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 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.

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.

Forza Horizon 3: still the only racing game for everyone

I had a chance to play Forza Horizon 3 a short while ago, and can report that the third open-world racer from Playground Games is an awful lot like the first two. That is to say, it’s gorgeous, slick, cheerful and free-wheeling; it’s realistic enough for a car nerd like me to take seriously, but loose enough for anyone to enjoy. Best of all, it’s not structured around competitive grind but around the enduring and universal joy of exploring a large and beautiful landscape. It’s a racing game for everyone.

There are precious few, if any, of those left. The simulation and motorsport scenes are healthier than ever, thanks to the likes of Assetto Corsa, Dirt Rally and Project Cars, but also more specialist than ever in their appeal. Horizon’s big brother, Forza Motorsport, and Gran Turismo package this experience up for the mainstream, but never fully escape the accusation from everyday thrillseekers that they can be dry and repetitive. Burnout’s gone, Driver’s gone, Project Gotham’s gone, Wipeout’s gone. Need for Speed is off the pace. You can make a case for Ubisoft’s ‘World of Carcraft’ alternative, The Crew, though perhaps it’s a little bit on the wacky side for most people. Mario Kart is pretty much the only pure arcade racer left standing. We need a game like Forza Horizon 3: a game which makes the simple act of driving a car romantic and exhilarating and fun, which channels the spirits of OutRun, Project Gotham and Test Drive.

This isn’t news to Xbox owners, of course, and for them, Horizon 3 will admittedly be as unsurprising as it is welcome. The first game established the single-player blueprint and the second made open-world multiplayer work, so Horizon 3 settles into the comfortable routine of refinement, adding features that mostly belong in the column marked “nice to have”. Here’s a quick rundown of those that stood out for me: