The latest Horizon festival is set in Eastern Australia, from Byron Bay up to Surfers Paradise and the Outback. The location is perfect for the sprawling adventure driving Horizon offers in between intense racing and ridiculous stunts. Australia presents a naturally diverse range of locations and road types within a short distance, with each of the map's biomes holding a distinct appeal.
One moment you have the rugged off-road tracks of the outback, then next there's tight road racing through luscious rainforest. The location is so perfect, in fact, that it seems odd that it is Playground Games' third choice for the series. From the opening race, the series feels more at home in Aussie than it ever did in Colorado or Italy. Not to say that those weren’t great locations, it just shows how great a fit Australia is for Horizon.
A large part of what makes the world so engaging is the stunning graphical fidelity with which it is realised. Horizon 3 is easily one of the best looking console games available (and that is without having seen the HDR options available on the Xbox One S). The world is a wonder to behold as you speed through its streets and fields. More than once, I crashed into the side of a mountain travelling in excess of 250kmph, simply because of a particularly eye catching vista. It’s at moments like these that I was happy to have Forza's rewind system, as well as the game's camera tools, which allow you to regard its breath-taking landscapes from the safety of frozen time. Horizon 3 also features a dynamic time and weather system, which keep the Australian landscape an ever-changing visual feast.
Despite how awesome Australia looks, the stars of the show remain its cars. As such, the series feels like a more sincere celebration of cars and car culture than it ever has. Granted, a large part of this might be the special attention Horizon 3 pays to the cars worshipped by Australia and New Zealand enthusiasts. Throughout the map you can discover “Barn Finds”, which are cars the festival runners have found stored in barns throughout the map. Here, you arrive to find classic Australian cars all beat up and just waiting to be restored. Your character stands and regards the once-great car, just waiting to be great again – it’s a moment likely familiar to many car enthusiasts. With this small touch, Playground Games proves it understands the car enthusiast experience, and that it wants to celebrate it through this title.
The range of driveable cars here is more diverse than ever, boasting a whopping 350+ cars in the base game, with another 100+ coming as DLC. Every manufacturer is exceedingly well represented, with all eras and styles displayed in incredible detail. I was concerned pre-launch that 350 cars would be overwhelming, however the game does a great job of staggering the collection, rolling it out to you as you develop the festival. This staggered approach allows you to experience and appreciate all the cars and their various drive styles, rather than immediately jump to super cars as we all want to do.
As with previous Horizon titles, you will be offered countless racing options as part of the festival, as well as numerous side activities that are dotted throughout the map. The racing in Horizon 3 is particularly good, having built at this point on all eight previous Forza titles. Its distinct blend of simulation with a slightly arcade feel is exact yet thrilling, and there are still few things more fun than using other cars as a platform from which to take corners at 200kmph (I apologise to anyone who has to deal with this kind of douchebaggery from my Driveatar).
The side activities such as jumps and speed cameras use features of the map to present challenges with three star tiers. Unlike the races, many of these challenges cannot necessarily be three star completed from the get go – many require late game car speeds and handling to accomplish. Though this can be frustrating for completionists like myself, it is satisfying to buy a new car and realise that you might now have the speed necessary to make that 200 foot jump.