What it’s like to go mudslinging in a Polaris RZR in Forza Horizon 3 (and the real world)

The reality meets the virtual.

Forza Horizon 3 expansion tease

There’s an area in the new racing game Forza Horizon 3 that is well-suited for mudslinging. It’s on the lower-left of the map, near Maroondah Waterfall.

I know this because I spent a lot of time there, testing out a virtual Polaris RZR XP 1000 EPS, a high-powered machine that can put you in the back of your seat better than some sports cars. This is the first side-by-side in the Forza series, and my goal was to find out if the virtual version matched up with the real RZR I know from testing it several times over the years, including a test run this past week in Minnesota.

First, you should know that this version of Forza creates a surreal game world, one where you can feel the shade from the tall redwoods lining the roadways and duck when a splatter of water hits the windshield. That Maroondah area in particular transports you like no other racing game. The weather changes dramatically -- rain, thunder, sunshine, then back to rain -- and the time of day changes mean you can be hurling over a mountain vista with the sunshine in your rear-view mirror and, an hour later, driving on pitch black highway with the headlights on.

In Forza, I spent most of my time in the RZR. One of the advantages of using this vehicle is that you feel like you can take the road less traveled, veering away from the pavement and climbing up a hill on a whim. While a BMW 3 can do this in the game, it feels more realistic in a RZR. When you do reach Maroondah Waterfall, you can go off-roading or follow a muddy trail that’s obviously the perfect width for the RZR. You can even go behind the waterfall.

For an afternoon, I tested the real version of the exact same Polaris RZR XP 1000 EPS. It was even the same color and had a windshield (which is an option normally). A few things I noticed right away. Forza nailed the sound of the engine, which is a hungry purr. I like how they imitate the lunging effect, because in a real RZR, you sort of have to hold on for the ride initially. Polaris is also known for their Ranger side-by-side line; I’ve used them to pull out tree stumps before. There’s a ton of initial torque, akin to a powerful 4x4 truck (think: classic Range Rover).

There’s also a convincing pop when you get up to higher speeds. In my tests, the real RZR went 0-60 in 8.7 seconds. Polaris engineers have tested this same model going 0-60 on a dyno test machine, clocking 7.6 seconds. In the game, the RZR goes 0-60 in 7 seconds flat. I know this because I tested it a dozen times just for fun, usually on a gravel road far from any traffic jams. I figure the Forza developers pumped things up a little to make the RZR a bit more of a thrill ride, but then again, this is a video game. It’s not supposed to be an exact representation in every way, which would be dull. Mostly, the RZR in the game and the real RZR operated, pounded, and drove roughly the same.

The only other thing I noticed is that the game lets you hit a top speed of 90 MPH. Well, that’s pretty fast. I tested the real RZR up to 60MPH and you hold in your lunch. It’s a fantastic experience almost unlike any other, but going past 60 seems a bit dangerous to me unless you’re a professional driver. Also, where I tested anyway, after 9 seconds I came to the end of a long stretch of green grass. You can try your own testing, just use a farm field that goes all the way to Nebraska.

Another cool finding in the game: Near that waterfall, there’s also a bridge that’s about the width of the RZR. I found one of those in my testing area, too. I swear the sun was at the same angle in the game and the real world, hanging low on the horizon.

Other than the sweet smell of high octane and the fact that I was covered with real mud after my testing, Forza did an excellent job of making the RZR seem realistic. I maybe wanted a bit more mud in the game, but overall the appearance and driving mechanics seemed spot on to me. Hold on for the joy ride (virtual or real).

Guess I need to keep testing to make sure.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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