Forza Horizon 3, the greatest racer in an age, studies the greats

Editor’s note: This is an early impressions piece on Forza Horizon 3 based on a weekend’s play on Xbox One – our full review will be going live early next week, after we’ve tried fully populated online play and tested the PC version.

Well, this is a pleasant surprise. Heading into Forza Horizon 3, I’ll admit to being, if not quite apathetic, then a little blasé about the whole thing. I absolutely adored Playground Games’ last two Forza spin-offs, but after the excellent Mediterranean adventure of 2014’s outing it was hard to see where the series could head next. This was surely set to be an iterative sequel – not a problem when you’re iterating on something as fine as Horizon – but what’s truly exciting about Horizon 3 is how it doesn’t just build on Playground Games’ prior work. It folds all that’s good about a particular, fun-loving strand of the racing game genre into one incredible feast of a game.

Catch it in the right light – preferably that glinting from a set of ludicrously enhanced wheel arches – and Forza Horizon 3 is the best Need for Speed game in years. Its customisation options are deep and, in a real boon for any enthusiasts of tastelessly engorged cars, authentic. Here you can get a Ferrari 458 and for an eye-popping, ear-splitting bastard of a ride, and here you can take a BMW M3 and splice it with a little help from Rocket Bunny to create an extraordinary mutant. This is a game where you can revel in the kind of custom cars showcased by – EA’s own site, rather embarrassingly, given the relatively lacklustre customisation options of its last game – as Horizon beats Need for Speed at its own game.