was when Ultimate Edition pre-orders of the game got to play. As of writing, none of those bugs have been fixed. Since the addition of the “Early Access” players on PC it has created even more problems. Arguably one of the most annoying things is the frame rate lag, which did not exist in the days before worldwide availability. Trying to troubleshoot while turning the entire game to the lowest graphic settings, the issue still persisted and, I would argue, actually got worse. I am unsure of the reason but I’m putting it down to the always online connection which Horizon uses as the main culprit. Sadly the issues don’t start and end with the frame rate, certain cars when awarded or purchased will crash the game, setting up races can crash the game, buying a new car can crash the game, opening Horizon 3 is reason enough for the game to crash. It’s a frustrating exercise, and I honestly question if the game is fit for sale on PC.

Unique to the PC version of this game is also one of the biggest collection of bugs, glitches and issues that I have ever had the displeasure of experiencing.

Despite the core of the game being masterful, at this point I have struggled with anger and huge amounts of overwhelming disappointment with Forza Horizon 3. I really wanted to load it up and get totally immersed in the automative racing world. Apart from the visuals and locations there are the online auction houses, multiplayer modes, fan made liveries, hidden cars, XP boards, thousands of unique street races, dangerous jumps, showcase events and I can honestly go on, but when one sole reviewer cannot get the basic game to work properly anymore, it quickly starts losing its appeal. As a first entry for PC fans, the outlook is not great.

Final Thoughts

Forza Horizon 3 has really pushed home the argument to not pre-order games. Even if the previous titles had been great, we can still end up with a poorly-programmed mess. Sure, there are plenty of great things about the title, from its stellar graphics to the varied and interesting ways you gain fans and progress, but the constant crashes and frame rate issues are hard to overlook. As a racing title Forza does deliver on a lot of promise, although there is certainly room for improvement in the wheel and control setup. The huge collection of cars is also very impressive, plus I’m pretty sure it’s the first time I’ve seen a Torana come shipped in a AAA game. For those of you with a powerful rig you’ll enjoy the benchmark-setting graphics. That is if you don’t come across the annoying FPS bug that is plaguing the game (good luck with that). Trailers can only show so much and without first experiencing the final product and no one can say for certain if a game will be a hit, a casual classic or a fizzer. Forza Horizon 3 only manages to scrape into the classic category, but it was very close to being a fizzer on the back of the glaring technical problems on PC. Once those issues are fixed, we’ll have a truly awesome title to play. This is a cautionary tale for those with PCs looking to take advantage of the Play Anywhere feature, it’s a great idea, but ones whose kinks are obviously still being ironed out.

Reviewed on PC