Playground Games opening new studio for non-racing title

Playground Games, the Leamington Spa-based developer behind the outstanding Forza Horizon series, is opening a new studio to build an open world game that’s outside of the racing genre.

“Opening another studio is something we’ve been talking about for a good few years, but we’ve been keen not to rush into it,” “It’s a great opportunity for us to test ourselves in a different genre.”

Founded in 2010 by a team of veterans from studios such as Codemasters, Bizarre Creations and Criterion Games, Playground Games has developed three Forza Horizon titles in partnership with Microsoft. The studio is independent, however, and as yet has nothing to announce on what platforms its new project will be coming to. It will mark a new challenge for a developer that’s previously worked exclusively in the racing genre.

It looks like Microsoft just accidentally released the debug version of Forza Horizon 3

Someone at Microsoft had a pretty awful first day back at work after the festive break, with an update to that was pushed out on PC inadvertently releasing the dev build of Playground Games’ open world racer. Even worse, the 53GB update has been corrupting save files of some players.

Since the mistaken update went live yesterday it’s been removed and replaced, and . If you were to play that version of the game and started a new save file, you’re likely to have corrupted your save game. Which could hurt a bit.

Another byproduct of the mistaken update is that will introduce a variety of models from the Stuttgart marque. 14 have been spotted in the files that were released, ranging from the ’56 356 A up to the ’15 Cayman GTS, though personally I’m a bit more excited by the Lola T70 that’s also been spotted.

The only problem with Blizzard Mountain is how good Forza Horizon 3 was in the first place

Forza Horizon 3 was good. Well, Forza Horizon 3 still is really, really good, and after some 30 hours I’m still having a great time fiddling around in its wilderness, and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. Driving from the tip of its coastline deep into its sun-baked heart, taking in the many and varied sights as I made my way to Redstone Airport in order to be jetted out to the separate Blizzard Mountain map, I realised I wasn’t quite ready to leave when there was so much in the main game left to do. Churlish, I know, and it’s hardly Playground Games’ fault that they created an open world that was so generous first time round.

Blizzard Mountain grabs your attention from the off. Your all-new Ford Focus RS Gymkhana is strapped to a helicopter (and its Ken Block livery is a reminder, if you really needed one, that this is former members of the Dirt team proving what they can do when they head off-road), unbound into an electric downhill descent that happens at breakneck speed.

To say it’s exhilarating would be to do it a disservice, and the best thing Blizzard Mountain does is introduce two new events that make the most of its finest asset. Hillclimbs have you winding your way to the peaks, but it’s the descents where the magic lies. Here you can let gravity do its thing as you try to keep out of the scenery, the descent almost daring you to press the throttle as you thunder on down. It’s amazing, and unlike anything that’s been in Forza Horizon to date.

Forza Horizon 3’s big expansion dated and detailed

Forza Horizon 3’s first big expansion has been dated and detailed, and as suggested in an earlier tease it introduces extreme snow and ice to the series in a new themed campaign.

Dubbed Blizzard Mountain, the expansion features 50 new events and seven new cars, all equipped to take on the conditions. This year’s Ford Focus Gymkhana is in, as are more vintage beasts such as the Group B Lancia Delta S4. There’s also an all-new barn find for players to unearth.

There’s no word on how exactly the new expansion will fit into the existing map – presumably like Forza Horizon 2’s Storm Island it’ll be an all-new self-contained area – though we do know that it is out on December 13th.

Microsoft selling original Xbox One bundles for £180

Following on from September’s , Microsoft’s now selling original 500GB Xbox One bundles for as little as £180 – and in most cases you get a free copy of the superb Forza Horizon 3.

Over at the , Microsoft has the Xbox One Gears of War: Ultimate Edition bundle on sale at £179.99 – that’s down from £249.99.

Also £179.99 is the Xbox One Quantum Break bundle.

It looks like Forza Horizon 3’s first big expansion is heading to New Zealand

Forza Horizon 3 – which, in case you didn’t know already, – just , and it looks like it’ll be taking the game away from the Australian mainland.

At least that’s what the image of a snow-frosted Lamborghini suggests. I’ve never been to Australia, but I had a penpal from over there when I was 10 years old who’d ask me what snow looked like as he’d never seen it before. In return I asked him if he knew Alan Jones. We didn’t stay in touch for long.

So, where could it be headed? New Zealand’s an obvious bet, and having seen all of The Lord of The Rings films I’m fairly certain there is both snow and dragons and hobbits in the land of the Kiwi, all of which would be perfect fits for Playground Studios’ open-world driving game. Forza: Middle Earth – who wouldn’t want to play that?

