Maybe it’s the Australian from me, but after walking away from a hands on and behind closed doors demo of Forza Horizon 3, it’s hard to deny it as one of E3 2016’s strongest game on show, with some fantastic in-depth gameplay and some of the most gorgeous visuals I’ve ever seen in a racing game.
What possibly could be Forza’s greatest graphical achievement lies in the skybox: Playground Games took a custom built, 12k HDR camera to Australia not to only capture the setting but to capture the skies, and it looks absolutely jawdropping. Clouds roll, thunder and rain feels incredibly atmospheric and it looks to really capture that schizophrenic weather that Australia is famous for. We all know the weather effects in Forza are already impressive, but the way clouds will roll in and different climates will change will not only look amazing, but will feel so much more realistic.
One could only be envious of how Playground set about capturing the various biomes and vistas of Australia: driving around with high end cars kitted with 360 cams and Go-Pros to capture as much high quality real life footage as possible across various areas, it’s something one could only dream of doing and Playground have done a wonderful job condensing all these different geologies into one cohesive, for lack of a better word, playground.
From the coastal town of Byron Bay to the beautiful drive of the 12 Apostles to rainforests, deserts, beaches and cities, the diversity of the locales in Horizon 3 is only matched by it’s roster of cars available: 350 vehicles all available from launch, which include new vehicle types such as off-road buggies and big trucks to tackle the rugged and tough terrain Australia is famous for. Driving in in the rain was magnificent, as drops of residue hit the screen and dripped realistically off the demo Lamborghini we were given. The HDR light sources from the sky meant that this is easily the most realistic looking racing game yet, as light rays bounce off environments and cars dynamically and realistically.
Horizon 3 is all about putting control in our hands, as the player is now in charge of the typical Horizon Festival. Players will decide what tracks to use, what events will happen and even what music will play. However for those who aren’t likely to use the new Blueprint mode, stock events and festivals are still set up from the get go.
Playground call this the most social racer ever, and it’s clear they’re really pushing the online components. For starters, the Play Anywhere program means that Horizon 3 is available on both PC and Xbox One from the start, and cross-play will no doubt be eventual. Cross-play is a huge get and I can easily see the online components eclipse anything from it’s rivals due to having two platforms being able to play together. Throw in Car Clubs, four-player campaign co-op, the return of the Auction House, ambient Speed and Drift zones and challenges and perhaps best of all, driving with Drivatars.
Customization was touched on briefly and hosts a wide array of diversity for car lovers. Horizon 3 has a lot of options to mess with, made only more varied by the introduction of the new car types, and a lot of these are visual differences. Widebody kits are introduced in this game, which is a huge new part of customization in Horizon. Custom decals, spoilers, bumpers, paint jobs, license plates and even horn sounds are all customizable and there’s no doubt car lovers will spend a majority of their time in the editor mode.
Forza Horizon 3 will be released 27th September 2016 and from what we’ve seen at E3, this could easily be the best racer in years. Keep a close eye on this one, whether you’re a Windows 10 user or a Xbox One player.