Forza Horizon 3 is set to release on September 27th 2016. To tide fans over until the official release date, Microsoft and Playground Games released a demo for the upcoming racer yesterday on Xbox Live. I had a chance to spend some time playing the demo and here are my impressions.
Forza Horizon 3 takes place in Australia as revealed at E3. What I noticed from the very opening tutorial race is the variety of landscapes available. I raced on roads, pathways, beaches and forests and this was all within the first race. The demo does a great job of showing you the variety that Australia has to offer and why Playground Games chose it as their location.
The interesting aspect of this version of Horizon is that you, the player, are in charge of the Horizon Festival this year. Winning races earns you fans, the more fans you gain, the further you can expand the festival. To gain fans you must win races, perform stunts, complete bucket list items and drive through dangerous closed roads. As you gain fans you also gain sponsors, this allows you to customize which music labels you want playing at the festival and which radio stations you can select from. Also for the first time in a Horizon game, you can select an avatar from several different and diverse males and females drivers. The game also has a large list of names you can choose from and the other characters in game will refer to you as that name. I was easily able to find my real first name in the list.
Visually, the game is stunning. This is the best looking racing game I've played to date. The car models are wonderfully detailed but what really stands out is the lighting, lush environments, water effects and sense of speed. I played the demo on my original Xbox One, not an S, and I don't own a 4K TV and it was still an outstanding looking game. There are also weather effects in the game, during one race it starting pouring rain and puddles formed on the road and the windshield featured water splatter and raindrops. Much like Forza Motorsport 6, the rain effects your ability to drive making it much more difficult. By the end of the race, the rain stopped and the sun was coming back out. A very good addition to the Horizon series and one that I wished was in Horizon 2.
As with all Forza games, the control is spot on. I play both the Horizon series and the Motorsport series and in my opinion, this demo handled the best out of the first two Horizon games. While Motorsport is for serious and realistic racing, the Horizon series has always stood out for being more accessible and much more forgiving with the racing controls. This isn't to say it's easy as you can adjust the game to make it as easy or difficult as you like, a great feature in all Forza games on Xbox One. These games tend to have great replayablity as well as I always have a Forza game on rotation all year round. In this version, you can actually race co-op with up to four friends, a nice addition and one I'm looking forward to utilizing.
The demo is a decent length and gives you a glimpse into each of the variety of activities that are available to the player in the full game. I'm happy they brought back bucket lists as they were my favorite part of Horizon 2. My favorite thing about Horizon 3 though was the sense of speed I got while racing and listening to the in-game radio. I got the chills racing through the lush forest and then emerging onto a beach while the sun was setting. I've played a lot of racing games and I haven't had this much fun with a demo of a game since the demo of Burnout 3, which is one of my favorite racers of all time. The music selection is great and really gets your adrenaline pumping when a song you like comes on the radio. A couple of other nice features is the ability to customize your license plate and add your friends drivatars to your festival crew.
I'm very excited to get my hands on the full game later this month, I can already tell from the demo that Playground Games has outdone themselves and have a real winner on their hands.
Did you get to play the demo and what were your thoughts of it? Let us know what you thought by leaving a comment below or in the RGM forums!