Forza Motorsport 3
OverviewPlatform: Xbox 360
The racing rival to Gran Turismo arrives early to the starting line. Will it slip into pole position or crash & burn?
The Forza series has taken pride in being one of the most technically advanced racers on the market. It’s hard to argue with that fact when one of the most talked about features of this sequel is something like tire deformation & flex. Such features may irrelevant to the layman but it leaves the ‘gearheads’ salivating. Perhaps the greatest feature to the rest of us who don’t know our axles from our elbows is the added focus on accessibility. While Forza 3 will never be mistaken for a classic arcade racer, every effort has been made to ensure that those lower-skilled players can still easily progress and have a tonne of fun racing around the games hundred tracks on any number of the whopping 400 cars. Difficulty is adjusted my switching on or off the driving assists. For extra difficulty you can give yourself a manual car and clutch, or to ease things up you can even enable automatic breaking when you approach a corner, having less assists on makes each car feel a lot more unique and will give you greater winnings at the end of your race. For those who don’t want to worry about upgrading their cars or tweaking features you also have the option to quick upgrade your car to a recommended level and buy custom tuning setups off Forza’s in-game player-run marketplace.
The marketplace has received several welcome upgrades too. Previously only cars could be traded, now tuning setups, full car designs and individual vinyls may be sold or given away for free. There’s also storefronts so if you like a particular players designs and car tunes you can browse through what else they have available. Perhaps my favorite feature is the ability to sell smaller designs as this opens up a lot of options for those who want want to add a design to their car without buying a full car design or building it themselves. For instance you can buy a licence plate for your car and put on your own text, or stick a GhostBusters logo on the bonnet and Yoshis on the doors. Having an alternative to building your own artwork is such a huge benefit, as despite the power of the vinyl generator, it can be hugely time consuming to build a piece of detailed artwork with rudimentary shapes and layers.
Once you’re done playing around in the menus and finally hit the road, you’ll be greeted by one of the finest looking racers out there. Allegedly these new cars have been redesigned with ten times more detail than before, no wonder the four hundred cars spill over onto a second DVD, so have a spare 1.9gb free on your Xbox should you wish to have access to all the tracks and cars. Not only has the exterior of the car been improved but each of the cars has a fully modeled dashboard which goes into so much detail that cup holders and door locks can be seen and compared to the car’s real life counterpart. The tracks themselves seem to overflow with color when compared with the previous game, it’s remarkable that Forza 3 can show so much detail while the world whizzes by at a tasty 60 frames-per-second. Each car roars along with authentic sounding engine noises and my Honda Fit does sound as truly pathetic on the road in Forza as it does in real life. You won’t have to just listen to engines all day as a soundtrack is included which’ll run while you’re racing, it’s nothing spectacular and it sits in the background playing away so quietly you might even forget it’s there.
Forza Motorsport 3 introduces new drift & drag races. These modes can also be used online in eight player races along with one of the most robust multiplayer options I’ve personally seen in a racer. There’s the usual racing and elimination along with the mentioned drag and drift races, but there’s also modes like cat and mouse as well as tag that can be played and configured to a ridiculous level of detail. There’s also a split-screen mode however it’s unfortunately limited to just the single race mode.
There’s a lot of good to be said about Forza Motorsport 3, but I do have a couple of nits to pick. Colin McRae’s Dirt brought us the ability to rewind time should a mistake be made in a race, while I’m not sad to see it here in Forza 3, I am sad to see that it can be used unlimited times with no penalty. Sure there’s no one forcing your hand to hit the little rewind button should you make a mistake, but having unlimited mulligans is a little too tempting. Also the AI drivers have been enhanced with a new ‘pressure system’ that may cause the other drivers to make mistakes when under pressure. This can cause the computer controlled drivers to feel a little less real as they drive like true professionals around 10-15 laps and then suddenly without warning turn radically into a wall for seemingly no reason.
Forza Motorsport 3 isn’t the perfect racing game as there are always more cars that could have been included (*ahem* 1996 Ferrari Testarossa) but it has nailed just about every feature you’d hope to find in a racer and retained the most important thing: It’s a tonne of fun to play.