Microsoft’s exclusive IP Forza has gone from strength to strength over the years, starting out on the original Xbox and garnering much praise from gamers across the globe, the game cemented itself as a definitive racing game for a generation of gamers loyal to the Xbox brand. With its unique customization options, simulation and arcade racing and a level of polish that was unmatched at the time, Forza was, and still is a great game for fans of racing. Fast forward a few years and the development team Turn 10 surpassed themselves with the release of Forza 2 which stepped up a gear and offered more of the same as its Xbox predecessor but with a lot more oomph. The community aspect was expanded as were the advanced calculations behind the scenes. The game was bigger and better and a great racing showcase for the Xbox 360 platform.
Well now we’re in 2009 and several years into the life cycle of the Xbox 360 and Turn 10 have been beavering away at the next Forza game to grace our consoles. The big question that is obviously going to be asked is how different is Forza 3 compared to Forza 2 considering this time there’s no jump in hardware. It’s a legitimate question to ask and one that no doubt will be reverberated across many gamers lips as the release draws near and if you’ve been a huge fan of the previous games and played them to death.
So to begin, let’s just recap over the new features of the game as there are several improvements made. To begin, the number of cars has been upped with some 400 customizable and damageable on disk cars being available, and purchasable from the off; although this is dependant on how many in game credits you have. Naturally more cars will become available via downloadable content which Turn 10 has suggested will be fully supported post release, some 10 cars being available a few days after launch free of charge. So that’s something for everyone whether you like the Italian styling of the Ferraris or the Japanese Hondas and Toyotas to the German VWs, Porches and BMWs. There are some 50 real world manufacturers to choose from around the world. Each car now comes complete with a drivers cockpit view, which for racing aficionados is a great and welcome addition to really put you into the game, the cockpits being accurately modelled on their real world counterparts. There are several driving views to choose from with full screen, bumper, two tail cams and of course the aforementioned interior view whatever suits your playing style.
There are now more upgrade options for tuners looking to make their vehicles virtual powerhouses, able to tackle the most difficult of events. In theory you can pit the smaller cars against the tougher racers and still stand a chance, this is also due to the revised PI (performance index) system which for those of you not so keen on spending too much time under the bonnet can opt to quickly upgrade their chosen vehicle at the touch of a button to suit the event you’re attempting to race. This feature is extremely handy for cycling through your garage and then simply allowing you to choose a vehicle that’s suitable and upgrading or even downgrading to suit the event. It’s neat and just one facet of a more encompassing experience Turn 10 has opted for this time round.
A lot has been said of the calculations that go beyond the surface of the game, with plenty of improvements made since Forza 2 might not be immediately noticeable, but the reality is that for gamers looking for the ultimate sim experience then you’re going to get the most realistic representation of racing of any game on the market at present. The vehicles are responsive and there’s a distinct step up as you rise from F class right up to the R class racers. The game generally feels much tighter in the control department, and those physics really do come in to play as you ride rumble strips carelessly or hit the sides of the tracks losing grip. You can feel every bump in the surface, and it just feels so right, making driving extremely engaging rather than repetitive driving the same laps over and over.
The game’s season mode has been revamped to be a more user friendly experience as three races are presented as you work through a yearly calender gaining XP for your efforts and XP for the car you’re driving. You get to choose the event based on what car you’re currently using, or whether you want to see more tracks or use a new vehicle. These options appear after each event is finished, making the game steer you in a concise and unhindered direction as you play. It’s relaxing, and with the PI allowing you to auto upgrade your vehicle, there’s not so much dipping in and out of the garage for those of you just wanting to get stuck into the action. Aside from the weekly events there are special events which provide greater reward and come as series. These are much longer and challenging and in a way progress the player through their career as you move from the lower classes up to the higher ranks.What’s also neat about the career is that you can check the event listing at any time and pick and choose the races at will, dipping in and out of single events as you see fit. It’s very open and allows players the choice of following their own pathway as much as the almost RPG like Season mode.
The Season mode allows you to take the game at your own pace and with options to tailor each race to suit your skill means that beginners and pros can find a match to suit their needs, and that includes gamers who can play using manual gear and clutch controls. Naturally the harder the settings you choose the more XP you gain and more game content is opened up to you. It’s a rewarding system where you’re never too far away from seeing something new. The most striking addition to the gameplay as you race is the inclusion of a rewind feature where you’re able to hit the back button at any time and rewind the race to perhaps retry a turn again, or better yet, tackle a situation where an AI car has inadvertently nudged you off the track. It’s useful and although purists might scoff, its inclusion and use is optional. It’s not an original idea but does take away the frustration of some moments emphasising the game’s inclusive outlook welcoming gamers experienced or otherwise.
