Milestone’s New IP is Basically a Portion of Forza Horizon 3

gravel_pacific_island_05Trophy Trucks, Dune Buggies, and miscellaneous rally cars? Check. Wide-open, brightly-colored, easy-going circuits surrounded by colorful banners and some sort of fictional automotive festival sharing the name of the software itself? Check. An emphasis on a simcade driving model to try and reel in the largest number of customers possible? Check. If this sounds like Turn 10’s Forza Horizon 3, you’re unfortunately mistaken – it’s actually Milestone’s new intellectual property, operating under a name that’s just as much of a knock-off of superior titles as the gameplay itself – Gravel.

comp-2The Italian developer, known for their officially licensed MotoGP and MXGP releases, as well as Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo and a string of WRC games on the Xbox 360, have now basically taken a portion of Forza Horizon 3 without changing much of anything – most notably the trackside objects indicating a large, fictional automotive festival is taking place & the random array of off-road vehicles competing on semi-closed circuits and point to point events in an open world – and shamelessly built an entire game around it. Don’t get me wrong, I love trophy truck racing, and I definitely miss those late 90’s off-road titles such as Monster Truck Madness 2, which turned you loose on these elaborate fictional courses that were unlike anything the world of sim racing has to offer, but I also like variety. Initial footage of Milestone’s Gravel is almost indistinguishable from Forza Horizon 3, to the point where I genuinely wouldn’t be surprised if the team ran into legal problems, and the game fails to see the light of day when all is said and done.

There’s a difference between many sim developers all including the Nurburgring Nordschleife and the McLaren 650s in their flagship racing titles, versus what Milestone have done with Gravel – creating a new franchise with the exact same style, theme, and content of a product already on the market, and just sort of hoping people don’t notice. Even the skill points have been carried over from Forza Horizon 3, which rewards drivers for power-sliding around corners and destroying trackside objects. It’s really absurd the title got this far in development without a single person at Milestone’s studios saying “hey boss, what we’ve been making kind of looks identical to this other game… so what would make people buy our game over theirs?”

forza-horizon-compariosnGravel will boast around fifty vehicles and a number of diverse environments, offering a simplistic approach to off-road racing, reminiscent of old-school arcade racers such as RallyCross for Sony’s first PlayStation console. There won’t be a lot of thinking or practicing required with this one; it’s designed to be a game you can jump into and have fun when you’re tired of trying to extract that extra tenth out of your favorite car in Assetto Corsa. I obviously dig a good simcade title, as evidenced by recent articles on, but here’s the thing – out of the box, Gravel simply looks boring. There’s nothing to this game that sets it aside from the aforementioned Forza Horizon 3, the Motorstorm series, or its most direct rival: BAJA: Edge of Control HD, which was announced yesterday by THQ Nordic.

The biggest problem I’ve found after examining some of the YouTube videos depicting Gravel in a semi-completed state, is that as a cohesive game, it appears to be extremely bland. Nothing about the reveal makes me excited for the game – it’s like a half-assed attempt was made to bring back something with the depth of Sega Rally Revo, when the market has already voted by and large with their wallets that it simply doesn’t work, and you need significantly more than just “cars on a track.” Not to mention, the AI are ridiculously slow and reduce their speed to a crawl for gentle bends in the racing surface, while the track layout previewed in the above footage doesn’t appear to be challenging in the slightest – any semi-competent driver would be wide open for the entire duration of the lap, and that’s not a compelling experience for anybody who likes racing games. Vehicle selection screens on display near the end of the video promise a diverse array of trucks, sport utility vehicles, and rally cars, though customization options are most likely related to just alternate liveries according to options listed on the menu.

forza_horizon_3_off_road_racingMilestone also don’t have the greatest track record when it comes to pushing out competent pieces of software, so it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Gravel runs well. Though the team have acquired the rights to MotoGP and MXGP, and pushed out officially licensed WRC titles for several years, none of them were all that stable. Most recently, the PlayStation 4 version of Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo has a framerate issue on certain stages that renders the game completely unplayable, where you can physically feel the force feedback de-sync from the picture on screen. All of their games are traditionally left in this state, receiving only a single patch before the team moves on to the next project. It’s pissed a lot of customers off, to put it bluntly.

