A couple of hours into the latest expansion to Forza Horizon 3 and you might be left wondering what game you are playing but you’ll be having such a fun time of it you won’t care. The Hot Wheels expansion creates a whole new area for the game (much like the previous Blizzard Mountain expansion) and it really takes the branding to level rarely seen before.
The new island that’s been added would look perfectly in place with the rest of the gorgeous scenery of the original game except for those orange and blue tracks winding through it all. It literally looks like a giant version of a Hot Wheels stunt set has been set up for the world’s amusement. Your first experience on the island gives you a good taste of the jumps and loops and is nothing but a joy to run through.
It takes a little getting used to at first as there’s often little room for error as flying off any raised tracks usually means you respawning. Cutting corners is not happening much here either as there as many sections that have barriers too. Boost pads give that feeling of acceleration you get in titles like Burnout and are necessary for some track sections such as loops where speed is important in successfully navigating them. Something that’s new here are that track sections that split are often used during races giving players options beyond just overtaking on a single road. There’s even a figure eight where you have to risk colliding with players crossing over the same time as you.
Tip: being able to see the track ahead of you while you’re driving is vitally important, especially with so many extreme changes in elevation. I’ve found it best to switch to an exterior car view when racing as you’ll really appreciate the extra visibility, especially when negotiating loops and jumps.
As well as the tracks you get a handful of Hot Wheels cars to race with as well and they work really well here. They’re also given out freely as you advance to the more difficult racing events so even if you may not have cars that work here in your own collection there will always be a Hot Wheels version that will do the job. I spent a lot of my early time in the expansion using the Bone Shaker (the second car you get) and it’s incredibly fun driving around in.
It wouldn’t surprise me if there has made a few small tweaks to the physics side to help you stick better to the track during some of the crazier sections but if they have done so it thankfully hasn’t been at the expense of how the core game feels. You’re still not immune to bad landings from a jump, spinning out or even rolling you car. But with stunt as big as these you may be willing to take a few more risks to get ahead.
It might seem sacrilegious in saying but this expansion is almost like the developer, Playground Games, is showing off and turning Forza Horizon 3 into a branded open world Wipeout. Sure it’s not near as fast as that title but the wild and twisty tracks are there and so are the boost pads and through it all Turn 10’s ForzaTech engine seems to handle it easily. The game continues to be rock solid on Xbox One. Comparisons have also been made to games like Trackmania and GTA Online‘s stunt races, Grocs even likens it to the the classic Stunt Car Racer, so a lot is going right here.
With such a great showcase of the engine’s flexibility, I’m now wishing to see more of this kind of thing that pushes Forza further outside the simulation genre where it first made its start. If Playground ever tried revisiting Project Gotham Racing I think I’d be all over it like a rash. The Hot Wheels expansion to Forza Horizon 3 brings fun and the technology that the series is famous for into an environment that is far from the expected. It’s a kid’s toybox dream come true and it plays brilliantly.
The Hot Wheels expansion is out now for Xbox One and Windows 10. Reviewed on Xbox One.