There are more circuits on offer this time which is always welcome because although real world locales are featured once again as they are in many racing games, there’s only so many times you can virtually race around the same Suzuka or Silverstone. So there’s a lot more variety with some 100 tracks available. What’s on offer provides enough racing variety as you mix up racing styles on tight twisty circuits with those that are more open offering high speed straights and devilish, chicanes and turns. You’ll get to sample point to point racing, speedway races and the traditional circuit racing across the globe and more.
Forza has prided itself on the level of customization and for those of you who like to add a personal touch to their cars can once again delve into the livery editor and paint all manner of things onto their chosen vehicles. There are more options this time including the ability to paint a blank canvass and add grid lines. You can group shapes together and paste them onto any car, but what’s really neat is being able to share or sell the saved groups using the online store front mode. No longer are you restricted to just auctioning off specific cars. This is a great feature for painters and those willing to share stuff with the masses who are less able to paint masterpieces using the rather obscure way of painting the game offers.
The store-front is a hub of community options where you can view other racers designs, auctions, replays (where you can make your own movies), tuning settings, photos and upload your own offerings with a simple to use interface. You can even save favourites. It’s concise, user friendly and should be a hive of activity for those gamers looking to seek out the best the world has to offer at a glance. Turn 10 have done a remarkable job of gelling this area together to fit into the rest of the game, equally for those showcasing and those who are browsing or buying.
Graphically Forza 3 looks excellent with some great car models and recreations of the world’s famous racing circuits. The game runs very smoothly at 60 frames per second, although the visual upgrade from Forza 2 whilst there, isn’t huge. That’s not taking much away from the game as Forza 2 already looked great to begin with. Forza 3 merely adds another layer of polish which is to be expected considering the advances developers have made in using the Xbox 360 hardware. The damage model perhaps offers the most stark changes from its predecessor as vehicles can now be flipped over entirely. The interface is second to none and offers a highly slick presentation that is easy to use, classy and really shows how much effort has been placed into making the game the most user friendly of the series to date.
There are still things missing from the game that have featured in other racing games, such as real-time weather effects, day and night races and more varied events such as rally racing. Whatever the design choice to not include these it’s a shame that three games in we still don’t have these additions to make for a more realistic experience. In light of this, every time you visit a track, the conditions will always be the same which is a shame as real racers have to adapt to the elements which can’t ever be controlled. That said, perhaps it’s nit picking to want these additions, as what is on offer is still admirable.
The sound has been lovingly crafted as you can really hear some excellent recreations of car engines, skidding tyres and the abrasion of rubber on varied surfaces. The audio compliments the level of detail on the tracks themselves, so every bump is not only going to be felt but heard also. The music is reasonable and drives along in a typical fashion, but there’s really little variety and with no option to tailor the music to your needs, other than off or on and it feels a lot less than what’s on offer in other racing games. If you really want to hear the detail in how your engine sounds after whacking on a meaty exhaust system, then turning the music off is no doubt the best option.
There’s a lot to do in Forza 3 and to really summarise the overall time you could spend with the game, simply put is… a lot. Even if you’re an experienced gamer, there are loads of events to take part in, leader-boards to compete in and obviously the online modes where you can tailor races to suit your own needs and battle it out with the rest of the world. If you’re to gain the full 1000 achievement points here then expect to pump hours and hours into the game and then some.
There’s a certain degree of expectation for the Forza series now, what with two games already under the belts of developers Turn 10. How is it possible to improve upon an already great experience? Well, having pumped a huge number of hours into Forza 3 can say that they have excelled themselves. The main point to consider is not so much giving the game a huge overhaul- as it wasn’t needed in the first place – but the way in which the game has been opened up to a wider audience. There really is something for everyone here, and with the game’s more laid back approach is less daunting for the inexperienced and more rewarding for the pros. As a definitive racing game for Xbox 360, Forza 3 certainly is the prime candidate and it’s hard to see how any other game will surpass what’s on offer. It might not be the best looking game, or the most varied, but when you total all the parts, you’re left with something that is a joy to play, memorable and worthy of any gamers time regardless of whether you’ve played Forza 2 to death or not. If you’re a newcomer into the fold, then what a cracking place to start your racing journey. If you like cars, you’ll certainly dig Forza 3. If you’re a racing fan then this is a must have title hands down, although you are probably fully aware of this already.