Forza Horzion 3’s Hot Wheels Expansion Is The Most Fun You Can Have Behind The Virtual Wheel
I've made my love of Forza Horizon 3 no secret. The racing game won my heart last summer, and it's been my go-to game for relaxing ever since. I still find plenty of fun in roaming around Horizon 3's virtual Australia, earning new cars and taking them up and down the coast as fast as I they'll let me. I've barrelled through Blizzard Mountain, enduring harsh weather and numerous wrecks all for the sake of my Horizon Festival fans. I've poured hours into this game, and thought everything I'd seen was as good as it could get for the Horizon series.
Then Playground Games and Mattel teamed up for a Hot Wheels add-on. It's the most fun I've ever had racing cars since, well, I was mashing Hot Wheels up in my living room as a kid.
Forza Horizon 3 is already the more laid back of the Forza games, but adding a Hot Wheels expansion to mix takes things quite few steps further down the arcade racing road. Though you shouldn't think that just because Playground is toying around with Hot Wheels that the downloadable content is child's play. The same rules and physics that applied to the core game apply on the Hot Wheels island. They just also happen to apply on windingly impossible corkscrews, loops, stunt jumps, and most importantly, turbo boosters.
There are countless memories I have putting those familiar orange tracks together as a kid, trying to come up with the most ridiculous course for those fantastical cars to drive. The problem with being a kid is wanting all the glory but none of the practicality. I'd often spend more time reworking courses so cars could actually stay on them than I did actually getting to use some of my more eccentric concepts. I don't know how many different iterations of Hot Wheels island's many, many interconnected tracks Playground's team had to go through before getting such satisfactory results, but bless their efforts.
I mean, look at this wide-angle view.
It's just wild, unabashed creativity. From the moment you transport yourself to the new location for the opening showcase race, you're headed down a road of joy you didn't know was possible to capture. Best of all, you're doing it in an actual Hot Wheels car, the 2011 Bone Shaker. So not only does this expansion bring some out of this world tracks to the fold, it also brings impossibly awesome cars from decades of Hot Wheels designers' imaginations to life as if they were actual things you could really drive.
Here's the Bone Shaker. Definitely not street legal anywhere the roads aren't paved orange.
You can also drive one of Hot Wheels' most iconic designs, the Twin Mill from 1969. To be fair, the Twin Mill was fabricated by custom builders, as Forza's own site explains.
A life-size, drivable replica was built in part by legendary hot rod designer Boyd Coddington with then upcoming car icon Chip Foose in charge of the build. It was finished by Barry Lobeck years later and debuted at SEMA in 2001.
You and I never got to drive that, or even see it in person though. So this is still as close as we'll ever get to the real dual big block action.
As pretty as they are to look at, they're just as much of a thrill to drive. Ripping around the island in cockpit view showcases some of the most dangerous design flaws in Hot Wheels coming to life. That doesn't make it any less amazing to be in the cockpit of legendary rides like these.
Seeing out of the windshield, if the car even has one, is something you tend to take for granted when driving your actual car to work or out to dinner. You also take it for granted when whipping around some of the more serious races in Forza itself. On Hot Wheels island, it's still important, but not to the extent that Playground or Hot Wheels took any bit of the personality away from the non-existent rides.
Whether using any of the Hot Wheels cars or those from your existing garage, the courses here are amazing to drive. They're all fast, they're all dangerous, and they all have hazards like Criss Cross Crash that Hot Wheels is known for. The daring high-speed turns take all shapes, from wide, looping curves that won't require you to slow down much, to hairpin bends that take skill to navigate safely. Even the straightaways get hairy when the wall guards disappear, leaving you inches from flipping your car off the side at any given instant. The perils bring an air of tension to races that would otherwise be just as simple and easy as they were in the core game.
Supercars thrive on Hot Wheels tracks, but the slower, more agile vehicles get some good work in too. The add-on does a nice job easing you into the bonkers roadways by asking you to race with some lower-tier cars to start. You can drive around in whatever you want, but when the time comes for a "story" race, you've got to have the wheels that match the grade. It's certainly made me think about what cars are in my garage, and had me behind the wheel of vehicles I hadn't touched in months.
It's not too long until you're able to get back into some of your more expensive and high-end racers though. It definitely feels like the roads on Hot Wheels island were made for these more prestige vehicles. They're just so wide and long, it's hard not to appreciate getting to go all out with cars that you didn't often get to push to the limit back in Australia proper. You haven't lived until you blow past 220 MPH hitting a booster strip and flying through one of the many loops scattered across the island. It's magical.
Forza Horizon 3 was already my top racing game, but by going to the extremes that it has in incorporating Hot Wheels into the fold, I'm not sure any game will surpass it in the future. It's great when series like this have an opportunity to stretch beyond their comfort zones without compromising what makes them great, and the Hot Wheels expansion gives Playground the space to do just that.
The Hot Wheels expansion for Forza Horizon 3 is available now for Xbox One and Windows.