Forza Motorsport 3 Review for XBOX 360 by Ben Salter
Gran Turismo has been the king of racing sims for the past decade, but be aware, Forza is coming; in fact, it may already be in poll position. Developer Turn 10 has mixed things up in Forza Motorsport 3, for the better. Most importantly they’ve made what was once a daunting genre for non-diehard fans into a game that can be played by the most casual of gamers through to series veterans. They’ve thrown the traditional conventions of what constitutes a racing sim out the window, and crafted what is one of the greatest racing games ever made.
Forza 3 is classy. It feels distinctly European as we are presented with a clean white background and are guided through the initial stages by a nice British gent (Peter Egan). This is just the beginning for a game that’s got style. It’s not just a racing sim, it’s a life’s passion translated into a videogame. With over 400 cars and 100 tracks Forza 3 boasts an impressive roster. Best of all every single one of them is drivable from the get go. If you can get enough credits to actually purchase the vehicle you can take any car out for a spin from day one. This is perhaps the most groundbreaking change that Forza 3 presents us with. If you’ve been playing racing sims for years then you’ll expect to start out with the trash and work your way up to the highest class of supercars. Forza 3 does away with that, and we couldn’t be happier.
Season play will devour most of your solo game time. It’ll take you through World Championship races and lower-level mid-week events throughout the year. Forza 3 will suggest three lower-level events that you can complete during a particular week based on the cars that you have been using. It seems simplistic, but it works so much better than the complicated mess that event schedules become in other racing sims. If you wish you can crawl through a massive list of events, but there’s really no need when the game almost always picks the best ones.
Accessibility sums up Forza Motorsport 3 in one word. It’s obvious that Turn 10 wanted just about anybody to be able to play the game, while making a conscious effort not to exclude the rev-heads. On the easiest difficulty setting, with all of the assists turned on, even the most videogame-challenged person is able to get through a race in Forza 3. The game can auto-break around corners for you, a guideline can be turned on, damage off, and it can even assist the player’s steering if they so desire. At the other end of the spectrum Forza 3 is one of the most realistic racing sims to date. The handling is fantastic, and the tire physics have been greatly improved since the last outing. We expected to need to use a racing controller to fully appreciate the experience, unfortunately we didn’t get to try it out, but we didn’t need to. The normal 360 controllers fared well enough and we felt like we were in full control the entire time. With all of the assists turned off you can really feel the different between cars. Every single one of them is different in one aspect or another, and it was all noticeable with a normal controller. Custom difficulty allows the gamer to set up the game for their exact skill level. Not entirely sure where to brake? Turn on brake guidelines. These won’t guide you around the whole track, but they will suggest where to brake. Want to get used to playing with no help, but don’t want to face expert opponents? Simply turn off the assists, but set the AI to an appropriate level.
The new rewind feature is perfect for beginners, or even moderate players looking to be thrown into the deep end. It allows you to rewind the race, at any point, by 5 seconds. If you happen to flip your car, or misjudge a turn it need not be an instant last place. It’s great for getting used to the harder difficulty settings as there is no penalty for using the feature. I’d even go as far as to say it’s one of the most important features for novice gamers as it encourages them to tackle a harder difficulty; something they otherwise might not have done. I’m sure there are racing veterans out there that are none to happy with the feature; simply don’t use it. That’s the beauty of Forza 3. It’s been made really accessible for lesser-qualified players, but nothing will subtract from the fully simulated experience. If you don’t like something the game can be played as if it doesn’t exist.
Car tuning has been upgraded, like the rest of the game, to be accessible to just about anyone. The new quick upgrade option will upgrade the car for you. If you don’t have a mechanical mind, or want to get straight into the racing, Forza 3 can handle all of the work for you. Seasoned racers can, once again, ignore the feature and use the old fashion way of upgrading every aspect of their car manually. It’s a great format and one that doesn’t discriminate against any level of player. The amateurs can have it all done for them, and the veterans can nitpick through every minor detail until their hearts are content.
Two-player split screen and online multiplayer is offered. The online matchmaking system is quick and easy to use. Races can be played using basic settings right through to complex rules that must take hours to finalise. Racing is actually a very small part of the Xbox Live experience in Forza 3.
The auction house lets you sell and buy cars with other players in real time auctions. It’s like a virtual eBay for a virtual world, and it’s fantastic. Even better is the new storefront. Here you can purchase, or sell, specific designs for various cars. The designer sets prices and quantity; you could give away millions of something just to get your work out there, or make a one of a kind item for millions of in-game dollars. The whole community is extremely well established, and has to be one of the most indepth online experiences on a console that goes beyond the core gameplay. You can also browse through other players’ photos, replays and a whole range of scoreboards. Along with racing achievements they also track tuners, photographers and paint artists, giving everyone the opportunity to rank high.
As you would expect the car visuals are fantastic. Each car model is astonishingly detailed and replicates its real life counterpart, in both looks and performance. The environments are a little bland, but the game runs flawlessly at 60 frames per second. In a game all about immense speed, frame rate becomes extremely important, and dull backgrounds are a trade-off we’re willing to make. Car damage, on the other hand, is extremely unconvincing. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s completely randomly generated, but damage is visually represented on a car in the rough area that it was hit, and poorly at that. If you nudge someone on the left bumper, for example, damage will appear somewhere on back of the car. It’s by no means a crippling issue, and doesn’t affect the gameplay, but those with a keen eye are sure to notice it.
Each car has its own distinct, what I believe to be realistic, sound effects. Funnily enough I’ve never been behind the wheel of a 911 or Audi R8, the game’s cover car, but I imagine they sound much the same in the flesh. The background music, however, is an absolute disgrace. Within minutes, I pulled out the iPod for some racing tunes, as it’s a well-established rule that the driver gets to pick the music. Unfortunately the default Forza tracks are terrible.
If the damage modeling was the biggest drawback then Forza 3 would have deserved to be remembered as more than the best racing game this generation. Unfortunately the A.I. difficulty settings aren’t quite good enough. Don’t misinterpret that to say that the A.I. is bad, because it’s great. But there are only three A.I. difficulty settings: Easy, medium, and hard. Medium is too easy, and hard it too hard. Had there been a difficulty in between Forza 3 would have been close to the perfect racing sim.
The Final Verdict Forza Motorsport 3 is the definitive racing game of this generation. The cars look great, the controls are as close as you’ll ever need to perfect and the simulation of motorsport racing is spot on. That would be great in its own right, but Forza 3 goes above and beyond what is required. It’s accessible to anyone, without excluding the veteran gamers, and has one of the most indepth online communities we’ve ever seen in a console game. Turn 10 has delivered Xbox 360 owners a gem of a racing sim. If you’re a multi-console owner, and were waiting for Gran Turismo 5, all I have to say is the wait is over. Go out and buy Forza 3 instead. Beyond that good luck to the GT5 team. This one’s going to be tough to beat.
Pure awesome. A fantastic racing sim that can be played by almost anyone with some of the best controls we’ve ever seen.
The cars look great, and while the environment is a little dull the whole thing runs flawlessly at 60 frames per second which more than makes up for it. However damage modeling isn’t up to scratch.
The cars sound fantastic. The music is atrocious, but that’s why they let us play our own right?
A great career mode, with an even better online community. You’ll be here for a while.