So like many others who have purchased their products and been burned by the lack of polish, I would prefer Milestone to get their current stable of games right, before expanding to new ones – and a blatant rip-off such as Gravel doesn’t give me hope that there are many creative minds left in the studio.


Get That Arcade Shit Out of Here

screenshot_2017-01-12-08-29-45-1What you’re looking at above is the ultimate display in sim racing elitism. As of today, Facebook’s largest group for discussing our little hobby – over 7,500 users strong – have voted to ban all discussion of both the Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo series, with users who create posts featuring either of the two titles in the future to have their submissions removed at once, and potentially banned from the group altogether after repeated infractions. The latest in a string of incidents which prominently showcase how toxic our community can be to those who refuse to blindly worship obscure PC simulators and broaden their horizons with software constructed for mass market appeal, a survey completed by just 1% of the Facebook group has effectively told a significant portion of our hobby that two perfectly competent simulators are taboo topics because they’re too successful.

Or something.

Earlier this week, I published an article stating I believed the downfall of sim racing was due to iRacing convincing the community that the hobby should be treated as an exclusive online country club rather than a $60 video game, and it appears some of my sentiments are being reflected in how these online groups are being moderated. I feel this is complete bullshit for the community to act in this manner. Both Forza Motorsport 6, as well as Gran Turismo 6, are virtually no more or less hardcore than titles such as Project CARS, Assetto Corsa, and iRacing; refusing to even acknowledge their existence or label them as “arcade games” is pretty hilarious when you actually pick apart the technical aspects of each console release.

Gran Turismo 6

Let’s start with Gran Turismo 6, because I really want to ruffle some feathers off the bat in this post. While many sim racers got their first real taste of the racing simulator genre with the third and fourth entries in the series on the PlayStation 2 before moving onto the Windows gaming platform, Gran Turismo 6 enters the ring as Polyphony’s flagship modern simulator.

The Gran Turismo series, dating all the way back to its inception on Sony’s original PlayStation, has been all about car collecting and JRPG-style grinding, with the core driving experience taking a back seat to garage management and progression elements. Aside from the endurance championships near the end of each game, most races are three lap sprints against an underwhelming artificial intelligence, which are placed well ahead of your starting position to generate a challenge that otherwise wouldn’t be there on a proper starting grid, so it’s certainly not an authentic Le Mans Prototype experience until the final portions of Career mode – and that’ll indeed make some believe it’s an arcade racer.

But there are ways to turn Gran Turismo 6 into something significantly more recognizable as a hardcore sim nerd. Each vehicle in the game comes with tires that are simply too sticky to be realistic, and Polyphony automatically enable most of the driving assists by default – meaning the Gran Turismo 6 most of you have played out of the box is vastly different than a hardcore sim racer’s custom GT6 profile. Taking thirty seconds out of your day to configure your steering wheel, turn off the numerous driving aids, and equip a harder tire compound than the car’s default, Gran Turismo 6 produces a driving experience on-par with most PC simulators. Lap times at Brands Hatch in the GT3 Spec BMW Z4 mirror what the rFactor 2 Endurance GT Payware mod cars are capable of, and the virtual recreations of locations such as Spa, the Nordschleife, and Laguna Seca are phenomenal.

gran-turismo-6-online-3-e1386199093439-638x360Yes, there is a problem with some of the car setup options in Gran Turismo 6 – running no camber at all generates an instant boost in speed when this would instead destroy your tires in real life. However, this exact same bug is present in Project CARS, a game which was financially aided by 35,000 hardcore sim racers. And though the single player events are designed to fuck with gamers via unfair AI head starts and bogus sprint races that almost never bring tire wear or fuel into account, the robust online functionality of the title offers hardcore sim racers the ability to conduct their own events, with proper practice & qualifying sessions, and a traditional rules package that can make use of standing or rolling starts upon the request of the user. Assetto Corsa, on the other hand, currently does not allow PS4 or Xbox One owners to host their own custom lobbies; they are at the mercy of whatever configurations Kunos Simulazioni have put into the dedicated server rotation.

