Gaming

Forza Horizon 3: Best racing game this year

Forza Horizon 3 racing game is a visual feast with some breathtaking graphics and immaculately crafted environments.
Forza Horizon 3 racing game is a visual feast with some breathtaking graphics and immaculately crafted environments.PHOTO: MICROSOFT STUDIOS

The scenery and graphics are great but there is no time for sightseeing in this game

The original Forza Horizon was a open racing game set in Colorado, in the United States. Forza Horizon 2 took you along the French/Italian Riviera with three times more racing area than its predecessor.

Now, Forza Horizon 3 brings you Down Under along the great ocean road, featuring an open world map that is twice the size of the previous one. With the increased area, you can drive on the many terrains that Australia has to offer.

But whether it is the lush rainforest, rugged outback, Twelve Apostles' sandy beaches, or the tower skyscrapers of Surfers Paradise, the game is a visual feast with some breathtaking graphics and immaculately crafted environments.

Weather effects, such as rain and lightning, are realistic, with water puddles, puffy clouds and clear blue skies looking simply gorgeous. Several times during the review, I found myself wanting to just stop the car and admire the view.

But there is no time for sightseeing in this game, as there are more than 350 cars that you need to drive - from the Audi R8 supercar to the Ford F-150 truck. That's 150 more cars than in Forza Horizon 2.

Each car handles differently, and you will immediately notice the differences in torque, cornering and braking abilities when you drive it.

  • 10/10

    RATING

    PRICE: $69.90 (PC; Xbox One, version tested)

    GENRE: Racing

You start off the game driving the new 2017 Lamborghini Centenario, before reaching your destination - the Horizon Festival.

Like its predecessors, you will be taking part in the Horizon Festival, a car and music festival with plenty of parties and races all day and night.

Unlike the past versions where you are a rookie competitor, you are now in charge of the festival. This means you can customise races to your liking, such as having a German cars-only race, or pitting the Subaru Impreza WRX against the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo. But it also means you will need to attract more fans in order to grow the festival. How? By racing, of course.

Similar to its predecessors, you can race against drivatars - artificial intelligence avatars of real players. Your drivatar will be doing the same in other players' games to gain experience points for you when you are not driving in the game.

You can also earn in-game credits (used to upgrade or buy cars), gain experience points and garner more fans by participating in public relations stunts like making a jump over a cliff or racing against a train.

But the core gameplay is still old-fashioned racing, whether it is lap-based or checkpoint-based races. In lap races, you complete laps on closed roads. Checkpoint races take place on open roads and you need to race from one point to another, during which you have to cope with plenty of slow-moving traffic.

To enter such races, you drive to certain locations to set them up. You can either pull up the world map or use Kinect by saying "Anna". She is your in-car voice assistant and can help you plot routes and suggest what you should do next.

Driving to those locations is never boring. You will be accompanied by pounding soundtracks from one of the eight in-game radio stations (up from three in its predecessor) that blast music ranging from hip-hop to classical.

The sound effects are awesome. The roar of the engine differs from car to car. Even when you move from asphalt to dirt track, the audible contact between rubber and ground is clearly discernible.

Driving mechanics is also top- notch. You can adjust the difficulty level to suit your driving skill. If you want a more realistic drive, you can turn off the driving assists, such as traction control or assisted braking.

You can also turn off the rewind feature that allows you to turn back time (if you crash just seconds before the finishing line, the rewind feature can save you from restarting a race).

In addition, you can tune your car in any way you can think of, such as changing gear ratio, tyre pressure and camber adjustment.

Thus, whether you want a racing- simulator experience or an arcade- racer one, it is all up to you. My only gripe? I really can't find any.

• Verdict: Catering to gamers of different skills and offering details in almost every level of gameplay, the Forza Horizon 3 is quite simply the best racing game this year. Period.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2016, with the headline 'Forza Horizon 3: Best racing game this year'. Print Edition | Subscribe