After much hype and promise, the Microsoft gem, Forza, has returned for another generation of simulation goodness. Turn 10 has been hitting hard from the very first Forza, and with this latest release, I can assure you that they’re not showing any signs of slowing down.
THE FACT SHEET
RELEASE DATE: October 27, 2009
PUBLISHER: Microsoft Game Studios
DEVELOPER: Turn 10 Studios
ESRB RATING: “E” for Everyone
Product Overview: Whether it’s an exotic sports car like the new Audi R8 V10, a classic American muscle car like the Ford GT or a hot Asian import like the Nissan 370Z, everyone has a dream car. Now you can drive that dream with Turn 10’s latest racing epic. Launching this October exclusively for Xbox 360, “Forza Motorsport 3” unites the racing game genre making it possible for everyone to experience the thrill of the world’s most exotic and exquisite cars. Live the most realistic racing experience ever as you take the wheel of more than 400 of the most-beloved cars on over 100 renowned real-world tracks and exotic road courses from around the globe. With breathtaking HD graphics and the most advanced vehicle performance modeling in a video game, “Forza Motorsport 3” includes a host of driving assists and adjustable skill levels to make the game a gripping pick-up-and-play experience for audiences of all ages and skill levels.
Your escape into the world of car culture in “Forza Motorsport 3” doesn’t stop at the track. Turn 10 is a proven leader in user-generated content creation in games. “Forza Motorsport 3” further fuels the imaginations of its already thriving community of painters, tuners and photographers with improved customization tools and brand new ways to share creations with the world via Xbox LIVE*. Xbox LIVE makes your journey into the “Forza Motorsport” community and the world of user-generated content easy and fun.
A love of cars lives in all of us. “Forza Motorsport 3” is the automotive playground we’ve all been waiting for.
Where dreams are driven: The cars and tracks. Featuring the latest and greatest production offerings as well as the world’s fastest and most exotic street cars, “Forza Motorsport 3” offers more than 400 fully customizable and tunable cars from over 50 of the world’s leading manufacturers. Whether your passion is classic American muscle cars, European roadsters, purpose-built race cars or high-tech Asian imports, “Forza Motorsport 3” puts you in the cockpit of the cars you love. In addition to the return of world-famous tracks from previous “Forza Motorsport” games, including Suzuka, Nürburgring Nordschleife and the Sebring International Raceway, “Forza Motorsport 3” invites you to conquer the corners on more than 100 tracks, including some of the most beautiful road courses in the world. New environments like the gorgeous mountainous Montserrat region in Spain, the rugged Amalfi Coast in Italy and the American Southwest are presented in such majestic detail that you might find yourself pulling over just to take it all in.
The look and feel of a modern racing game: Forza is the definitive racing game. “Forza Motorsport’s” appreciation of the automobile is due in large part to the team’s attention to detail. This is why automotive engineers from manufacturers like Audi and champion race teams like Peugeot as well as experienced computer graphics specialists from across Microsoft have all teamed up with Turn 10 to make “Forza Motorsport 3” the most beautiful and realistic racing game ever made. All 400-plus cars in the game have been built with more than 10 times the amount of polygons as “Forza Motorsport 2.” This includes painstakingly researched cockpits and interiors for every vehicle. But realism isn’t just about pretty graphics. Turn 10 takes realism to new heights, leading the industry with the most advanced physics model, artificial intelligence and damage calculations. Whether it’s the differences in how each car handles through the corners, how the engines sound at top speed or how different tires and upgrades impact your car’s performance, you’ll find yourself leaning into your turns as if you were really behind the wheel of your favorite ride.
It’s easy to go for a spin: “Forza Motorsport 3” redefines the racing genre. Simulation games can be too hard for some players. “Forza Motorsport 3” rises above the distinction between simulation and arcade games. Using a myriad of cutting-edge driving and gameplay assist such as auto-braking, gameplay rewind and auto-tuning, “Forza Motorsport 3” delivers an experience where everyone can have fun behind the wheel, regardless of your skill and dexterity. Whether you’re a newcomer or a seasoned racing game pro, “Forza Motorsport 3” caters to how you drive and evolves with you over time as your skills increase.