Gran Turismo 6 has been deemed to be an arcade racer and not worthy of discussion by the same community who financially contributed to a different game exhibiting the exact same camber bug as Gran Turismo 6. This same group of people also neglect Gran Turismo 6 despite offering more functionality for hardcore sim racers than a game whose tagline is Your Racing Simulator.

v8supercarsford5falconfgwmforza6Moving on, let’s look at the other title wrongfully thrown under the bus, Forza Motorsport 6. The Forza Motorsport series originally launched in 2005 as Microsoft’s answer to Gran Turismo, but since it’s introduction to the scene a little over a decade ago, most people believe the Forza series has objectively become the better game. The car roster is a great deal more diverse than the fifty different Nissan Skylines and Mazda MX5’s taking up needless space in Gran Turismo, the livery customization elements, auction house, and setup building marketplace have added a virtual Barrett-Jackson element to complement the racing experience, and last but not least, there’s an enormous amount of shit to do in the game.

Like Gran Turismo, but directly addressing GT’s shortcomings, Forza Motorsport gives users several different ways to play through the game – though most of them are intended to appeal to a casual audience. Online races are short and sweet, perks or handicaps can be applied each race to exponentially increase your post race rewards, thus allowing you to accumulate a comprehensive collection of cars, and some of the engine swaps can get pretty absurd. It’s very easy for a hardcore sim racer to become turned off by the flashiness of Forza.

But it’s just as easy to ignore it all. Buried within the career mode are several Endurance racing events which can be entered with only light progression through the main experience – which most wise sim racers will partake in anyways to dial in their wheel settings and explore some of what Forza 6 has to offer. A pretty solid selection of multiple hour endurance races can be attempted using a vast array of modern racing machinery, with the game’s Free Race feature allowing you to configure your own races with virtually any piece of content in the game – which also pay out cash prizes and continue to your career progression. There is nothing stopping you from configuring a 14-lap race at the Nordschleife in any of the historic Formula One entries available in Forza Motorsport 6 to bring Grand Prix Legends into 2017, and if IndyCar is your thing, 50 laps at Long Beach may not be full race distance, but it’s more than enough.

forza-6-enduranceThe aforementioned perks and handicaps can be disabled entirely, and you can even select the number of mandatory pit stops for each race, generating a Forza Motorsport 6 experience decidedly different than the dudebro culture-infused mainstream gameplay you’ve probably seen demonstrated in various videos from annoying YouTube personalities.

Behind the wheel, it’s also not terrible to drive. A good friend of mine owns Forza 6, and I’ve logged many laps with his Logitech G920 exploring everything the game has to offer because that’s what you do on a Friday evening before raceday. Truthfully, it resembles how Assetto Corsa felt about a year ago. The cars are just a hair too planted in all situations, and though it’s something I can forgive considering the scope of Forza and how it’s intended primarily for mass-market appeal, I find it hilarious when Assetto Corsa owners knock Forza Motosrport 6 for somehow being “less serious” of a racing simulator – in this particular case, an arcade game. Forza, as it stands right this minute, drives how Assetto Corsa did on the PC in the spring of 2016. Unless you’re a phenomenally inexperienced driver who cannot possibly begin to diagnose car handling discrepancies, or just that ridiculously determined to become part of some exclusive PC sim racer club because you desperately need something to belong to, I’m a bit lost at how Forza Motorsport 6 is being labeled an arcade game when it feels roughly the same as Assetto Corsa once did.

