Earlier this week the Forza Horizon 3 demo went live on Xbox One giving those anticipating the game an opportunity to trial a small portion of it keeping it in line with the tradition of previous Forza Horizon releases. I (Matt) have been skeptical in regards to a third title in the spin-off series so having the opportunity to play the game before I actually committed to purchase is a pretty big deal for me.
Before I go on to actually talking about the game, I’d like to take care of the boring stuff. Yes, this is only a small demo of what is sure to be a pretty enormous game. However given we’re just two weeks away from the game’s launch, it would be a pretty sure bet to say that this demo is based on the final build. And anyway, the whole point of a demo is to give you those crucial first impressions.
I’ve been a Forza fan ever since the first title came along, sticking a rusty screw right in the tyre of the guys behind the likes of Gran Turismo, Project Gotham and the Need for Speed franchise. My love for Forza grew and grew exploding at the point where Turn 10 Studios announced their partnership with Playground Games to make an open world driving experience. However, having played the first two Horizon titles to the point where there was literally nothing left to do, I’m no longer excited by the prospect of another Forza Horizon title. So this is a pretty big deal for me as I may well yet to decide to keep my money in my pocket, as unlikely as that may seem now I say it. So let’s get down to business.
From what I remember from previous Forza Horizon releases, Playground Games have definitely given us more to experience in this demo, but playing through the various events they’ve featured I still get the impression that they’ve barely even gotten close to the surface of the overall experience, yet alone scratched it. The map looks MASSIVE as would be expected given this Horizon Festival is based in the land down under but they’ve kept the demo to Byron Bay and the surrounding Rainforest and coast. This gives you the chance to experience the varying terrains of Australia along with several vehicles equipping you appropriately for the task at hand.
Graphically Forza Horizon 3 is without a shadow of a doubt one of the, if not the most gorgeous games I’ve seen to date on the Xbox One. The textures of the landscapes, the beauty of the environment and the detail in the cars is absolutely breath-taking. The visuals became particularly impressive during the bucket list challenge, belting through the rich foliage of the Australian rainforest was one of those moments where the game’s Drone camera feature just allowed me to take a moment to really appreciate what has been achieved here. It really is that good.
However, no driving game will ever be good without the correct mechanics,. Fortunately this isn’t something any Forza fan has had to worry about and while I can only imagine the difficulty of designing mechanics that work in a game like Horizon (with such a variety of vehicles and terrains) I’m happy to report, once again, Playground Games have quite literally nailed it. Driving in Forza Horizon 3, even while using a control pad, is truly sublime, in fact… Dare I say it? Better than Forza Motorsport 6… The cars handle exactly how you would expect them to in the real world and where previous Horizon titles have been forgiving and tailored towards the more casual gamer, Horizon 3 seems to have adopted a more open attitude to realism than arcade. Naturally, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the experience as much using assists, but I imagine that turning them on will generally make the terrain much easier to navigate.
Unfortunately, as this is a demo, you won’t get to experience many of the cars which will be available on launch day. Naturally being a Ford fan there was only one car for me when it came to choosing what I wanted to use in free roam which given the Mustang isn’t exactly famed for its handling probably made tearing through the suburban streets more difficult than it needed to be.
There’s a bit of a downside to all of this joy, and I’m ashamed to admit that I probably brought this on myself with my skepticism. I’ve now done all of the events featured in the demo and I’m already bored. From what I can work out, multiplayer is featured in the demo in the form of online free roam. But at the time of writing I’ve attempted to get involved several times to find that it isn’t working as it should be. And I’m fine with that because I can already hear Halo 5 once again calling my name. I’m just not excited by the fact that this game releases soon.
With that in mind I’d just like to say that my reasons for not wanting to make the purchase are purely personal, Forza Horizon 3 will be a fantastic experience to anyone wanting to pick up the game. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Forza veteran or a more casual player I have no doubts whatsoever that you’ll enjoy it.
There’s one other issue I’d like to address, but this one of aimed more towards the direction of Microsoft, Playground Games and Turn 10 Studios. Forza Motorsport 6 has been and will remain to be, one of my favorite experiences on the Xbox One to date. However it has on major flaw, the DLC. I purchased the game along with the season pass expecting that to be the end of expenses in relation to the game. Micro-transactions have just become the norm in the modern world of gaming so I’ve just taught myself to live with them. Spending upwards of £80 on a game should be more than enough, so I’m sure I can be forgiven for the horrendous disappointment I faced when I saw that Turn 10 released additional DLC in the form of car packs not included with the season pass. That’s just not right, in fact it’s a bit of an insult to the fans that made the developers what they are today.
In conclusion to what turned out to be a pretty long write-up, I’m still unwilling to purchase Forza Horizon 3 after my initial concerns about repetitiveness from the older games in the series became a reality whilst playing the demo. However the game itself deserves recognition for its technical achievement. While I’ve only been able to experience a small portion of what will be a huge open world driving experience it served as a fantastic insight into what the full game will be and I feel like I can honestly say Forza Horizon 3 stands a pretty big chance of becoming one of the greatest games of 2016.