- Review Price: £39.99
”’Platform: Xbox 360”’
If you read my review of Forza Motorsport 2 you’ll know that I found it quite disappointing on a number of levels. With that in mind, I was trying not to get my hopes up this time around, but I needn’t have worried. I’m not conceited enough to imagine that the guys at Turn 10 read my review of Forza 2 and set out to address all my issues, but they may as well have. Not only is Forza Motorsport 3 infinitely better than its predecessor, but I’d go as far as saying that it’s the best driving game I’ve ever played!
I know that I’ve let the cat out of the bag early on this one, but much as I’d like you to finish reading this review, my advice would be to open a new window, navigate to your favourite online retailer, order Forza Motorsport 3 and then come back when you’re done. Okay, now that you’ve got that out of the way, let’s carry on.
I accused Turn 10 of trying to appeal to casual gamers with Forza 2, creating a model that was simply too easy for seasoned driving fanatics, but this time around it’s crystal clear that the target gamers have petrol running through their veins. I can promise you this, because I played Forza 3 until 4:30am the first day that I got it, and I haven’t had the energy or inclination to play a game through the night for a very long time.
So what’s so good about Forza 3? It would be easy for me to say everything, glib as that may sound, and although I wouldn’t be lying, let’s break it down a bit. First up, the driving dynamics are so close to perfect that it’s spooky. Take the 997 generation Porsche 911 for example – a car that feels like few others, especially on the limit – but despite its near unique nature, Turn 10 has managed to capture all its strengths and idiosyncrasies to perfection.
That’s not just conjecture on my part either, having subjected my own 911 to copious amounts of abuse on the track over the summer. In Forza 3 a 911 rewards smooth driver inputs, and requires commitment through the bends, just like the real car. Having the engine out over the rear axle gives you incredible traction out of bends, but if you nail the throttle too early you’ll find yourself facing the wrong way in no time. Master the way a 911 handles though, and you’ll understand why many consider it to be the seminal sports car and the benchmark by which others are judged.
The 911 wasn’t a fluke either, since each and every car that I’ve driven in Forza 3 feels as close to the real thing as you can possibly get in a video game. I was very happy to be presented with a 2009 Ford Focus RS as a gift early on, since I took delivery of one of these a few weeks ago, so again had a good point of reference. And yet again Turn 10 has completely nailed it. The Focus RS pumps 301bhp through its front wheels, which in theory shouldn’t work, but it does, thanks to some great engineering on Ford’s part. Not only is the Focus RS fast in a straight line, but the Quaife automatic torque biasing differential will drag you around a bend like the car is on rails. However, if you’re a bit overenthusiastic with your throttle inputs, you’ll encounter the car’s propensity to oversteer, all of which is recreated perfectly in Forza 3!
It’s not just the car dynamics that Turn 10 has got so right though, the tracks are just as impressive. There has been a lot of talk about whether driving a track on a video game makes you a better driver on that track in the real world, but I’d like to turn that thinking on its head. I’ve spent some time this summer lapping the full GP circuit at Silverstone in various Porsche, Lotus and Aston Martin exotica, and as soon as I started racing the same track on Forza 3, it all came flooding back to me. Likewise, having driven through truly challenging sections like the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca for real, I can really appreciate just how much effort Turn 10 has gone to in order to recreate the experience in Forza.
Praise also has to go to the audio engineers who have captured some of the most intoxicating engine sounds and reproduced them in the game. Whether it’s the five-pot thrum from the Focus RS, the supercharged whine of the Ford GT, or the incredible V10 from the Porsche Carrera GT that sounds more like an F1 car than a road going vehicle, Forza 3 has got the aural appeal to match its eye candy.
But Forza 2 had much of this right, so what’s so special about Forza Motorsport 3? Quit a lot actually. For a start, Turn 10 has completely revised the way you can modify your cars, and as such, you can’t mod yourself into first place anymore. Whereas in Forza 2 you could just splash some cash on modifying your car, jump to the front of the grid and win pretty much any race you liked, that won’t work in Forza 3. Cars and races are split into classes, and cars can only enter races if their class matches that of the event. If you choose to go overboard with your modding, your car will jump to the next class and thus be ineligible for your current race series – genius!
Forza 3 makes the whole concept of modifying your car more simple too, with the Quick Upgrade option. If you select Quick Upgrade, a balanced set of modifications will be applied, taking your car close to the limit of its class without pushing it over. Of course you can still do all your modifications manually if you prefer, but I found the Quick Upgrade option to be pretty effective. Also, if Quick Upgrade leaves you with a bit of headroom, you can always add one or two mods of your own on top.