Especially given some of the other bells and whistles found in Forza Motorsport 6. The Long Beach Street Circuit still hasn’t been completed for iRacing – instead being sold as an unfinished tech track with barely any scenery – and if you see it in YouTube videos by any chance, it’s a bit embarrassing. On the other hand, operating on inferior hardware compared to modern PC’s, the Xbox One version of Forza Motorsport 6 boasts a beautiful rendition of Long Beach, as well as the 2016 aero kits for the Dallara DW12, while iRacing still operates using an outdated 2012 model. Forza Motorsport 6 also includes in-game functionalities for livery and setup-sharing, whereas iRacing members are forced to download a third party program and manually browse the forums just for a whiff at custom content. And though the game does not ship with a safety car, caution flags which serve a purpose, or the ability to jump the start, the first two features are not functional in Assetto Corsa. Instead, owners of Forza Motorsport 6 get to play in the rain as compensation – a weather variant only found in rFactor 2 and Project CARS.

This somehow warrants Forza Motorsport 6 being labeled an “arcade game.”

maxresdefaultIn conclusion, it’s frustrating to see the elitists of the sim community deem perfectly decent alternatives to hardcore PC racing sims as arcade games that are against the rules to talk about in very large sim racing communities. Forza and Gran Turismo are solid titles, both of which I personally enjoy, and while I’ll obviously stick to my isiMotor stuff for competitive league racing, there’s nothing inherently wrong with what Forza or Gran Turismo bring to the genre. Both series make a genuine effort to accommodate the hardcore users alongside the casual audience, and it’s very bizarre to see sim racers outright ignore these elements.

Gran Turismo 6 has infinitely more online functionality than Assetto Corsa, generates the same lap times as rFactor 2, and exhibits the same bugs as Project CARS, yet Assetto Corsa is the game sim racers are masturbating over, Project CARS is the game they’re throwing money at to help develop, and rFactor 2 is what they’re shitposting about on every message board that hasn’t banned them for their viral marketing efforts, all while calling Gran Turismo an arcade game.

Forza Motorsport 6 admittedly does slightly more to cater to the casual players, but all of these little diversions to the core experience can be set to off, and you can still play Forza as a modern substitute for GTR 2 or Assetto Corsa – with plenty of hardcore endurance events to select from, as well as your own custom races even counting towards your profile’s overall progression. Yes, there are stupid perks, three lap sprints, prize wheels, and a whole bunch of assists enabled by default. You can scrap all of those and run three hundred laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway, or 50 laps at Road America if you’d like.

Yet nobody ever dares to mention any of this.

It’s as if I wasn’t kidding when I said sim racers want the genre to be an elite online club so they can finally feel like they belong to something, rather than a selection of driving games which require a slightly higher base level of skill to be successful at.

Gran Turismo 6

Playground Games Accidentally Upload Unpacked Version of Forza Horizon 3

t3_5lveahIt hasn’t been the greatest couple of months for the crew at Playground Games. Given the task of successfully executing the Forza franchise’s very first multi-platform release with Forza Horizon 3 on both the Xbox One and Windows 10, the team instead royally fucked up and shipped a horrendous copy of the game for home computers that was basically unplayable for a large portion of those wanting to explore the virtual paradise Playground Games had built. Suffering from widespread performance issues and an intrusive post-release downloadable content plan that saw users pay an arm and a leg for the back half of the game, Forza Horizon 3 has been described by our very own Severin Austerschmidt as “an unreliable piece of software that coughs, hacks, and stutters its way through a beautiful rendition of Australia’s Gold Coast”

With patches that haven’t always managed to fix the game’s nagging problems, and in some cases broken the experience for those who weren’t reporting any gremlins, Forza Horizon 3 has unfortunately become known as that game in the series, where four years from now gamers will look back  and question what in the hell was happening at Microsoft to place such a defective product onto the Windows store. The PC variant of Horizon 3 very well should have been delayed, with Playground conducting their own version of quality assurance testing after the game was put up for purchase.

