Review: Race at your own speed in big, beautiful ‘Forza Horizon 3’

Review: Race at your own speed in big, beautiful ‘Forza Horizon 3’
“Forza Horizon 3” lets you take your Lambo to the beach.
Where we’re going, we don’t need roads. We won’t want them, either, because “Forza Horizon 3” is at its best when we’re doing 187 miles per hour through the wilds of the Australian outback in a tricked-out Lamborghini Aventador.

And really, that ridiculous image – driving a car you will never afford at speeds you will never experience in vaguely realistic places you will never travel to – has been the crux of the “Horizon” series since Microsoft first launched their open-world racing spin-off in 2012. It’s a good formula that trades “Forza Motorsport’s” obsessive automobile fetishism for a gritty, enormous environment and a gaudy number of things to do in it.
So what makes this “Forza Horizon” the best yet? Technology, for one thing, and a scarily good balance between realism and drivability, for another. While it doesn’t steer the franchise in brave new directions, it handles well and goes really, really, just embarrassingly fast.

Story? What story?

The setup is on par with the prior “Horizon” games: a few million beautiful car nerds have once again taken over a land mass – this time, a chunk of Australia – to throw a sprawling festival celebrating good vibes, thumping beats and totally reckless driving. It’s the gasoline-addicted lovechild of Burning Man and an energy drink.
This has never been a particularly cool idea, and thankfully, “Forza Horizon 3” ditches any pretense of a story in favor of a simple premise: you, once a lowly gearhead climbing the circuit, are now the boss. Not that it means much. You still drive mundane and exotic cars in order to earn more cash to buy more rides, compete in more races, gather more fans and ultimately open up more and more festival spots.
Mustang in the outback
Take your Mustang for a drift in the outback.
There are four regions to unlock, each of which has a loose theme corresponding to its geographical location (one’s near the beach, another’s in the outback) and each stop offers a stunning assortment of activities. There are standard lap and checkpoint races, but most racers will gravitate towards more playful bits like burning through speed traps, skidding through drift zones, leaping off danger signs, hunting down rare cars secreted away in hard-to-find barns and much more. Completing events gains you fans and levels up regions, unlocking even more events. In “Forza Horizon 3,” the more you do, the more stuff there is to do.

Wasting time has never been so rewarding

Better yet, not doing much of anything can also advance your game. Driving fast, driving clean, driving crazy – these all feed into a points system that yields perks in a skill tree. So while powersliding across a cornfield in a 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona Hemi might seem, relatively speaking, like a waste of time, it’s not. You’re accruing points for that pointless drifting. Despite its impossible size and overabundance of activities, “Forza Horizon 3” joins the ranks of the legendary “Burnout Paradise” as one of the least wasteful racing games ever created.
Forza Horizon 3 burn rubber
Burn rubber.
It’s got something for everyone. While I prefer to launch my Lambo around Australia like a vastly overpriced Matchbox car, you might opt to head into the plethora of standard race types. These yield the biggest fan rewards, and while they’re pretty conventional, developer Playground Games smartly included the option to build your own blueprint. You can take on any race as it was created, or you can tweak the car class and name and share it with the world. Starting a race only to lose yourself scrolling through the ridiculous names and options provided by the community is shared content done right.


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