Forza Motorsport 3 Xbox 360
Published by: Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by: Turn 10
Forza Motorsport 3 offers loads of content that should satisfy those who wanted more from Forza Motorsport 2. There are over four hundred cars from over fifty of the world's best manufacturers such as Porsche, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Lotus, Aston Martin and many more. There is also a fantastic in-car view for each of the cars which really does add to the experience for those hoping to have a more realistic view of the action. One of the criticisms of Forza Motorsport 2 was that there were nowhere near enough tracks to race on. That's not the case in FM3 as there are over 100 different tracks and road courses. In terms of sheer content then Forza Motorsport 3 has the edge over its prequel but there's more to this excellent driving game that just content.
The single-player Career mode can be played in two ways. You can either choose Season Play which allows you to compete in events as they come along on the calendar (you usually get to choose from two or three different events, the choice of which is dependent on the cars you own, unless it's a World Championship race) or you can simply choose one of the available events on the Event List. Events are made up of several races. There are over 200 different events and a series of World Championships to take part in. You'll earn points from each race with the event winner being the one with the most accrued points from the individual races. Free Play allows you to setup a quick race, go for a hot lap or engage in a two-player split-screen race. Online racing is also catered for with drag, drift, tag, cat and mouse and elimination races, in addition to normal races available for up to eight players. There are many customisation options too, allowing you to create an online experience that suits you.
Competing in races will earn you experience points (XP) and credits. The credits can be used to purchase new cars and upgrades for the cars you already own. You can also use the credits to purchase cars, paintwork and vinyl group designs from the online auction house. You can sell your own cars and designs online too for credits. The XP is used to help you increase your driver and car levels. The amount of XP you earn is determined by the difficulty level you're playing on and the assists that have been used. Any damage you've done to your car will subtract from the final total. With every increase in your driver level, you'll earn a new car and with every increase in the car's level (each car has its own level) you'll gain discounts on a wide range of upgrades.
One of the main themes in Forza Motorsport 3 is accessibility. The game offers a wealth of assists such as autobrakes, anti-lock brakes, stability control, traction control and automatic gears. The dynamic suggested driving line feature also returns and can be set to full, braking only or turned off completely. Damage modelling can either be cosmetic only, limited or full simulation meaning your vehicle can become undrivable if it takes a serious amount of damage. In fact, you can make FM3 as easy or as challenging as you wish.
A new rewind feature, available in single-player races only, has been included which allows you to rewind a few seconds and pick up the action from a previous point. I'm sure many have played a racing game involving lengthy races where one lapse of concentration has caused you to overshoot a corner and ruin the whole thing or it could be that an aggressive AI driver has nudged you from the track reducing a winning position to a losing one. Thanks to the rewind feature, activated by pressing the back button, all will not be lost in such situations and this really does cut out a lot of the frustrations that most people have with racing games. Sure it could be overused and hardcore motor racing fans won't touch it, but for many it will be a welcome addition.
That said however, even the hardcore motor racing fans might occasionally feel the need to use the rewind feature to compensate for those moments when the AI is just too aggressive. For the most part the AI, particularly on the more difficult settings, is actually quite decent although there are occasions when the AI drivers appear to fall asleep and drive right off the track. Annoyingly, there are times when the AI is not adverse to clipping your car causing you to spin. This works both ways of course and you're free to be aggressive with the AI (although you won't see the AI cars affected too much by such driving). Racing against the AI on easier settings, you'll notice that the bulk of the cars don't put up much of a challenge at all. You can go from eighth to third without much effort at all and regardless of how many times you come off the track (and don't use the rewind feature), it's still possible to catch and overtake the bulk of the AI drivers in very little time. The option to turn off such accommodating AI behaviour would have been very welcome.
The ability to customise the appearance of your cars has always been one of Forza's standout features and in Forza 3 the customisation tools are as good as ever. Once again you can choose from a variety of decals and vinyl shapes to create any design of your choice with the only limitation being your own creativity. Cars can be painted using normal, metallic, special and manufacturer colours. Creating your own designs is addictive and it's possible to lose a substantial amount of hours just experimenting with various designs for your cars.
It's not just the look of the cars that you can customise. Your cars can also be tuned. The tire pressure, gears, alignment, anti-roll bars, springs, damping, aerodynamics, braking and differential can all be configured to your desired specifications and you can enable the telemetry display during test drives or races to see what effects your adjustments have had. You can fit a wide range of improved parts to your car ranging from air filters to turbochargers. Of course it would be all too easy to upgrade your car to the maximum and leave the competition standing. Fortunately there are checks against this. Each car has a classification (shown by using letters) and a performance index (PI) rating (shown in numbers). As you improve your car with new parts the PI will rise and eventually push your car into the next classification group. Races have set requirements setting a maximum classification and PI for cars that can take part (e.g.. D350), so it's not possible to give yourself too big an advantage. It should also be mentioned that there is a quick upgrade system in the game that allows you to quickly upgrade your vehicle to make it competitive for the next event. All you have to do is agree to pay the asking price and the upgrades are carried out.
The presentation in Forza Motorsport 3 is top notch. The menus are clean and uncomplicated to use. All information is displayed as clearly as possible and I never found myself needing to look at the game's manual, which is a good thing as the manual is actually quite poor. Graphically the game is very impressive. The car models are excellent and the in-car view is probably the best I've seen in a console driving game to date. The frame rate appears to be a solid 60 frames per second and the sensation of speed feels right.
Deaf gamers won't have any problems with the game. The only speech is an announcer's voice that gives information on some of the menu screens. The gist of what he says is given in text however so you're not missing out on any information. All of the important information in the game is given visually. During races you can switch between telemetry, damage and other important data you may want to keep an eye on. The game's force feedback (when using the standard 360 controller) really adds to the experience, especially on some of the more uneven tracks in the game.
Forza Motorsport 3 is a great sequel and one that will satisfy both fans of the series and those who just want to get their hands on a top notch racing game. It's not just for simulation enthusiasts. The game is about as accessible as it could possibly be and almost everyone will be able to enjoy the game on some level which is a remarkable achievement. From a presentation perspective, it's outstanding and graphically it's probably about as good as we're going to see on the Xbox 360. It's not perfect however. The AI definitely could do with improving and it can be a little strange watching an AI driver seemingly fall asleep and drive straight off the track on the odd occasion. Minor problems aside however, Forza Motorsport 3 is the benchmark racing simulation on the Xbox 360 and is a must own title for anyone with an interest in driving games.