Today, the train wreck continues. Playground Games have accidentally pushed out a 53 gigabyte update for the Windows 10 rendition of Forza Horizon 3, which was a complete developer build of the game; totally unpacked for users to toy around with.

untitled-2For a limited amount of time, this allowed hardcore Forza Motorsport fans to click around inside the title’s extensive file structure and explore everything Playground Games had planned to include within future updates – in particular the complete roster of cars, which contained numerous Porsche models that obviously haven’t been announced to the public as of yet.

The entire vehicle list has been uploaded to an album on Imgur, indicating Playground Games clearly aren’t done with their support of Forza Horizon 3, but with such amateurish mistakes now clogging up the hard drives of several Windows 10 users around the world, it’s stuff like this that really makes you question how capable Playground Games were of putting out a top-class product that reflected Microsoft’s vision of the greater Forza franchise. Marred by performance issues and general instability that simply did not resemble a first-party piece of software in the slightest, the saga surrounding Horizon 3 is officially showing no signs of stopping. Uploading a fifty-three gigabyte decrypted version of your game to the Windows store is a new level of sloppiness that is rarely matched in the industry, and hopefully a time will come where this has all been put behind us.

Unfortunately, with Microsoft and Turn 10 forcing Playground Games to adhere to a very strict post-release support schedule, the software will most likely achieve a state of stability well after the blitz of downloadable content has ended. Those choosing to indulge in the steady stream of new vehicles and challenges are forced to play roulette with the software – something they shouldn’t be doing with an official Microsoft product.

DLC for a Demo? Yep, We’re At That Point…

headerTurn 10 Studios have had a pretty difficult time with the Forza Motorsport franchise finally arriving on the Windows 10 operating platform, but things are set to get even more incomprehensibly stupefying. Originally treading water in the strange, new world of purpose-built PC simulators with a light version of Forza Motorsport 6 dubbed Forza 6: Apexwhich was intended to be little more than a fleshed-out tech demoTurn 10 have followed the abysmal release of Forza Horizon 3 for the PC with additional paid downloadable content for Forza 6: Apex.

That’s right, the glorified tech demo that generally disappointed those who took the time to try it out, featuring barely any content whatsoever compared to its Xbox One counterpart, now boasts two individual car packs alongside the inclusion of Germany’s Nurburgring Nordschleife – all of which pieces of add-on content you’ll have to pay for.

It’s a bit of a questionable practice for a franchise that fell flat on its face not once, but twice. Forza Motorsport 6: Apex did not even feature dedicated steering wheel support at launch, and by the time hardcore sim racers were finally blessed with a product they could merely use their plastic wheels with – albeit poorly, Forza Horizon 3 landed on store shelves as a buggy and unplayable mess, where users were banned from online elements for running third party performance tweaks in the background just to get a stable framerate, and intrusive downloadable content plans reached even further into the wallets of seasoned Forza players. Both Turn 10 and Playground Games are still yet to rectify the problems plaguing each of their respective current entries in the Forza franchise, but it’s still full steam ahead for more downloadable content.

app48416-13510798887936226-1152921504712673259-6e2105b6-b98b-4f11-a0af-2aae17a69b6bA slap to the face for consumers? I’d say so. Here you have a franchise that many were eagerly looking forward to arriving on the PC platform, and every other week it seems there’s a new way to display how the entire endeavor has been mismanaged from the start. Forza Motorsport 6: Apex was meant to be an elaborate tech demo, and there’s absolutely nothing compelling about the game to warrant users to spend upwards of $20 for an extra thirty minutes of playtime. Again, Apex was not a proper Forza release with a massive Career to progress through, nor does it come loaded with all of the fun customization elements or even an online segment that have really come to define the full-featured releases on the Xbox family of gaming consoles. Microsoft and Turn 10 are literally selling paid DLC for a singleplayer demo of Forza on the PC.

