Forza Horizon 3
Xbox One / Windows 10
Shigeru Miyamoto, when asked about the development of Super Mario 64, once said “we wanted to make a game where just moving Mario around was fun.” When making Forza Horizon 3, I imagine Playground Games took on a similar design philosophy. Driving a car in Forza Horizon 3 is a pure joy. Playground Games has delivered one of the most gorgeous, fun, and satisfying open-world driving games in recent memory.
Set in Australia, this spin-off of the Forza Motorsport series is much more arcadey and casual compared to the simulation-focused game it originates from. While Forza Motorsport focuses on clean, professional motorsport racing, the Forza Horizon series rewards you for wreaking havoc and destruction as you crash your way to the finish line. It does, however, still include in-depth simulation for gearheads to tweak everything from tire width to break pressure. Forza Horizon 3 boasts an impressive list of real-world cars to choose from as well–350 in total. Each vehicle feels unique–dune buggies, pickup trucks, and sleek racing cars have the same weight and control as they would behind the wheel. The Horizon series is the Forza racing game for everyone.
But Forza Horizon is just as much about savoring its beauty as it is about cars. Forza Horizon encourages you to take in the scenery of its breathtaking Australian vistas. The amount of variety in the environments is profound. You’ll find waterfalls, deserts, caves, cities, and more. There are collectable “beauty spots” scattered around the world for you to enjoy, and the in-game Photo Mode allows you to capture the beauty of the outback with your own artistic spin.
As I was mowing down trees, smashing street signs, and de-fencing a lady’s yard, I wondered where the police were. And I wondered where the kangaroos and dingos were. Forza Horizon 3 takes place in a festival, but it feels more like a dead world inhabited only by sentient cars–this is where the game fails. It’s one of the few things Ubisoft’s The Crew, another open-world driving game, succeeded in. The fake Americana The Crew explored–billboards, store signs, small towns, along with real-world American monuments–all made the game feel worth exploring. While it looks pretty, Horizon’s Australia feels lifeless and dull.
In most other games’ cases, a dull world would mean the death of it. But there is simply so much to do in Forza Horizon 3, that it’s forgivable. There are dozens of races, hundreds of collectibles to smash, and numerous other distractions to keep you busy. It’s just so much fun, that you don’t notice the lack of inhabitance in the world.
Fun. That’s what Forza Horizon 3 is. And it doesn’t try to be anything else. It doesn’t bash you over the head with a dumb story, it doesn’t have a political agenda, and there aren’t more characters than you can count on one hand. It’s just a fun video game.