It’s not often that we get to see a game set in Australia, but whenever one does come around, it is almost guaranteed to falter in some manner; mostly due to lack of authenticity. With Forza Horizon 3 though, it is the polar opposite. It takes an already perfect structure and combines it with a carefully crafted setting to create a remarkable end result.
Forza Horizon 3 is the latest offering to the franchise from Playground Games and Microsoft Studios. Improving from Forza Horizon 2, the game features over 350 cars, cross-platform play and a map that is double the size of its predecessor. A notable difference in Forza Horizon 3 is that your character now plays the role as the Director of the Horizon Festival, as opposed to being one of the racers. This gives you added abilities throughout the game such as custom race tracks and the ability to hiring new racers. It’s a really nice addition as it gives the player more avenues to personalise their experience in the game, rather than just being limited to modifying their car. Adding to the personalised game experience is that all the in-game characters address you by the name that you have set your character (instead of using ‘bro’, ‘dude’ or ‘mate’).
The main overarching focus in Forza Horizon 3 is that the game allows you to explore the wide open roads of Australia. The map is rather intriguing though as it features the best bits from Australia all sewn into one nice world to play in. Starting from the bottom of the map is Byron Bay, up to Surfers Paradise at the top with the Great Ocean and The Twelve Apostles in between. Going inland takes you through rainforest up to the Yarra Valley, Maroondah Reservoir and further out to the Outback.
The attention to detail that Playground Games have put into Forza Horizon 3 is nothing short of incredible. I’m blown away at how all the landmarks and references have been modelled into the game perfectly, most notably the Q1, Soul Tower and G-Link Tram System in Surfers Paradise, with elements of Broadbeach (such as the monorail) infused in the centre. It doesn’t stop there either as Playground Games have focused on all the little details, such as the styling of speed limit and Give Way signs, yellow/black chevron signs on every road corner, telephone boxes that look exactly like an orange-top Telstra phone box and green wheelie bins outside each house. I find that it’s the little details which are the most important, especially when you’re trying to set the scene for somewhere in the real world, and Forza Horizon 3 captures Australia wonderfully without having to resort to using overused stereotypes.
Adding to the Australian theme, Forza Horizon 3 also features numerous Australian cars in the library. A few to name are the HSV Gen-F GTS Maloo, Ford FPV Pursuit Ute, Holden Torana A9X and the Ford Falcon GT Phase III GTHO. Playground Games are also aware of the ever present Ford/Holden rivalry as there some of the race challenges in Forza Horizon 3 are only open to Ford and Holden cars, which is a testament to their research of Australian car culture.
The gameplay in Forza Horizon 3 is largely the same as Forza Horizon 2, which is essentially an open-world setting, with many races to discover in order to build up the hype behind the Horizon Festival. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that the key structure has not changed between the two games, and that’s because it works. There’s no need to change something that is not broken or criticised of. All Playground Games needed to do was expand from this, and they have done it so well.
Just like how Forza Horizon 2 had a stellar music line-up through its various radio stations, Forza Horizon 3 hits back with an even better soundtrack. I’m thoroughly impressed with Playground Games and their choice to include a significant number of local artists (Hilltop Hoods, Tkay Maidza and Ladyhawke to name a few). In fact, Forza Horizon 3 includes a radio station called ‘Future Classic Radio’, which includes all the Australian artists signed under the Future Classic record label, most notably being Flight Facilities, Flume, Nick Murphy (formerly known as Chet Faker) and more.
While Forza Horizon 3 excels at visual authenticity, one bit I could not get over was the accents of the in-game characters and how faux they were. They weren’t awful or unbearable to hear, but it was rather lacking given that the game emphasises authenticity at every corner only for the voice acting to be somewhat average. I think the only authentic Australian voice I recognised was artist Touch Sensitive as the radio DJ for Future Classic Radio.
All in all, Forza Horizon 3 is an astoundingly beautiful title that truly takes you on an adventure through the best of what Australia has to offer. With incredible attention to detail, solid gameplay structure, stellar music soundtrack and an excellent selection of cars, Playground Games have created a game that any Australian could be proud of.
Forza Horizon 3 was reviewed using an Xbox One code, as provided by the publisher.