Forza Horizon 3 set the standard for open-world racing games when it launched on Xbox One and Windows 10 PC in September 2016. It sold 2.5 million copies worldwide within its first 3 months of release, and even turned the Forza series into a billion-dollar
business for Microsoft, joining the ranks of kingpin Xbox franchises Halo and Gears of War.
The Forza series has made a name for itself in delivering quality, innovation, and dedication to its fans, and no other game than Forza Horizon 3 showed this with its beautifully-depicted map of Australia, its astonishingly diverse line-up of over 350 Forzavista cars, and it’s breathtaking dynamic weather effects and HDR skies. Even in 2018, Forza Horizon 3 remains a pure masterpiece of open-world gameplay and technical innovation, becoming a real success story for the Xbox One.
Forza Horizon 3 ranks as the highest-rated Xbox One exclusive on Metacritc, with a score 91. It sits quietly on top of the first-party list, a crown that was held by Halo on the Original Xbox and Gears of War on Xbox 360. It’s fantastic to see Forza as the lead first-party franchise for Microsoft’s Xbox One, and the success continued with Forza
Motorsport 7 – which received a Metacritic score of 86, putting it ahead of Gran Turismo Sport, Project CARS 2, and Need for Speed Payback.
The success of the Forza franchise is undeniable, but Forza Horizon 3 still managed to exceed the expectations of its developer, Playground Games. In fact, the studio’s Creative Director Ralph Fulton recently spoke to Luke
Reilly of IGN, and revealed that in December 2017, Forza Horizon 3 had more players than ever before, suggesting it was one of the hottest Christmas presents in games last year – more than 12 months after its release. Staggering.
“In December , we had more players playing the game than ever before, which is astonishing so long after launch,” Fulton told IGN.
“The success of Forza Horizon 3 has definitely exceeded our expectations at Playground, and we couldn't be more proud of the game,” he explained. “Every game we make is a labour of love, and to see something you've poured passion into resonate with fans so strongly is a special feeling.”
Being set in Australia, it’s no surprise that Forza Horizon 3 was also a success story down under. In fact, it was the most played game on Xbox in Australia in 2017. It’s also the best-selling Xbox One game in Australia since the console launched in 2013. You indeed read that correctly, not only is Forza Horizon 3 the best-selling Xbox One exclusive since launch, but it’s also the best-selling Xbox One game overall in Australia. Just remarkable.
Forza Horizon 3 is also in the top four games of all time for Xbox in Australia, which highlights the success of this special game. Microsoft also revealed that Forza Motorsport 7 received a fantastic response in Australia, likely because of the inclusion of the Aussie Supercars Championship. It’s been present in the franchise since Forza Motorsport 5, but that local setting for Forza Horizon 3 made it even more unique and special for Aussie gamers, thus its appeal and overall success in the land down under.
Not only was Forza Horizon 3 met with critical and fan acclaim alike, but it also won Racing Game of the Year awards at the 20th annual D.I.C.E. Awards and The Game Awards 2016. It received a BAFTA nomination for the Best British Game at the 13th British Academy Games Awards, and Playground Games was also named Best Independent Studio at the 2017 Develop Awards. To the surprise of many, Playground Games isn’t in fact owned by Microsoft, but it does work closely with Forza Motorsport developer Turn 10 Studios, which is located in Seattle, Washington.
Forza Horizon 3 remains the open-world
racing triumph, even with the return of Burnout
Paradise in a remastered form later this month. With two excellent post-launch add-ons in the form of Blizzard Mountain and Hot Wheels, Forza Horizon 3 continued to get better and better, not to mention the excellent Car Packs introducing the Aston Martin Vulcan, the 2017 Acura NSX, the 2016 Dodge Viper ACR, and many other cars that are simply unmissable.
“I've heard many theories on why this game broke out in the way it has, but the one I choose to believe is the simplest: the team made a great game which can be enjoyed by everyone,” Fulton said, regarding the game’s continued success.
Recently, Forza Horizon 3 received 4K goodness with its excellent Xbox
One X Enhanced release. Not only did it bring the game to native 4K resolution when enjoyed on Microsoft’s latest console, but it also increased other graphical settings, including render draw distance, the overall level of detail, and it even added improvements to car reflections and shadow resolutions, as well as increased texture quality for road and terrain surfaces. There’s also 16x anisotropic filtering, as well as the highly-detailed Native 4K Photo Mode. Players also benefit from faster loading times when loading into race events or fast-travelling across the open-world.
In addition, the excellent implementation of 4X MSAA that has been a standpoint graphical feature of the Forza Horizon series remains intact for the Xbox One X Enhanced version of Forza Horizon 3. It’s a real showpiece, and when combined with all the improvements on offer, not only do you have the best open-world racing game of recent memory, but you also have the best-looking 4K showcase as well. It’s a real treat to the eyes, and pure eye-candy.
“The Xbox One X Enhanced version of Forza Horizon 3 is the best one yet – offering the most visual prowess of any open-world racing game this generation,” we said in our
review. “With more than 350 incredibly-detailed Forzavista cars and the beautiful world of Australia at your fingertips, Forza Horizon 3 sets the bar when it comes down to its outstanding efforts in gameplay, exploration, and of course, fun.”
Fulton told IGN that whilst the team had always planned to enhance Forza Horizon 3 for Xbox One X, the sheer number of people still playing the game made it essential. It took Playground Games less than a day to have Forza Horizon 3 running in native 4K resolution on the console, and that’s a result of the technical innovation in the Xbox One X and the scalability of the ForzaTech engine that’s developed by both Turn 10 Studios and Playground Games.
Like other developers, Playground Games also had plenty of extra headroom when Forza Horizon 3 was brought up to 4K resolution, which allowed for many of the extra graphical features we have today, such as the improved reflection and shadow quality, and the overall level of detail in the distance – which for the record, is a real treat when playing on a 4K display in HDR as the colours fused with the trees and foliage in the background just pop. It’s a real showpiece of technical innovation.
If you haven’t ventured into the Australian open-world of Forza Horizon 3, there hasn’t been a better time to do so. The recent Xbox One X Enhanced update brings Playground’s incredible masterpiece to life, and even if you’re still on the base Xbox One console – it holds up extremely well on that system as well. For even more on the Forza Horizon 3 success story, don’t miss the feature
article on IGN which dives into the popularity, technical prowess, and overall success of Playground’s unmissable open-world racing game.
Alan is the co-founder and co-owner of FullThrottle Media. As someone who enjoys spending all his free time playing video games, he delivers the latest in news stories, reviews, and feature articles to the website, as well as videos on his YouTube channel and livestreams over on Mixer.