Title: Forza Horizon 3
Format: Xbox One, Windows 10
Developer: Playground Games, Turn 10 Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
Release Date: September 23, 2016
The Grade: A
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What is it? An open world racing game set in Australia. The action in "Forza Horizon 3" centers on the Horizon Festival, an automotive and music fest that has brought fans from all over the world to take part in a celebration of racing competition and car culture. Think of Race Wars from the movie "Fast and the Furious," but in a much larger setting and without the nitrous oxide.
The Good: With each new edition, the Horizon Festival just gets bigger and bigger. "Forza Horizon 3" is no exception as everything in this title is even grander than its predecessor. The roster of cars is huge, with 350 unique vehicles, 150 more than "Forza Horizon 2" had at launch. The world is also larger (twice as big) and significantly more diverse.
Gamers were able to explore some off road areas in "FH2," especially if they purchased the Storm Island DLC. But in "Forza Horizon 3" gamers will experience six different geographic environments that are not just visually stunning but make better use of the wide array of vehicles at your disposal. Drivers can cruise past tall skyscrapers, take on the rugged Outback and even kick up sand on the beach.
"Forza Horizon 3" offers improvements in other areas as well, especially if you like driving with or against friends. Four player campaign online co-op has been added so you don't have to experience the wonders of Australia alone. Of course if you're looking for more of a challenge online, this game has that as well. Driving Clubs and 12-player multiplayer are available for competitive types. If you're the creative sort, the Storefront and Auction House are great places to buy and sell rare cars and custom paint jobs.
Perhaps most impressive about this title is how much customization it offers. The new Horizon Blueprint lets drivers create and share custom events, championships and even Bucket List challenges. Also new this year is the ability to choose your own driver character. You can change the type of character you want to be at any time and even give them a real name or goofy nickname (I went with El Pollo Diablo). Players can add new body kits, choose their own car horn sound and even design their own vanity license plates.
The Bad: "Forza Horizon 3" reins players in more than I'd like at the start of the game. Despite being the person who runs the Horizon Festival, you have to gradually open up new events and features by gaining more fans, playing longer or even by unlocking skill points. While the map is still wide open and ready for you to explore from the jump, I found this progressive unlocking of content restricting. I get that there's a ton of features that developers want players to experience, but considering that most "Forza Horizon" titles are pretty wide open from the start I felt like I was being held back initially.
The Grade: The Forza franchise is one of my favorites, particularly the Horizon series, so I jumped into this game with high expectations. I wasn't disappointed. A stunning game that's a blast to play, "Forza Horizon 3" is the best racing game on the market.
Gazette Media Columnist Terry Terrones is a veteran video game journalist. He has written for numerous publications including GamePro, GamesBeat, PC World, GameZone, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/terryterrones. ___
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