400 cars means bad news for the indecisive
I myself have never been a fan of racing simulators, perhaps due to the fact that I have a problem facing the daunting prospect of reality itself. Possibly it’s due to the fact that the closest thing I’ve driven (and gained a license in) is a go-kart…as well as a brief stint in a JCB…hauling astroturf.
So, as I booted up the Forza Motorsport 3 disc and sat nervously awaiting criticism and punishment in the form of vicious drivers, I was surprised to be greeted by a casual difficulty, an easing tutorial with an impressive looking super car and a voice-over which made it sound like I was being lovingly fussed over by Patrick Stewart.
Unfortunately the aforementioned ‘dream-car’ serves as a ‘This is what you could be driving’ segment. Until you reach super-car glory you have to settle with a standard Ford Focus and attempt to blitz the opposition in various race events. Events consist of several races spread out over 2 weeks on an in-game calender, split every so often by weekend championships. A fairly safe and familiar system, but with 220 events to compete in (I actually counted) and over 400 cars to collect (I actually took the games word for it), it’s safe to say you’ll be playing this for many in-game, maybe even calender years.
All the fancy collectables only scratch the surface of the depth of Forza 3 though. Whatever car you choose to race in, from the mightiest hybrid to the humblest hatchback, Turn 10 has made any race in any car incredibly fun. Starting off with the most basic of cars, handling manoeuvres and the general sense of speed is felt in all the vehicles, making even some of the beginning races with the slower cars exciting.
Difficulty isn’t simply categorised as ‘Easy’, ‘Normal’ and ‘Hard’. Players are given the choice whether to alter primary aspects of both their car performance and gameplay experience, for example, being able to turn the traction control off, making the collision damage minimal or realistic and turning off a recommended racing line displayed on the track. Playing it safe doesn’t penalise you in any way, however those who wish to take more risks are rewarded with a percentage boost, earning even more credits to purchase new cars and accessories with after winning races.
It’s not the credit boosts that truly encourage you to take more risks in these aspects, however. No matter what your experience level, after a while you begin to feel your confidence grow with each race and feel the need to challenge yourself. The ability to configure the difficulty to this level ensures that practically anyone can play to their own ability and not be alienated.
Forza Motorsport 3 can easily cater for anyone
What may alienate those who are less car driven is the extensive tuning section. Configuring my vehicle here saw no major change and just looking at the amount of things I could tweak made my eyes cower. Of course players can upgrade their car by purchasing various different parts for it, but those who don’t wish to find themselves swimming in engines and roll cages utterly bemused can find solace in the ‘Quick Upgrade’ option. Upon selection, the game will automatically upgrade the car into a specific class of the highest calibre, taking into account what you can afford.
It seems that either the masked driver behind the wheel is really Marty McFly or he owns a pretty spectacular Sky+ box, seeing as all the cars have a fancy rewind feature. Should you misplace a wheel or thwack an opposing racer and receive a thorough dose of karmatic justice, simply pressing back with force you to go all Quantum Leap and travel back to a pre-determined point in the race prior to your mistake. Despite this getting a mixed reaction for those firmly in the ‘realism’ camp, it serves more as a purpose to re-educate and ease frustration rather than make things too easy. Smoothly traversing a 15 mile course only to panic and screw up in the final stretch would usually cause a frantic flailing of the limbs, frothing of the mouth and either a shameful click of restart or a noose. Here however, the back button proves to be an amazing time saver and the players’ best friend, a brilliant way to learn from mistakes as well as rectify errors.
With all the events requiring different makes and classes of car, Forza 3 encourages you to peruse through its massive car collection, and the simulation engine really displays huge differences in the way all the cars function, not just in terms of speed. As I found myself earning better vehicles, races became even more fluid and I started drifting through them with ease. Then being forced to switch to an American Muscle Car caused me to completely rethink my strategy and approach. Needless to say, going all Burnout on other drivers and thwacking them out of the way won’t help you out later on.
As expected from any racing simulator, everything look absolutely stunning, the cars of course being the shining example of the power in the graphics engine. The smallest of details, be it in the car or in the environment, can be as every bit as striking as the main features. The surroundings in some locations (especially city streets) can be simply breathtaking. Coupled with the outstanding sound quality aided by Dolby Digital Surround Sound, and Forza 3 stops being a game and starts to become a fantastic experience.
Of course Forza 3 is as fun to play on Live as it is alone. The range of modes allows it to remain one of the series’ strengths. Along with this comes two slightly less competitive modes. The ‘Auction’ is exactly what it says on the tin, acting as an eBay for automobiles for other Live users, and the ‘Storefront’ allows you to share on photos, replays and even tuning set ups. With the sheer amount of time you’ll be spending in the ‘Storefront’ and upgrading cars, you’ll be a natural Del Boy in no time.
Be you an experienced veteran in the field of simulations, more of an Arcade based gamer or don’t even know what that plate with the big red L stands for, Forza Motorsport 3 can easily cater for anyone. The slightly stodgy A.I and sometimes dull races from the previous instalment have been glossed over with perfectly matched oppositions, great driving physics and fantastic looks. Forza Motorsport 3 will manage to convert all but the most stern of environmentalists to the racing genre, and ensure that no one will be missing out.
The Bad: Penalties didn’t exactly stop me from bashing opponents out of the way, Some drivers decided that a brick wall was the quickest route making some races a tad too easy