Turn 10 ups its driving game with Forza Motorsport 3, the self-proclaimed "definitive" racer of this generation, a sim that strives to let the more casual racing fan into the fold with a series of options that are noob-friendly.
Sure, it has pretty much everything one would expect from a serious driving game, ensuring that the passionate Forza community who prefers the sim side of things is catered to. Forza 3 offers over 400 real world cars, more than 100 tracks on which to race them and impressive physics modeling that simulates some of the world's most coveted rides. And while players can enjoy Forza 3 with a traditional progression, starting small, improving their skills and purchasing better and faster cars, almost everything is available to you from the start.
Now that we've kicked Forza 3's tires—and peeled out with them—would we recommend you get behind the wheel?
From Arcade To Sim: Look, I'm kind of a driving game lightweight, not the type who would label myself a fan of simulations of almost any sort. I don't have a passion for cars, don't own a driving wheel controller and almost always play using a camera that follows behind the car. Thankfully, catering to my sim phobia, I was given the option from the beginning to play Forza Motorsport 3 according to my preference, effectively putting the game into arcade mode. This toggled on a number of driving assists, including auto-braking, full suggested driving and braking lines, traction control and an inconsequential damage model. Easy. However, as time went on, I became comfortable with Forza 3's handling, learning how to brake on my own, eventually becoming disgusted with my reliance on driving lines and automatic anti-lock braking hand-holding. After just a few hours, I'd turned off many of those assists, then more later on, letting me swim near the deeper end of driving simulation. For serious sim fans, the option to turn on manual shifting (with clutch!) and tire wear is easily accessed from many menus, letting you play the game as you wish.
Bring That Corner Back: One of the most helpful features in Forza Motorsport 3, the option to rewind a race a few seconds at a time, letting one correct one's mistakes, was also the one instrumental to me learning how to drive properly. Had I not had the opportunity to attempt a problematic corner again and again and again, without having to revisit the entire race, I'd have quickly lost the desire to compete. Rewind is a wonderful feature, a welcome addition to a simulation driving game that eases the frustration of that one botched chicane. Granted, rewind can't be used in multiplayer games, so drivers can't rely on it to fix every little mistake in Forza 3.
Power Leveling & Sweet Loot Drops: "Just one more race," I'd find myself saying while playing through Forza 3's rich single-player career mode. The constant allure of leveling your driver via the accumulation of experience points and the free cars gifted to you as you progress makes for a surprisingly addictive experience. Action RPG-like almost. Season-long race events interspersed with hundreds of shorter driving challenges ensures that there's plenty of variety, letting the player experience new tracks, new cars or simply become more familiar with the vehicle of their choice. There's some nice variety here, even if you'll revisit many tracks over the course of 220 available events.
The View From The Inside: Normally, I wouldn't have experienced Forza 3's wonderful in-car cockpit view, playing as I normally do. But after having done so to secure one of the game's achievements, I find myself opting for the cockpit view over everything else, feeling like I had a better feel for the road, an option made more palatable by the beautifully modeled interiors of each car.
Simple, Classic, Beautiful: The presentation here is top notch, with clean, crisp, well-designed menus making it easy to navigate Forza Motorsport 3's many modes and its collection of hundreds of cars. With the exception of a few exclusions—I would always assume I could tune, repaint or upgrade my car from the My Cars section—getting around (in the menus) is easy. Oh, right. The cars look stunning too, with plenty of options to take photos of each or just generally lust over them.
Quick Upgrade: Apologies for belaboring the point, but being somewhat behind the curve on how transmissions, differentials and other car upgrades work can make upgrading a car from stock to A-class race competitive is a little beyond me. Fortunately for the car un-enthusiast like me, the Quick Upgrade option, available when entering races, makes getting your car up to spec a one button affair. Of course, if you want to delve deeper into how brakes, wheel widths and intakes improve the various aspects of your car, Forza 3 lets you do that too. Me? I like pressing the A button and watching credits disappear.
Let's Shop: One of Forza Motorsports 3's biggest innovations is the addition of a virtual storefront, letting players sell cars, designs, vinyls, tuning set ups and more. Since I'm not much of a content generator myself, i rely on the idle time of others to help me customize and expand my car library. Buying and bidding on items is easy and intuitive, thanks to the well designed storefront. Categories for each, including Turn 10 picks and popular downloads, help the cream rise, making sure you can marvel at the excruciating work others put into their creations.
Wait... You Lost Me At Tuning: Given Forza Motorsport 3's easing into the simulation space—auto upgrades, driving assists, free cars!—I was a little disappointed to not see the same attention paid to the games tuning portions. Yes, these sections are simple to muck with, offering mostly clear explanations of what each tuning characteristic does, and Turn 10 offers a handy benchmarking option, but I was hoping for some suggested tuning options. Fortunately, the community appears to be picking up the slack.
As you might have gathered, I am not the driving sim authority capable of deeming whether Forza Motorsport 3 is the "definitive" racing game of this generation. What I can tell you is that the game, including its single-player Season Play mode and its ample online multiplayer modes, are incredibly fun to play, whether you prefer to keep the accelerator jammed or watch telemetry data tell you just how mangled your 10,000 credit tire upgrade has become over the course of a 34 lap endurance race.
This is a beautiful, broad package, one that was surprising in its most personally important aspect—how fun Forza 3 was to play. It may or may not be definitive, but Forza 3 is a must have for the Xbox 360 owning driving enthusiast. And maybe even the casual Sunday driver.
Forza Motorsport 3 was developed by Turn 10 Studios and published by Microsoft Game Studios for the Xbox 360 on October 27. Retails for $59.99 USD. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through three seasons of career mode, played multiple online multiplayer races of each type.
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