Forza Horizon 3: Blizzard Mountain
Forza Horizon 3: Blizzard Mountain is a clever addition with a few minor issues.
I’m a fan of Playground Games’ no-nonsense approach to DLC naming. The (alas) Xbox exclusive Forza Horizon 2 offered the
Storm Island expansion, which brought players to an island beset by storms. Now, Forza Horizon 3 presents Blizzard Mountain, set on a mountain onto which blizzards fall. Judging by the quality of both components, the combination of weather type and geographic feature is an effective formula. Rather than integrate into the main map directly, Blizzard Mountain is accessed via Redstone Airport. This being Horizon, your introduction to the new region involves a helicopter and a Ford Focus RS, but, after the initial rapid descent, things soon settle into a routine. Blizzard
Mountain features a tweaked progression system. Instead of fans, you collect stars – up to three from each race. You earn one star for finishing, a second for placing first, and the third for completing a challenge specific to that event.
I like the idea of challenges, but the implementation here isn’t without problems. Many challenges require you to perform a certain number of a specific skill, meaning the difficulty oscillates between trivial and annoying. Doing 15 drifts in a race is easy. Doing 35 can be a chore. The best challenges are the ones that heighten the drama. In one, I’m required to earn a 175,000 point skill chain during a downhill point-to-point race. The combination of precision and peril works to create an exhilarating sequence across an already fast and tricky course.
The icy terrain highlights how forgiving Forza Horizon’s handling is. Cars are more slippery, but not especially so. While it’s rare to spin out entirely, it’s much easier to turn into a drift. That gives Blizzard
Mountain a consistency of approach across its disparate events. This is a more specific experience than Forza
Horizon proper – one that feels focused on using drifts to build massive skill chains. Alternatively, you can remove your snow tyres, forcing you to fight for control of your car. Doing so is arguably the most entertaining way to play. The races are, as expected, great.
Blizzard Mountain is ultimately more Forza Horizon, using the same AI and handling. That alone guarantees its competence, but this DLC adds new twists to the formula. More than simply the snowy terrain, it’s the dramatic changes in elevation that have the biggest effect on the nature of its challenge. Hill Climb events are slow, twisty circuits full of awkward cambers and tight, hairpin bends. Descent races, meanwhile, are about careening down slopes at barely controllable, trouser-bothering speeds.
New modes and weather types add much to an already packed game
Throughout, the environmental design ensures a measure of variety – even within the fairly compact map. You race through a small village, around steaming hot springs and over a frozen lake. And while it’s not a massive area, it does feel packed with activities – races, speed traps, drift zones and danger jumps. Unfortunately, there’s little of Forza
Horizon’s bombast here. There are no showcase events, and only a handful of fairly tame “Bucket List” challenges to tackle.
Forza’s absurdity is a necessary part of the series. But, the opening helicopter airdrop aside, Blizzard
Mountain feels strangely conservative. In Forza Horizon 3 you get to race a VTOL jet. Blizzard
Mountain has no such swagger, despite bobsleds being a thing our species invented. It’s not just the wasted potential that disappoints me, but also what it means for the progression system. The base game tries to make an event out of unlocking new races – either through a showcase, or simply by making you drive to the festival site you’re upgrading. In Blizzard Mountain, you automatically unlock a new chunk of stuff after every ten stars earned. As a consequence, progression can feel like a grind.
It’s strange, because Forza Horizon is usually so good at keeping things varied – fostering the need to complete just one more race. That’s missing here, and it’s to the detriment of the overall experience. None of
Blizzard Mountain’s problems are major, and much of what it does feels like a great extension of Forza
Horizon’s amazing racing. The new modes and weather types add much to an already packed game. This is a worthy addition, to be sure. But, parcelled out, without the absurd, unforgettable moments of Forza
Horizon proper, its limitations feel more pronounced.