Jelly Deals roundup: SOMA, Dark Souls 3, ReCore, and more

A note from the editor: Jelly Deals is a new deals site launched by our parent company, Gamer Network, with a mission to find the best bargains out there. (It also has the best name.) We’ve invited the Jelly Deals team to share a weekly roundup of (mostly) gaming-related bargains with us, so we can pass their tips on to you. Full disclosure: if you make a purchase from one of these links, we will receive a small commission from the retailer. Hopefully you’ll find it useful!

This week, I spent an exorbitant amount of time taking in the sun, sea and sand of impossibly pretty Australia in Forza Horizon 3 before taking the harsh left-turn into a grimy, fictionalised version of 1960s New Orleans in Mafia 3. While I’m still reeling from the dissonance whiplash of that, nothing will stop the deals from coming and thus, we’re back yet again to gather up a few of the best prices and offers from the past week. Let’s get to it, then.

First, we’ve got some deals that should work in the UK as well as the US (and probably many other places), then we’ll check out the UK’s best before finishing off with some US offers.

Face-Off: Forza Horizon 3

Could this be our first look at how Xbox One titles will look on next year’s Project Scorpio? Forza Horizon 3 represents a fascinating balance between looking good and running well on current generation console hardware while at the same time scaling up to provide an improved experience on high-end kit. Combined with the cross-platform nature of the new Play Anywhere system, what’s clear is that Microsoft is laying the foundations for Scorpio’s arrival right now – and it looks great.

It helps that the Forza Horizon engine is so solid to begin with, to the point where it looks so good at 1080p, you can’t help but wonder whether we actually need a new wave of consoles at all. If there was one takeaway from this year’s E3, it was that the first party wares from both Microsoft and Sony are punching seriously above their weight, compared to the outputs we’ve seen from equivalent PC kit.

Forza Horizon 3 builds upon the key technical successes of its predecessor and retains the superb image quality – 4x MSAA on a console title is virtually unheard of these days – while ramping up the environmental detail to new levels. It also goes without saying that the car modelling is exceptional, and though enhancements vary from vehicle to vehicle, the PC version does offer the ability to run more detailed in-game models, adding further to the spectacle.

What does it take to run Forza Horizon 3 at 1080p60?

Last weekend, we , running at close to its absolute best at 4K resolution with a silky smooth 60 frames per second. It took an overclocked Core i7 and Nvidia’s Titan X Pascal to get the job done, but typically, impressive performance at ultra HD tends to scale down nicely to less capable graphics hardware running at 1080p. However, Forza Horizon 3 appears to be something of an exception.

Reports of inconsistent, stuttering performance are far and wide, even using PC hardware that far outstrips both the CPU and GPU power of the Xbox One, so we went back to the game to see the extent to which the issues could be replicated on our test system. The results are bizarre to say the least – using an Intel Skylake-based system, some of the performance issues and inconsistencies almost defy belief.

Typically, a game that runs flawlessly at 4K on the new Titan X should run perfectly with performance to spare on Nvidia’s GTX 1060 – but not Forza Horizon 3, which actually runs significantly more slowly. The GTX 970 – quite possibly the most popular enthusiast-level GPU installed in the most PCs today – shows a huge performance deficit compared to the 1060, but its shortfalls are nowhere near as pronounced as the R9 390 compared to the new RX 480, with a gap often in excess of 20fps (!). Bearing in mind that the R9 390 outperforms the RX 480 in many titles, this differential is remarkable.

Forza Horizon 3 review

The Fiat Dino coupé was produced for a few years in the late 1960s and early 70s. It wasn’t particularly fast, didn’t star in any cool movies, and didn’t have a motorsport career. Classic car enthusiasts remember it now for its crisp and elegant Bertone body, and the fact that it had a Ferrari-made engine, the same V6 found in its more famous and voluptuous namesake, the Ferrari Dino. It is a lovely car – a personal favourite of mine, thanks to a youth misspent reading classic car magazines – but there is really no reason for it to be in a video game.

And yet here it is in Forza Horizon 3. Why? I guess to delight people like me, who happen across it unexpectedly in a car list stuffed with esoterica, from dune buggies to wood-panelled station wagons to the three-wheeled Reliant van out of Only Fools and Horses. And because the developers at Playground Games really know about and love cars, which means knowing about and loving cars that are slow or forgotten or weird, as well as cars that are fast and glamorous and marketable.

But that makes Forza Horizon 3 sound like a game for anoraks – the sort of eccentric hobbyist’s scrapbook that the latter Gran Turismos, much as I love them for it, have become. It’s far from it. It’s a . You don’t need to love cars to enjoy this game, and you don’t need to be into the current racing game scene either, which seems squarely focused on serving hardcore genre fans’ craving for authenticity. The cars in Forza Horizon 3 look and sound authentic, and up to a point they feel authentic to drive too, but they will all drift elegantly, they will all plough across fields and ford rivers without bogging down, and they will all survive jumping off cliffs with aplomb. Because those things are fun, and fun is more important.