Developed By: Playground Games
Published By: Microsoft Studios
Platforms: PC, Xbox One (reviewed)
Release Date: May 9th, 2017
Cost: $19.99 Standalone, Free with Season Pass
For fans of open-world racing, there hasn’t been a better game released in the past three years than Forza Horizon 3. Playground Games’ focus on spectacular driving, open-world hijinks, and downright gorgeous environments gelled in the perfect way to make one of the most entertaining and least frustrating experiences around. Of course, Forza Horizon 3 was released last year, and most of the players have already won every race, collected every car, and completed every challenge in Australia, leaving them with ostensibly nothing left to do.
Luckily, Playground is dedicated to cranking out new content via a season pass in order to keep players entertained. Some releases are car packs that provide Porsches, or cars picked by Matt Farah and the fellas over at The Smoking Tire, but others add entire new environments to explore. The first pack, released last year, sent racers to a snowy hellscape known as Blizzard Mountain. While exploring a snow-covered mountain was entertaining at first, the constant spinning out into trees quickly grew frustrating. Horizon’s second pack, however, takes a phenomenal concept and ramps up the ridiculousness in the best possible way to create a Hot Wheels-themed adventure.
And boy, is it fun!
Set on an entirely separate group of islands off the coast of Australia, the Hot Wheels expansion is devoid of any asphalt or gravel roads. Instead, Playground has completely filled the ground and sky with bright orange and blue plastic tracks, just like those that we had as children. And these tracks aren’t straight lines either. There are multiple loop-the-loops, jumps through flaming hoops, and circles around mountain tops. The best part is that each trick area is set up by turbo pads that are built into the track. Much like those in Super Mario Kart, these turbo pads launch your car forward at a ridiculous rate of speed, sometimes past novelty dinosaurs.
These tracks are an absolute blast to navigate, especially with the new races and challenges that make up the short campaign. The races serve as the showstopper as you loop, sprint, and jump around the world. The hazards, drift zones, and speed cameras, on the other hand, are only included as an excuse to drive like a maniac. Thank goodness. Drift zones weren’t my favorite aspect of the main game, but they are so much fun in this expansion. It’s quite exhilarating to hit a turbo pad and fly into a drift zone at about 140 miles-per-hour. The difficulty is a little bit higher, but the payoff is more than worth the effort.
Of course, no Forza expansion is complete without cars, and the Hot Wheels pack brings some nostalgic fun. There are four main cars to unlock, all of which are classic designs. The best car of the pack is a the Hot Wheels Bone Shaker, a Rat Rod-esque car with flames and a big skull on the grill. The Bone Shaker is joined by a custom drift Mustang, a Corvette-looking speed demon known as the Twin Mill, and another hot rod known as the Rip Rod. Of these four main cars, only the Twin Mill is frustrating to drive. The other three are endlessly entertaining, especially when ripping around the ridiculous world.
If you want realistic cars, however, there are actually seven others that make appearances between Barn Finds and the Forza Autoshow. The Pagani Zonda, one of the most unique supercars around, makes its first return since Forza Motorsport 4. I won’t spoil the other cars, but they seem perfectly suited for the Hot Wheels expansion.
So far, the Hot Wheels expansion is the best piece of content created for Forza Horizon 3. The cars are a perfect trip down memory lane, the tracks look like a mixture of Trackmania and Top Gear, and the events are the perfect choice for the world. The dinosaurs are just an added bonus. This expansion is definitely worth the cost, whether you purchase it through the season pass or as a standalone product.