Another nice touch is that when you finish a race you get experience points for both yourself and the car you drive. As your car gains experience levels, you get discounts on mods as well as new cars as gifts from manufacturers. However, each car tops out at experience level five, at which point you won’t get any more bonuses for winning races with that vehicle. This prompts you into using a variety of cars, rather than just sticking with one that you like, and gives the game a more lasting appeal.
As well as being given cars by manufacturers, you can also buy new rides, assuming that you’ve amassed enough credits. The cost of each car depends on its performance level and its rarity – a 1973 Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS will set you back around 200,000 credits, which is about what you’d pay in Euros, while a Ferrari 250 GTO, just like in the real world, is eye wateringly expensive at 20,000,000 credits!
If you get bored of any of your cars you can auction them to other Forza 3 players, but since the game hasn’t been officially released yet, the auction room is reasonably bare at present. Or, if you’re feeling particularly altruistic, you could give your car away to someone, although I can’t see that happening too often.
The career mode is also thoughtfully put together, spurring you on to reach that next World Championship race, or even finish the current racing season. On several occasions I’ve found myself playing Forza 3 at around midnight and deciding that the current race was the last one before heading to bed, only to end up climbing my stairs towards my bedroom at 3:30am, or even later (or should that be earlier?).
Despite the fact that you’ll eventually drive all the tracks, in all their guises, in both directions, Forza 3 managed to keep me coming back, racing in new events with different cars. Unlike some games where you just end up collecting a dizzying array of cars, Forza 3 challenges you to use pretty much every car in your garage.
Driver AI is always a bugbear in racing games, but again Turn 10 has done a good job. It’s not perfect, and you can still find the computer controlled drivers deciding that they need to stick to the racing line even if you’re in the way, but for the most part they won’t barge you off the track rather than concede the line, which is more than can be said for human opponents!
Playing Forza 3 online should be an absolute riot, but on an open match it’s not. The problem is simple – if there’s no car damage turned on, then there’s absolutely no incentive for some people to drive properly. So, while you’re way out in front and braking hard for a corner and just about to turn in and clip the apex, some idiot behind you has decided that they don’t need to brake, because they’ll just smash into the back of you, knock you off the track, and then happily drive off around the corner and into the lead.
You see if there are no consequences to you smashing into every other car on the track, there’s no reason, for some people at least, not to do just that. However, if you were to get a group of friends together who all wanted to drive as if they were really behind the wheel of a car, Forza 3 would be as close to the real thing as you’re likely to get, without wearing a crash helmet.
Going back to the single player game, Turn 10 has added a new killer feature – rewind. To be fair, Race Driver GRID first proved what a stroke of genius this can be, but that doesn’t mean I’m not glad to see it in Forza. Basically, if you make a mistake, or if you do find yourself unfairly knocked off the track by the computer controlled cars, you don’t have to restart the whole race. Simply press the rewind button and the action will jump back a bit, and if you haven’t jumped back far enough, you can just press it again.
You might be thinking that rewind makes the game too easy, but it doesn’t, it simply makes it less frustrating. Rather than throwing your controller at the floor because you’ve had to restart a nine lap race because of one mistake, you simply hit rewind and get it right next time. Plus, you find yourself using rewind less and less as you become more confident and hone your skills. The only downside to using rewind is that a flag is placed next to your entry on the online leaderboard showing that you used it.
Control is also greatly improved over Forza 2. While the last game was amazing fun when played with Microsoft’s Steering Wheel, using the standard wireless controller just made it too easy to flick the car around the track. With Forza 3 though, there just seems to be far more subtlety to the control, allowing you to balance the car around a sweeping bend, or gently alter the line on a straight. The triggers seem to have a far more analogue feel to them too, giving you more delicate throttle response and less binary braking. On the whole I’d still recommend a steering wheel for any driving game, but Forza 3 is still a joy to play using the standard controller.
Ultimately, Turn 10 has created something wonderful with Forza Motorsport 3, something that deserves to be experienced by every Xbox 360 owner, and something that deserves all the accolades that it will no doubt receive. If you love cars, but don’t have the space or the cash for a stable of exotic metal, Forza 3 will get you closer than ever to your dream.
While PlayStation 3 devotees wait patiently for Gran Turismo 5 to finally appear, Microsoft has stolen the ball with Forza Motorsport 3. With sublime handling, beautiful modelling, a compelling career mode, and more polish than a crate of Mr Sheen, Forza Motorsport 3 is an object lesson in game design and presentation. Put simply, the best driving game ever!
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