This stupidity is further enhanced by some of the special editions of Forza Horizon 3 that are offered at select retailers – in some instances asking upwards of $120 for the complete set of upcoming downloadable content and additional expansions. Consumers, quite frankly, are Forza’d-out; they don’t want to spend any more money on Forza games for a while, and yet here comes Microsoft trying to nickel and dime their audience by offering paid DLC for a demo. Are you obligated to buy it? No, of course not. But the mere statement Microsoft and Turn 10 have made with these premium packages indicates these guys aren’t bringing Forza to the PC in an effort to go toe to toe with the established names that have dominated the sim racing landscape; they’re here to make a quick buck, and really don’t give a shit as to how they do it.

The Only Forza Horizon 3 Review You Need to Read


I understand we’re extremely late with our review of Forza Horizon 3, as the game has been out for almost an entire month, but this isn’t due to our own laziness. At launch, none of us actually had the Windows 10 operating system installed on our PC’s, neither James nor Maple wanted to take the plunge on a controversial package that had been routinely making headlines for all the wrong reasons, and I personally had an exam that quite simply deserved a significant portion of my attention. When I finally did get around to purchasing Forza Horizon 3, both for my own enjoyment and to review on, two consecutive patches released by Playground Games turned Forza Horizon 3 into an unplayable mess, to the point where the task of finishing the game felt more like a chore.

I really wanted to enjoy what Forza Horizon 3 has to offer, but Microsoft, Turn 10, and Playground Games have pushed out an unreliable piece of software that coughs, hacks, and stutters its way through a beautiful rendition of Australia’s Gold Coast – an experience that is simply unacceptable in 2016, and does not reflect the traditionally polished product one could expect when purchasing a Forza title in the past.

Landing simultaneously on both the Xbox One and Windows 10, Forza Horizon 3 was introduced to the gaming public on September 27th, 2016; the first time a major Forza release has been offered to PC gamers, as the franchise has spent the past decade operating solely as an Xbox exclusive. On Windows 10, Forza Horizon 3 cannot be purchased through retailers or in any third party online shops such as Steam, requiring you to install or upgrade to Windows 10, open the Windows Store app, navigate to the Forza Horizon 3 store page, and purchase the game through the dashboard. Horizon 3 is massively over-priced in the European Storefront – going for a whopping $76 US after currency conversion, whereas the North American version is the standard $59.99. I tried going the route of purchasing Horizon 3 through various other countries’ stores, but the application continued to give me an error message that said they could not process the payment, and I was forced to come to terms with the fact that I was paying a lot more than anyone else outside of Europe.

Downloading and installing Horizon 3 was a pain in the ass, as we’ve documented in detail here at The only way to download Horizon 3 was through the Windows store, which as an application is prone to frequent crashing, freezing, or randomly aborting downloads. It doesn’t display at what rate the files are transferring, nor does it inform you how much time it’ll take to finish the download. Sometimes the store is in the process of downloading an app – visible through the task manager or your Ethernet driver – but the progress bar is frozen, leaving you extremely confused. Choosing a simple install location is more or less impossible as well; you’re only allowed to choose the hard disk drive you want to download apps, and nothing else, which results in three or four different folders suddenly appearing in your home directory. Windows 10 doesn’t even create a folder in which it puts the different sub folders. Quite simply, it’s a mess.

Virtual cancer

Forza Horizon 3 immediately lets you know that Microsoft and Playground Games have no idea what the fuck they’re doing on the PC, as the game opens in a windowed, borderless state – as do all Windows 10 games downloaded from the Windows Store. It is still currently impossible to run Forza Horizon 3 in true full screen mode. Now despite the automatic options analyzing my system and recommending me to select High visual settings, in reality this meant that I’d be subjected to a below-average 30 frames per second; less than ideal for a game intended to show off what my PC can do through the backroads of Australia.

speccy october 2016

Initially, the performance of the game was quite good, apart from the weird, rubber-banding feeling you’d get through Horizon 3’s frame smoothing option when you arrived at a particularly detailed area within the game world. On highway segments and in races through the countryside, Horizon 3 remained locked at the 30 frames per second I told it to remain at, as unlocking the framerate would make the game feel like chewing gum. It was as if Horizon 3 was slowing down in order to compensate for the fluctuating framerate, and it was all sorts of fucked up to watch in motion.

