I’ve yet to travel to Australia, but playing Forza Horizon 3 has given me a strong case to go someday in the near future.

The third entry in the Horizon series makes a strong case for itself from the moment you’re plopped into the game, given a car, and asked to race against a helicopter hauling a jeep high above your head as you traverse the lush jungles of Australia.  In a matter of maybe five minutes, you’re treated to some of the best visuals the Xbox One has to offer yet, a top notch soundtrack and, of course, a deluge of cars to drive.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Forza Horizon 2. I greatly enjoyed the original game, but the second one lacked the same sort of charm that came with the original. Still a great game, but it didn’t hold my attention for as long as the original did. One of the main issues I had with Forza Horizon 2 was the lack of varied areas to explore — or more so, there were areas but they didn’t differ all that much in visual flair, and thus the game became stagnant.

With Horizon 3’s move to Australia this issue is nulled. The map is highly varied, allowing you to drive through the after-mentioned jungles, the Australian outback, valleys and vineyards, coastal areas, and even a small city. It’s hard to get bored when you have so many places to race through, and due to the varied landscapes, each area provides a different feel for each of the races you partake in.

Racing through the jungles of Australia feels completely different from racing through the Outback due to a number of different variables you have to contend with. The Outback is more open and allows you to be a little more courageous, while racing through the dense jungles forces you to always keep your eyes on the road as you navigate tight corners and ravines.

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The varied environments constantly keep the game fresh, and with the high amount of detail found in the world, it’s also very fun to just roam around and explore. If you’ve read any of my opinions on open world games as of late, it takes a lot for an open world game to really make me want to bother with exploring its world, but Horizon 3 makes a strong case. Not to mention that the game can be pretty darn addictive, too.

Forza Horizon 3 makes you the head of the Horizon festival and tasks you with completing all kinds of different events to expand your fanbase. At certain thresholds, you’ll expand the festival as well. Everything you do in the game results in credit, XP, and fanbase gains and, as I mentioned before, there’s a lot to do. You also have the ability in this entry to control how each event plays out. You can decide everything from time of day to the types of cars being used in each exhibition event.

This is decidedly refreshing in a genre that tends to do things by the book and continually push you through with prearranged events. Progressing through the game how YOU want to is a great addition to keep things fresh as you complete all the different events in each region.

Each area in the game has a set of races for you to complete, and after you’ve completed enough events you’ll unlock a championship race. Obviously, there’s a bunch of different races for you to partake in, but there’s also PR stunts which are highly varied and very fun to complete as you try over and over again to get all three stars for maximum gains on your XP, credits and fanbase.

PR events vary all over. Sometimes you’ll be taking part in crazy jumps or drifting challenges. Other times you might be working to reach a specific top speed, among many other activities. This isn’t even to mention the inclusion of Forza’s famous Drivatar system, customization options for 350+ cars and, of course, multiplayer.

There’s a ton of content in the game that’s constantly drip-fed to you as you progress through the game, continually providing you something new to do around every corner. The main campaign, if you want to call it that, doesn’t last too long, but you’ll need a lot of time to compete everything the game has to offer.

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Luckily, you’re going to want to take the time to complete everything. Horizon 3 is an absolutely gorgeous game. Each area in the world has dynamic weather and its own identity and color palette that makes the world look vibrant and alive or, for the lack of a better word, dynamic. There’s a massive amount of detail in each area as well that will make you wonder how exactly Playground Games got this game running at 1080p and 30fps with such consistency.

Unfortunately, I do not have a 4K TV or HDR capabilities, so I can’t discuss how it affects the graphical fidelity of the game, but I can say that if HDR produces a more vibrant color palate, Forza Horizon 3 would benefit greatly from it.

Just as varied as the rest of the world, the game’s soundtrack includes a huge list of licensed songs and the ability for players to connect their Groove account for their own custom playlists. There’s a number of different radio stations to choose from so you’ll always have something to listen to that fits your style as you traverse the Australian landscape.

I may seem like I’m overly praising Forza Horizon 3, but there’s really nothing to complain about. The races are varied, the world diverse, and the graphics are, quite simply, stunning. If there’s one thing I’d even bother to complain about with Horizon 3 is the overabundance of things to do, because I’m going to have a hard time even finding the time to complete the game.

You don’t even need to be a stout fan of racing games to enjoy Horizon 3 as it honestly does offer something for everyone. If you want the challenge, you can change some settings around to make it less of an arcade experience and more of a sim. Or, if you just want to traverse and explore a gorgeous world by yourself or with your friends, you can do that. Forza Horizon 3 is the complete package for an open world racing game.

Reviewed on the Xbox One. Review copy provided by Microsoft.

Developer: Playground Games | Publisher: Microsoft Games | Genre: Open World, Racing | Platform: PC, Xbox One | PEGI/ESRB: E | Release Date: September 27, 2016

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Nick Calandra
OnlySP founder and former site owner.

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