Express your car passion: User-generated content and Xbox LIVE. Painters and tuners will once again be able to showcase creativity through the celebrated Livery Editor, Auction House and deep tuning garage in “Forza Motorsport 3.” The car is literally the artistic canvas as some of the world’s most creative car painters and designers find new layers of depth and freedom to create shocking visual masterpieces before sharing them with others over Xbox LIVE*. Each car in “Forza Motorsport 3” is fully upgradable, allowing gear heads to take on the challenge of turning a Honda Civic into a supercar killer. New Xbox LIVE Leaderboards celebrate not only the greatest racers but also the most prolific car tuners and painters in the community.
Play your way: New game modes. “Forza Motorsport 3” is an epic racing game featuring more content and more ways to play than any racing title today. An innovative single-player season mode puts you through a completely personalized racing calendar that includes more than 200 different events, including Circuit, Oval, Drag, Drift and Timed Events. No two calendars are the same; they react to the cars you love and the races you enjoy most. In addition, the online multiplayer mode* gains an all-new game rules editor. This gives players a never-ending variety of ways to play with friends. Whether you’re a speedster, dragster, drifter, painter, tuner or just a lover of cars, “Forza Motorsport 3” is the definitive racing game for you.
Forza 3 gets off to a great start with over 400 cars and a mind-numbing 100-plus tracks. With games like Gran Turismo, one might get the perception that 400 cars is the grand total of car combinations from a previous generation’s title. But unlike Gran Turismo, you won’t find 15 variations of one car here. What you will find, however, is a great variety of choices spread throughout the 50 or so car manufacturers. I’ll take that over the silly “gran” total any day! That’s not to say that Forza doesn’t add its own little silly aspects to it all. They’re officially counting those 100 tracks, but as you’ll find out for yourself, it’s not what it seems. Some tracks will have upwards of 4 different variations. Some tracks will be shorter than the others. But, it’s still the same location and feel as the others under the main track. This may not be an issue, but we like to keep things technical around here. Having said that, there is still a great deal of tracks to compete on, so you never really get the feeling that you’ve been short-changed.
Forza 3 covers three focal points: gamer experience, graphics and physics. From the early showcases of the game, the developers have been talking about trying to cover everyone from the casual gamer to the hardcore car nut. This was an odd task for the Forza franchise, as its roots were always firm in the hard core simulation world. I’ve been wondering for some time how they were going to pull this off. As a hardcore gamer, there is nothing easy or forgiving about simulation titles, so how in the world are they going to draw the casual and car enthusiast crowd into the mix? Well, after you’ve finished installing your second disc of content (that’s right, two discs), you’re treated to a few laps in the Audi R8. This, however, is not a joy ride, but a test run to help the game adapt to your driving style. If you’re going to fly around every corner like a mad person who had no idea the brakes were mapped to the left trigger, then the game will provide you with an auto braking assist. If you’re like me, someone who has been in Forza land from the start, then you’ll be getting no assistance, not even ABS braking. From that one race, the game is pretty much playable to your level of experience. This approach works surprisingly well, and had a positive effect on gamer experience.
Once the system has identified your driving style, you’re taken to the menus. Some people have complained that the menus took some getting used to. But I found them well thought out and generally pleasing to the eye. Navigating around the career mode or even the upgrade menus were fairly straight-forward. Everything was where you’d expect it to be, and the layout and color choices were simple and effective.
Now you’re off to the career mode. This is the meat of the game, and where you’ll be spending most of your time. The idea is to start off at the bottom with the worst of the worst cars, then work your way to the top with the trophy winners. For example, you’ll start off with something like a Toyota Yaris, doing laps on tracks that seem to take all day. But you’ll soon start earning decent money from your races, so you won’t be in that situation too much longer. Aside from earning money, you will also earn experience points as a driver. This allows you to level up your driver, and rewards you with new cars at each level earned, which is a great incentive to continue racing. As if that wasn’t enough, you can also earn experience on the cars you drive. As you drive a particular car more, you level it up while doing so. This results in things like discounted parts from the manufacturer or even unlocking performance upgrades that were previously unavailable for that car model. Again, these are great incentives to continue to drive your favorite car throughout the career.