The first of the three major patches seemed to increase performance and eradicate most of the framerate drops I had been experiencing – even getting rid of the weird rubber-banding effects in high traffic locations – but the two most recent updates turned Forza Horizon 3 into an unplayable mess for myself and many others. The second major patch introduced a bug that would break my explorer.exe process every time I launched the game, rendering the task bar absolutely useless and limit my ability to bring up the Start menu. The only way to fix this was to restart my PC, as simply shutting down the process and restarting it wouldn’t rectify the issue. The third update, which didn’t drop too long ago, was the final straw for myself, as the performance took a drastic nosedive, barely reaching 30 frames per second, stuttering all over the place, and reaching single-digit FPS values. I had to massively decrease my visual settings in order to make the game playable, which I find totally unacceptable given the game worked relatively okay after the first update.

The game also intrusively pushes something called the Groove Music Service on you during normal gameplay, trying to bait you into a free 14-day trial via the way of annoying pop ups, but thankfully in my experience I was able to click away from these and never had to deal with them again. Other people haven’t been so lucky.

After several patches, Forza Horizon 3 finally has decent wheel support, however this is one of the few racing games on the market that performs perfectly fine with a standard console controller as well. The application automatically detects both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controllers, so you aren’t even required to use a third party plugin like Input Mapper or DS4Windows as Matt Orr has talked about. You can change all sorts of deadzone values for your wheel, select the steering ratio, and a whole bunch of little oddities that are typically found in hardcore racing simulators – which was really nice to see. Horizon 3 also offers multiple sets of driving physics, but I found the Normal settings to be more realistic than the Simulation selection, as the latter suffers from an artificial decrease in tire grip that makes catching most simple slides almost impossible.

FH3 settings

With the settings you see above, Horizon 3 actually drives incredibly well for a casual-oriented mass market racing game. It feels extremely close to the Codemasters DiRT series prior to the ultra-Hardcore DiRT Rally, which in this case is quite the compliment. You can provoke slides and drift as long as you want provided you’ve got enough horsepower, different tire compounds make a tangible difference on how your car handles at the edge of the tire, and when it rains, there is a massive change in your driving style required to be successful. Horizon 3 packs an abundance of the almighty Simulation Value we often joke about here at into what on the surfaces is a decidedly lighthearted package, and I really appreciate the overall direction this title is aimed in.

There are several kinds of surfaces in Horizon 3, such as wet sand, desert sand, gravel, tarmac, mud, and grass, and your car always behaves differently on each of them, but never in a way that’s canned or unrealistic. When going from tarmac to sand, for example, it becomes much harder to accelerate or corner, but at the same time, drifting becomes extremely easy. Unfortunately, the AI doesn’t appear to play by the same set of rules compared to the player car, as they’re virtually unbeatable on tarmac thanks to an excessive amount of assisted grip and the way Horizon 3 consistently places you far from the front row on the starting grid.

Gaps between yourself and the AI cars on Unbeatable difficulty are almost impossible to make up fairly, requiring you to smash and bash your way to the front – which doesn’t do any favors for the mentality of the average virtual racer when they test out online races. However, when the AI takes a trip off road, they’re absolutely fucking horrible, especially in lower class cars. You can easily stomp them by two or three seconds per lap, an insane amount of real estate compared to how they decimate you on tarmac, and this is really noticeable once you start fooling around in the numerous Hypercars and dedicated race cars offered in Horizon 3.

bad ai

Despite Horizon 3 offering a mammoth version of Australia’s Gold Coast to explore, the game doesn’t actually require you to do a whole lot of driving compared to other open world racers such as Test Drive Unlimited or Need for Speed Underground, as you’re given the ability to warp to the game’s festival sites – which serve as your garage, paint shop, aftermarket performance tuning center, and overall central hub at any given time. It’s a bit of an odd design decision; Horizon 3 gives you a sweet open world to roam at your desires, but couldn’t care less about you exploring it. The game also allows you to spend a lot of time messing around with in-depth tuning and upgrade options, but many “Quick Upgrade” buttons exist to simplify the process and really discourage players from diving deep into what Horizon 3 has to offer on that spectrum of the game. The livery marketplace returns from previous Forza titles, allowing you to apply a pre-made wrap from the community almost immediately after purchasing your car, though the entire customization process – whether we’re talking about the livery screen or upgrading your vehicle – is plagued by performance issues which make navigating these menus extremely painful and time consuming.


