But of course, it’s what’s happening on the roads that’s important. Forza Horizon 3 is twice the size of the previous game and offers twice the geographic diversity. From the rain forests at the tip of Queensland, through the endless outback, to the sun-drenched coastlines, Playground Games says it has explored and represented every ecological quirk of the country. Among the 350 cars, several new vehicle classes have been added to reflect these varied landscapes, including class 10 open wheel buggies and extreme offroaders. There are classic Aussie models too such as the ubiquitous Holden Ute and the classic 74 Sandman, as seen in the original Mad Max (I have it on good authority that you can also select a 1973 Ford Falcon, paint it matte black and fit a blower on the front to recreate Max’s classic Interceptor).
In our hands-on demo, we, of course, tried the new Lamborghini Centenario, the special edition Aventador variation designed to celebrate the company’s 100th birthday. Unsurprisingly, this V12 monster is also the game’s centrepiece vehicle – and considering the real thing costs £1.65m and is already sold out, it’s as close as we’re going to get. Rattling it through a forest roadway and then along a slither of golden beach feels strange, but also ridiculously fun. The Forza Horizon handling model has always prioritised accessiblity over authenticity, and that’s still very much the case. Acceleration, turning and overtaking are all smooth and controlled, the tyres gripping to pretty much any surface with only a touch of oversteer. The gamefeel gives you so much information, frankly it’s your fault if you spin-out on sharp corners.
tructure-wise, the game is still an open map that provides hundreds of challenges each contributing toward your progress though the festival rankings. This time, however, the player is the festival boss, deciding when and where to set up new sites, tweaking event types and even selecting the music. Through the new Horizon Blueprint option, you can go in and customise each event, altering the route, the weather, the time of day, the cars involved and any other restrictions. You can then give your new variation a name and share it with friends. Playground has also brought back the Bucket List mode, allowing you to create a custom checklist of challenges to attempt and share. Playground reckons the campaign is over 100 hours long, but if players start to build and distribute their own events, that’s just the beginning.
Sharing, it turns out, is a key theme this time around. Forza Horizon 3 is a “Play Anywhere” title so it’ll be available on Xbox One and Windows 10, allowing cross-play between friends on either platform. There’s also a new four-payer campaign co-op option: “We’ve wanted to do this from the beginning but now we can do it properly,” says Penrose. “It’s ‘no ifs no buts’ co-op – everything you can do in the solo campaign, you can do here. You can drop in and out, everything just works.” It’s an interesting addition that’ll provide further impetus to explore and progress, and vitally, anything you achieve while in co-op is transferred over to solo play.