Forza Motorsport 3
The question of whether or not one likes ‘driving games’ is one that fans will scoff at. Not, as you may think, because the answer should be obvious, but more that lumping all of them into a single mass is faintly ludicrous. It’s a mistake made by not only those outside of this really rather specific corner of the videogaming community, but also by publishers. Need For Speed is a perfect example of this, with nary a gamer knowing exactly what kind of game – beyond driving a car of some sort – they’re likely to get next.
Most importantly, the genre’s appeal to its target market is largely dependent on its place on a scale which starts at lapping a radically inclined sandpit on an ATV, and ends taking half a psi from your front tires to counter understeer. In other words, from arcade silliness to pure simulation. That’s not to say that enjoyment of one necessarily precludes enjoyment of the other, but folks are fickle.
Forza Motorsport 3 – and we’re sure that the bods at Turn 10 will probably disagree with us based on the number of noob aids in the game – is pure sim. That’s not to take anything away from those little nuggets of accessibility the developer has added this time around – which are numerous. Thanks to GRiD it seems everyone is on the rewind bandwagon. Cock things up and trash your car and a quick slap of the rewind button will see you back on track as if nothing ever happened. Recent games such as DiRT 2 have moderated it by rationing its uses per race depending on your chosen level of difficulty. Forza 3 imposes no such limits, but its penalty is far more devious. Your wonderful, never to be repeated, one of a kind lap time? It won’t count. Which doesn’t stop you from winning races, but makes victory pretty inevitable. Not using it, however, reaps great rewards once you realise you’re one of only a small percentage who have posted clean lap times.
In actual fact any transgression, however slight – a wheel slipping off the track, brushing or hitting a sidewall or trading paint with another car for example – will be punished with a rude exclamation mark beside your lap time indicating its floppy leaderboard impotence. Then there’s the variously adjustable driver aids which will allow you practically any level of involvement from manual shift (with or without clutch), no ABS or traction control and no race lines – essentially like real life – through to having everything done for you besides steering, allowing your four year old to get to grips with your Lambo Reventon.
The genius of Forza 3, though, is what lies beneath the surface. The more you scratch away, the more satisfaction is uncovered. Your first few hours with the game may be spent learning to drive and incrementally upgrade your family saloon or hatchback, but its true depth is only revealed gradually as the need to nibble away at those lap times one millisecond at a time forces you deeper into your car’s tuning setup.
Turn 10 has gone to extraordinary lengths to create a realistic physics model for each of the zillion tuning and upgrade combinations for each of the game’s 400+ cars. Even the tiniest of adjustments will make a difference to your lap times, which makes tinkering an increasingly addictive pastime.
The game’s career mode is simply vast. The fact that we had nigh-on forty hours with it, yet completed a mere 18% of the races available should give you some idea of its longevity – most of you will be dead before you finish it. But let’s be honest, recycling the same tracks over and over with increasingly powerful or handicapped cars is nothing new, suffice to say that if you simply have to do everything on every track and own every car, you’re looking at a very long time indeed.
And then there’s the game’s looks. Graphically, Turn 10 has certainly done quite a bit to allay the old argument of the Forza-hating graphics whores. The game looks great – by no means the best looking driver we’ve seen, DiRT 2 has that crown – but a vast improvement over its predecessor, nonetheless.
But the Forza franchise has never really been about vast quantities of time on your lonesome. It’s about the community. It’s about painting, driving, tuning, buying, selling, filming, photographing and generally showing off. About getting online with your lovingly tweaked machine and showing the noobs what for. Forza 3’s online features stretch further than ever before offering everything from straight-up racing to any of a hundred varieties of variations on rules and entry requirements. Making a welcome return also is the game’s custom livery painting package and the brand new ability to sell your liveries for in-game credits. Previously players could only sell an entire car painted in a specific way, but now, likewise with tuning setups, your creations can be sold separately.