The story of Horizon 3 is almost non-existent, but as this is an open world racing game, I don’t mind it at all – especially considering titles which have experimented with heavy narrative elements like The Crew and Test Drive Unlimited 2 haven’t been received very well. Unlike the previous games, where you’ve been competing in this sort of Soundwave-like street racing festival, Horizon 3 now assumes you’ve played the previous two entries and allow you to assume the role of organizer thanks to your veteran status, and for the first time in the series you’re able to customize your identity. Along with traditional circuit and point-to-point races, the offshoot events from previous Horizon titles focused on drifting, destruction, scoring style points, and competing against random gimmick vehicles have all returned, making for a very familiar experience. You essentially are given free reign of the map to complete events, purchase cars, and earn experience points – which the game calls “fans” – giving you the task of upgrading the numerous festival locations around the map in the way you see fit. It’s not a linear form of progression by any means, but it’s not a complete sandbox, either.

Australia as a game world is a lively one, with pedestrian traffic cars and fellow racers populating the world, though what really stuck out to me was the total lack of diversity in the traffic cars I was whizzing by in my travels – according to Playground Games, everyone in Australia owns a BMW X5, Abarth 500, or Holden Ute. This lack of diversity is also reflected in the “drivatars” – virtual representations of real players that roam around as AI vehicles in your campaign. I’m not sure whether it’s due to the abundance of teenagers playing Horizon 3, or if it’s a poor algorithm calculation, but nine out of every ten drivatars I run across are piloting a Koenigsegg when you’re sitting in a hypercar. The drivatars can also be quite scripted at times, as when you’re competing in an offshoot event like the aforementioned speed challenges or drift competitions, there’s a sharp increase in the number of AI traffic vehicles. You can circumvent this issue by going into a private online session – removing all drivatars from the game world – though it’s a pain in the ass on the end user.


Visually, Australia is absolutely beautiful, and I’m really pleased with how diverse the map in Horizon 3 is compared to Colorado and Europe in the first two games. It consists of several different biomes such as the outback, the rainforest, a suburb, and even a major city, meaning there isn’t a central theme surrounding the game compared to the original Horizon’s reddish-brown hue that was present at all times. I personally wish a bit more effort had been put into fleshing out the game world in terms of fauna and Australian citizens roaming city streets away from the major festival sites, though I’m sure the lack of pedestrians is one of those things that had to be omitted for licensing reasons.

For the time I was able to invest in Forza Horizon 3 before my game became crippled with technical issues that shouldn’t appear in a flagship Microsoft product, I’m able to confirm that this is one of the best arcade racers ever made, and really brings me back to the days of Need for Speed Underground 2, where top to bottom the complete package offered an extremely enjoyable experience. The same enthusiasm I felt for Underground 2, and how perfectly the car physics had been massaged back then to appeal to multiple crowds, is how I feel about the raw driving experience in Horizon 3. Events are short, sweet, and enjoyable provided you stick with an AI difficulty level that doesn’t outright cheat, and the introduction of incredibly diverse biomes finally justifies the extensive roster of cars you accumulate throughout the campaign mode. Had the horrible patches not broke Horizon 3 for me, I’d feel comfortable giving this game’s equivalent of a perfect score, but those who are on the fence about this game should continue to monitor the community message boards and Forza Motorsport Subreddit until there’s a unanimous consensus that everything has been fixed before taking the plunge.

Auf Wiedersehen