Anyone who knows me, or has read at least a few of my articles, knows that I love the Forza franchise. Both Forza Motorsport 6(which is still the only game I have ever given a 10 out of 10) and Forza Horizon 3 were my games of the year in 2015 and 2016 respectively. The franchise combines a great handling model (more simulation in Motorsport and slightly more arcade in Horizon), with gorgeous visuals (particularly with HDR in Forza Horizon 3), and clever AI (through the brilliant Drivatar system). Another thing that the series does really well is DLC. Alongside the predictable car packs that add new vehicles to the games, they also add significant content and career modes, like the NASCAR expansion for Forza Motorsport 6. Forza Horizon 3 has gone above and beyond with its DLC. The first pack, Blizzard Mountain, introduced snow to the franchise for the first time and provided a substantial new area to drive around. Now we have the Hot Wheels expansion, which for me is the best DLC that the Forza series has ever added.
Forza Horizon 3 is already one of the best looking games on any console but with the bright orange track, one of the signature visuals of Hot Wheels, it looks better than ever. It’s not like there has been any specific visual enhancement, but the orange tracks just visually pop against the blue skies, seas and the sandy beaches. With this being a ‘realistic’ interpretation of Hot Wheels, you also get a sense of awe from the huge loops and banked corners. Seeing these immense structures in the skyline gives you an appreciation of how crazy the racing is going to be.
And talking about crazy racing, this Hot Wheels expansion brings that type of wild driving to the Forza franchise for the first time. It kind of feels like a crossover game between Forza and Trackmania Turbo. While there isn’t any difference in the handling of the cars compared to the rest of Forza Horizon 3, the heavily banked corners allow for much faster races. There are several occasions where you almost feel like you are defying gravity, but it’s purely down to the angle or pitch that the tracks are at and the insane speeds that you can reach. The boost pads that you go over also increase these speeds. These are normally before a loop or a particularly steep climb but are also used to challenge your braking before a tight corner.
The team at Playground Games have outdone themselves in creating some truly exhilarating racetracks. One of the few criticisms that I had with the base game was that the tracks could never match classic circuits like Monza, Silverstone, Spa Francorchamps, or the Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans. With these Hot Wheels circuits, we now have fantastic long sweeping corners, chicanes that punish you for being slightly off line, and stupidly fast straights that reward stability and precision steering. I think the best thing about these tracks are the way that they are created to both reward skill while also helping lesser skilled players. The long straights reward skill by allowing you to drive incredibly fast when you have perfected the corners before these stretches. Gamers struggling with fine precision of their cars will benefit from the sides being built up meaning you can’t fall off the track (most of the time). This is an impressive trick to pull off, yet Playground Games have managed it with aplomb.
The Hot Wheels DLC not only fits into Forza Horizon 3, but also elevates it to be an even better game than it already is. While I wouldn’t like to see it appear in a Forza Motorsport game, as it doesn’t fit with the simulation style of the series, I’d love for Hot Wheels to return in future Forza Horizon titles. The new Hot Wheels cars add a fun element, but it is the tracks that are the real stars. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of doing loop-the-loops in a McLaren P1 or nerfing it around a heavily banked corner in a Ferrari LaFerrari. This latest update, to an already brilliant game, has me smiling non-stop and wanting to complete every last race and championship on offer.