The career races themselves are structured on a monthly schedule. Whatever event you pick, you will probably have at least four races in that month. At the end of each month, you’ll have a championship race, which is typically a little tougher and longer, but pay out a lot more money. Complete enough of these events and you’ll pass enough time to turn over a new season. Just like everything else in the game, making it to a new season rewards you with gifts in the form of cars. Because you’re given a choice of which events you want to race after each month, you might miss some. For instance, I usually select the Japanese events because I like those cars best, but there are some European events I may have missed out on. An event list option has been added for this reason. At any time in your career, you can go back and start any event you’ve missed out on or perhaps an event you want to do over again. When you see the event list for the first time, you’ll really understand just how huge the Forza career mode is. There are an insane amount of races. As hard as I’ve been playing the last few days, I only find myself at 9.6 percent complete.
Outside of the career mode you’ve got a free play and time trial mode, which are pretty self-explanatory, and an online mode. In the online mode, the formula is still the same – 8 player races on all the tracks. This even includes drag racing. Game modes like cat and mouse have also been added to the mix. The online menus have been reworked and work well. I’ve seen very little lag online, which is always a good thing.
The second focal point would be the graphics. Man, this game is beautiful! The tracks and environments are all presented with great detail. Even the older tracks come alive like they never did before . You no longer get the feeling that you’re driving off into the cardboard cutout. In fact, on some tracks, depending on the time of day you’re racing, the sun completely blinds you on certain corners. Even though the tracks aren’t all real world locations, they all have a very photorealistic look to them. Let’s not forget about the cars themselves. The cars are skillfully portrayed. The models are on point, right down to the cockpits. It’s shocking to see an intercooler behind the grill of an EVO after upgrading the part. Usually the performance of the intercooler is evident when you drive the car, but this is the first time you can actually see the part on the car. Great detail has been paid to the cockpit views of each car. Speaking from the few cars represented in the game that I’ve actually driven, they’ve nailed them all with 100% accuracy.
Along with those great visuals, come great sounds of course. Turn 10 went to great lengths to make sure that each car’s engine sounds exactly like it would in real life. They did not fall short here: American muscle cars that roar where ever they go, European cars sound as sweet as ever, and the Japanese and German imports are as fun to listen to as you could imagine. I am no fan of VTECH, but it sure is exciting to hear it kick in on a nice stretch. If you go the NA route, you’ll hear the engine scream as it gets up there in RPM. But if you go Turbo or Super charger, you’ll be treated to some sweet sounding blow off valves and charger winding. You’ll even hear the feedback in road represented by the sound of the engine as the tires grip and the engine puts out torque. It’s really a remarkable experience!
That leads us to the third focal point, the physics. I’ve saved this for last because this is my favorite part of the game. Now I can’t attest to the accuracy of all of the cars in Forza 3, but since I’ve driven a handful that are present in the game, I can certainly use my past experiences as a good measuring stick for sizing up the physics engine. Well, I am happy to report that: it is spot on. A stock Civic feels as it should in real life. The M3 feels as stiff as it should be, up until the point you choose to not respect its power. Then it feels like the controlled, out of control beast it is. Hard to explain, but if you’re a car person, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about. It’s great to see the developers not only improve from Forza 2, but deliver an almost perfect experience in Forza 3. I am also very impressed by the way displacement plays a bigger role in this game. In Forza 2, no matter what car it was, you could put some power into it and keep up. I suppose that’s the idea of tuning, but it’s not always realistic. Let me be the first to tell you, that ideology will get you nowhere in Forza 3.
For instance, I completely bought all the parts for the Supra, in hopes that I could find the right combination to beat a friend’s R8 on the LeMans tracks. As we all know, the Supra is no slouch, but no matter what I did, the R8 just pulled away from me every time. I had single and twin turbo set ups from here to next week, and none of them helped. I even swapped the V8 in the Supra, and charged it up with one big turbo. I was to the point where my opponent and I had almost equal horsepower, but still no luck. Then it hit me: That R8 is pushing a v10! There is NO way I am going to catch him on that straight away. It was just out of my range. So what did I do? I put some work into my v12 Benz and took my pride back! I was so amazed to see cars with equal HP behaving completely different due to displacement and the upgrades that had been done.
