Before anyone complains, I know the racing action wasn’t really upside-down (although when I was racing, all bets were off) but that was just a reference to the location of Forza Horizon 3, which was Australia. Coming from Playground Games, the same as the others in the series, and with a country as varied as Australia to go at, the scene was set for a truly great experience.

I vividly remember going to Game in my lunch hour to buy Forza Horizon 3, screaming through the mean streets of Nottingham in order to make it back to the office inside an hour, gripping the box in my hot little hand. Willing the clock to move faster, willing the phone to stop ringing, and then willing the traffic to get out of the way so I could insert the disc and start the download of the inevitable update, the wait seemed unbearable. Finally though I was ready to play, and with my son tucked up in bed I hit the open roads of FH3.

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And some roads they were. As is customary in these games, you were dropped straight into a race, this time in a beautifully rendered, all carbon Lamborghini Centenario, and told that these cars need to be got to the Festival site. So what else is there to do but nail it? Screaming through the countryside, with the glorious Lamborghini engine wailing away, the opening of Forza Horizon 3 was pretty much as good as gaming got in those days. Hitting barriers? Pah, it’ll buff out, right? I mean, carbon fibre is pretty forgiving. But then jumping from the Lambo into a Trophy Truck, heading off-road and across beaches, and then in a final flourish, going straight into the first showcase event, it’s safe to say that the start of Forze Horizon 3 was as good as ever.

What was different this time around though was that instead of being a nameless racer trying to make it big in the Festival, we were now the director, and it was our job to make the Festival bigger and better than ever, by gaining fans as we drive about the place. More fans would equal a bigger Festival, and more sites, which in turn would mean more events and so on and so forth. As is usual there were different race types to take part in. Exhibition were single events, usually you against the serried ranks of named Drivatars, while Championship Races pitted you against a series of events. The last type, Rivals, saw you racing against the times set by your friends; this was extremely competitive. Surely it wasn’t just me who stayed up late trying to beat someone’s time, right? And then maybe sending a little message to make sure they knew that you had beaten their best effort? Of course it wasn’t. 

The Bucket List challenges made a return from Forza Horizon 2, and a new feature that was added in Horizon 3 was that of Blueprint events; you could almost remix the races to feature whichever cars you fancied. Off-road race in a Koenigsegg? Why not? Doing the long races in a Volkswagen Beetle, was, with the benefit of hindsight, not my smartest move however!

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Other things making a return were found in the upgrading and tuning of the cars, and many happy hours were spent tinkering under the hood, experimenting with differing degrees of camber and so on.You could also exercise your creative muscles, painting the cars and creating vinyls to decorate them almost infinitely. This has always been one of my favourite parts of playing the Forza games, and while I don’t have the necessary creative skills to make my own designs from scratch, I can (if I may tootle my own trumpet for a moment) recreate pretty much any design I come across. I particularly like the designs on the Japanese D1 drift cars, and love trying to recreate them in games.

The last bit that returned from earlier games were the Barn Find challenges, where you had to follow a rumour to an area, then charge about the place looking for a shed. In said sheds were dilapidated old cars, which could then be done up and made new. 

DLC was a big feature of Forza Horizon 3, and in addition to the usual Car Packs that were released, were those with vehicles ranging from Motorsport vehicles, like the classic Dodge Viper GTS-R, the Porsche pack and a Hoonigan car pack, featuring modified vehicles from the famous Ken Block, such as the Hoonicorn Mustang and the RX-7 drift car. There were also some large scale expansions released for the game as well. Blizzard Mountain featured a whole new area where the snow had been falling, and with dynamic weather, it could be clear skies at the foot of the mountain, and then a near white-out at the top. With new cars and a barn find, this was a great addition. 

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Of course, Playground Games never rest on their laurels, and we also saw an expansion in the form of the snappily named Forza Horizon 3 Hot Wheels. Featuring a new area off the coast with full scale representations of the Hot Wheels car tracks, and the addition of some new cars from the iconic toy brand, such as the Twin Mill, this pack certainly brought something new to the genre. In fact you could probably trace a line from this to the LEGO Speed Champions expansion for Forza Horizon 4.

So, these then are my memories of playing Forza Horizon 3. It was a blast screaming through the outback, and with memorable achievements like “Do a Barrel Roll!” which tasked you with rolling a buggy 360 degrees and back onto its wheels, there was a lot of challenge to go at. But what about you guys out there? Did you play the game on release, or subsequently? Which was you favourite car, your favourite expansion? Let us know in the comments!

Still not played Forza Horizon 3? Get over to the Xbox Store and fix that oddity right now.

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