Published on October 25th, 2009 | by prime1
Forza Motorsport 3 – Game Review
Summary: Forza Motorsport 3 absolutely nails the game’s appeal. ‘It’s not a simulation, it’s an invitation’.
Marketing blurb rarely ventures outside the boundaries of breathless hype, but Microsoft impressively understated campaign for Forza Motorsport 3 absolutely nails the game’s appeal. ‘It’s not a simulation’, claims the classy two-page ad, ‘it’s an invitation’.
The first part might not be entirely true – while many gamers will be playing at a level that could hardly be classed as a simulation, it can be if you want it to be. Turn all assists off, ramp the opponent AI up to its maximum level and you’ll have races that even pro drivers would struggle to place first in. at the opposite end of the scale, you can bump and barge your way to the head of the pack without worrying about taking your right index finger off the accelerator, with auto-braking correcting your speed on corners. And, naturally, there’s a wealth of options for the vast majority of players who’ll find themselves somewhere in-between those two extremes, with the option to tweak the settings whenever you like, should you find the going too tough, or conversely a little too easy. Put simply, Forza Motorsport 3 is the racing game you want it to be.
The ‘invitation’ claim, therefore, is far from hollow PR-speak. From its clean, clear and classy menus to the harming, calming yet authoritative voice guiding you through the Forza experience, there’s one word which instantly springs to mind: accessibility. From racing novice to wide-eyed petrolhead, Turn 10 ensures you’re well catered for. And it doesn’t force you to wait to unlock the good stuff, either. Sure, a handful of the most desirable vehicles are kept under lock and key for the career completists, but the Free Play mode allows you to take just about any car out on any track. Fancy seeing how the Bugatti Veyron fares around the twisting chicanes of Fujimi Kaido? Forza’s happy to toss you the keys or a test drive.
Structurally, we’re on fairly familiar ground here. Season Play is a career mode in all but name, offering several in-game years’ worth of racing events, usually offering a choice of three different event appetizers in preparation for the racing banquet of the World Championship events – longer and harder races which test the experience you’ve gained in the shorter interim races. In general you’ll pick from events which require your currently selected car, others where you’ll visit new tracks, and a third set which test your driving in a brand new vehicle. Though this might seem like a fairly linear career progression, cleverly, the developer selects events to broaden your experience of the game, ensuring that the second season plays out very differently to the first – and not only because you’ve got faster and more powerful cars to play with.
You’ll gain credits for podium finishes in each event, with bonus credits available should you finish first in all that event’s races. Credits are used to buy new vehicles, and to upgrade your existing ones. It pays to keep a bit of change spare for events where you’ll need to upgrade to make sure your car is competitive, though if you fancy a real challenge you can ignore the game’s advice and race anyway. You’ll gain extra on top of the prescribed amount for victory, depending on the game difficulty – which, of course varies with the number os assists you have turned on, and how tough your opponents are. Aggressive driving won’t be penalized during the race, but you’ll suffer the consequences thereafter when credits are removed for the damage you take. It’s a way of gently encouraging proper racing etiquette without being too harsh should you need to force your way through on the final bend to emerge victorious. The now-mandatory rewind function can also be used without significant upgrades and the like.
It’s perhaps Forza’s generosity and breadth that impresses most. Though 22 tracks might not seem outstanding, each has a number of different circuits which completely transform the race experience, ensuring that disparate events often feel like brand new tracks, even though they take place familiar locations. The stunning Sedona Raceway Park, for example, features 10 different circuits – the full circuit taking you around the stadium and outside its gorgeous surrounding area, while the club circuit ignores the stadium section. Then within the arena there’s NASCAR-esque oval speedway race over five laps, even four straight strip drag races from between an eight of a mile to a full mile. Meanwhile, the Extreme Circuit at Camino Viejo de Montserrat takes in sections of the Ladera Test Track and the Iberian International Circuit, too, stapling the three together for a long memorable race though some stunning Spanish scenery.
It’s no exaggeration to suggest that Forza Motorsport 3 might well be the best-looking racer we’ve ever seen, if not the best-looking game of this console generation full-stop. Running at a buttery-smooth 60 frames per second, that fluidity makes all the difference, leaving its 30fps rivals choking in the dust. The attention to detail is incredible, with tracks scuffed by tyres and dotted with small oil leaks. The trackside details is second to none, with some races taking place in areas so gobsmackingly beautiful you’ll want too pootle around at 20 on a test drive just to check out the views.
As in Forza Motorsport 2 you’ll be able to take photos during any stage of a race or its replay, or even make movies to upload to the game’s online Storefront. Here you’ll also be able to download custom-designed decals to decorate your vehicle, or purchase cars which budding artists have customized. Given the talent within Forza 2’s still sizeable online community, it’s likely that the new game will spawn some pretty amazing designs for you to spend your in-game credits on. Assuming you’re not saving up for that 11,000,000CR Ferrari 330 P4, that is. The Storefront itself has had a bit of a makeover, too – you can now choose to upload or purchase vinyl groups, designs, tuning setups, rate photos or replays, or put your own custom-designed cars up for auction. You’ll be able to visit individual storefronts and bookmark them as favorites, so if you spot a designer whose work regularly cathches your eye, or an expert at tweaking cars for maximum performance, you can instantly find their own store again.
In summary, then, Forza is easily the most comprehensive racer we’ve ever played, offering a way in for novices without dumbing down for enthusiast crowd. Its handling models are so varied that it’s hard to accurately describe how it feels to drive, with noticeable differences even from the smallest changes to the number of assists or to the individual tuning setups, but with a pleasingly weighty and ‘connected’ feel to every car you sit in. it’s a game that can be enjoyed even by those with little more than a casual interest in cars. As the ad says, Forza Motorsport 3 is not just about Point A to point B. it’s an invitation. A red carpet welcome to what might just be the most detailed, most feature-packed, and (just possibly) best racing videogame ever made.