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September 2018

Forza Horizon 3

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Playground Games
Release Date: Sept. 27, 2016


XOne/PC Preview - 'Forza Horizon 3'

by Adam Pavlacka on Sept. 15, 2016 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

You're in charge of the Horizon Festival. Customize everything, hire and fire your friends, and explore Australia in over 350 of the world's greatest cars. Make your Horizon the ultimate celebration of cars, music, and freedom of the open road. How you get there is up to you.

Pre-order Forza Horizon 3

It's been nearly two years since Forza Horizon 2 landed on the Xbox One, and Forza Horizon 3 is around the corner. In the time since the last game, the series has gone both multi-platform and cross-buy, which is great news for PC gamers. The Xbox One has also gotten a minor hardware refresh in the form of the Xbox One S, which adds 4K UHD playback and HDR video support. Later this month, Forza Horizon 3 will be one of the first games on the market to use those new hardware features.

The game will still run on the original Xbox One hardware, but it won't have support for HDR video unless you are playing on either the Xbox One S or a Windows 10 PC with a supported video card. HDR doesn't fundamentally change the way the game plays, but it does add an extra level of realism to the on-screen image by way of increased color depth. You'll also need a HDR-capable display to view the improved image, but if you have the hardware, it makes for a pretty picture.

Set in Australia, the third installment of Forza Horizon offers players more of what made the franchise popular in the first place: open-world racing powered by realistic car simulations, more vehicles than you can easily keep track of, and a rockin' soundtrack. There are some new features, such as drift zones (similar to speed zones), stunts and drone mode, but what really promises to raise the bar for Forza Horizon 3 is the level of customization.

In previous Forza games, players always had the option of customizing their cars, but here, you can customize almost every event in what's dubbed Blueprint mode. You can choose the cars, the weather, and pretty much whatever you choose. The developers say that it is a way to make the game experience completely your own. I played around a little bit with this at a Microsoft preview event, and Blueprint is the one feature that I can't wait to push to its limits once I have my hands on the full game.

Drone mode is the other highly promising new feature, as it allows you to get out of the car for the first time and freely explore the world. In previous Forza games, you could get out of the car in photo mode, but you were limited to an area immediately around the car. Not so here. With drone mode, you take control of an aerial drone and can fly anywhere you desire. It's a great way to explore the world, even if it does feel a bit like cheating if you use it to discover barn finds.

Sound and music remain a strong point of the Forza Horizon series, with car sounds well represented and music stations running the gamut of choice. What's cool about Forza Horizon 3 is that Groove Music is now a station, so you can load up your own tunes and play them in-game. Yes, that means you can have a completely custom soundtrack.

The campaign in Forza Horizon 3 can be played solo, or in co-op with up to four players. Anything that you can do in solo mode can be done in co-op, including Blueprint races. Events and challenges can be shared with friends, so if you come up with something cool, you can make sure they see it as well. Car clubs will support up to 1,000 players.

Content creators will appreciate the return of an auction house. Absent from Forza Horizon 2, the auction house will allow you to sell anything that you can create in-game. Every single player has a storefront, so it doesn't matter if you are a professional designer or a first-time creator.

Playground Games plans on supporting Forza Horizon 3 with post-launch content in the form of Forzathon, which offers time-limited challenges with prizes that will not be available in any other mode. Examples include the Nissan Silvia S14, which will be a prize on Oct. 14, and the Maserati 300S, which can only be won between Oct. 17 and Oct. 21.

On the Xbox One and the Xbox One S, Forza Horizon 3 is limited to 1080p and 30fps, but PC players with hardware to spare should be able to push those limits. The PC build of the game will support 4K displays, HDR and as many fps and your hardware can handle. I didn't get a chance to play around with the PC build at the demo event, so more detailed impressions will have to wait until release. One thing to note: Playground Games promised that full wheel support will be available in the PC version.

Forza Horizon 2 was one of the best games available for the Xbox One when it launched, and Forza Horizon 3 looks to be walking down that same path. Check back later this month to find out if the game can go the distance or if it suffers a blowout in the first mile.

Editor's Note: For more on Forza Horizon 3 and to see Blueprint mode in action, check out this interview with Creative Director Ralph Fulton.

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