I’m also a fan of the cockpit view while racing. I thought it was going to be difficult to adjust, but it just feels natural. Everything from playing the apex close, to counter steering while drifting, is done with little thought from the player. As I mentioned before, the feedback from the tracks is also worthy of mention. You’ll find yourself reacting to the environment much more than you have in any other racing game. You really can feel the road in Forza 3.
I’d like to mention one more improvement in this release. Here in the simulation world, it is not uncommon to have a particular car or car set up for each track. In fact, that’s pretty much the only way to compete. You need to tune your cars according to the demands of each track. In Forza 2, this method resulted in the 7 MR2’s sitting in my garage. Even though I built them all, I often got confused as to which one is used for what track. This time around, Forza 3 allows for unlimited tune set ups on one car. As I mentioned earlier, I purchased all the parts for the Supra. So I can now have a set up for the A class, then completely remove all those parts and build another set up from scratch. When I am done, I just saved the tune and keep going from there. This also plays in nicely with the option to gift tunes to friends, or even download tunes from other people’s storefronts. So let’s say you just bought a Supra, and do not care to go through the process of tweaking it yourself. You can easily search the storefronts and download a tune for whatever class you’re interested in. When you are ready to load the tune, it’ll let you know how much you have to pay upfront to purchase the parts for that setup. Once that is complete, you’re in business. This is a great way to help out players who aren’t as knowledgeable about the tuning world, but would still like to get in on the fun.
I mentioned the storefronts a short while ago. Each player has the ability to make his work public: tune set ups, paint jobs, even the cars themselves. You add whatever you want to your storefront and set a price. The money earned from your storefront sales goes right into your career money. So it’s a great way to generate an ecosystem in the community. And of course, the car auctions have returned for more fun. This is pretty much like eBay, where you can bid on cars uploaded by other gamers.
So what about the paint jobs? Forza 3 offers some improvements here as well. You can now group paint layers as objects to import or export as you please. They’ve also increased the amount of layers per panel. What does this mean? Insane paint jobs. Some of the stuff on the auction block today is downright amazing. I’ll never understand the level of creativity that is required to make these paint jobs, but I know that for a nice price, I can own a few of them, which is all I need to know!
Before I give my final word, let me say that this game is nearly perfect, with the exception of a few factors. I’ve found a few bugs here and there. For example, while driving in the cockpit view, regardless of the car I am driving, the driver never takes his hands off the wheel to shift gears. But while watching the replays, he clearly reaches down to do so. This was a little annoying to watch at first, but I am over it now. Another inconsistency I picked up on was that some of the career races weren’t balanced correctly. The player would have access to enter an A class event with a S class car, resulting in no competition from the lower-performing cars in that event. And the “Biggest Bug of All” trophy goes to the A.I. Since easy and normal are not my style, I’ve been living at the highest difficulty from race one. Sometimes the races are easy, sometimes they’re hard and sometimes they are just impossible. Not to mention, the AI does wacky things sometimes. I’ve seen them just stop in the middle of turns or just drive right off the track. Sure you can sell me the concept that pressure forces them to react unexpectedly, but does that logic hold true on a straight away?
Those few issues aside, Turn 10 has pushed out another instant classic. The improvement to the gamer’s experience and physics are all welcome. The graphics are indeed second to none, and the online community continues to snowball into something special. This game has not only lived up to the hype, but has surpassed it effortlessly. I just hope that Turn 10 continues to feed us with downloadable content to keep the package well-oiled until the next release.
|- Graphics of cars, tracks and environments
– Career mode
– Physics engine is top notch
– Online play is as solid as ever
|- AI does some weird things sometimes
– Driver doesn’t shift gears while racing in the in dash view.
Single Player: 9/10 | Multi-Player: 10/10