Game Review: Forza Motorsport 3
Release: US October 27th, Europe and Australia October 23rd
Developer: Turn 10
Available Platforms: Xbox 360
Players: 1-2 (1-8 online)
MSRP: £39.99, $59.99
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
Racing simulators have always been my favorite genre of gaming, as long as it’s a good one. There are many great racing sims out there- Codemasters Race Driver: GRID is just one example, and each console has its exclusives- PlayStation with Gran Turismo, Nintendo with F-Zero and Mario Kart (even though Mario Kart isn’t a ‘proper’ racing sim) and the Xbox with Forza.
The first Forza was a hit on the original Xbox and it ‘wowed’ a lot of people. We do, however, have Polyphony Digital- the guys who make Gran Turismo– to thank for the original concept. It’s been them that has managed to shape the path for all racing sims that have come out ever since.
As soon as you start Forza for the first time you’re put into the Audi R8 V10 (after you’ve installed the contents of disc 2, which is optional but recommended), and you’ll inevitably come first if you have any experience at racing games. But it’s not just that- the scenery, the mountains- it’s very beautiful, especially when you’re speeding around the course at 130MPH.
You can admire the scenery in over 100 tracks and race on them with over 400 different cars. That’s the most any racing game packs in to date, but Gran Turismo 5 is set to beat that- but I won’t turn this into a competition between Gran Turismo and Forza.
The single player mode has vast amounts for you to be getting on with- be it tuning your car, browsing the shops for more cars, upgrading your own cars and of course, racing. The main meat of the racing in the game is in the Season Play mode- here, you can choose from one of many different events to complete. Each event is branded with a class, so you will be needing a car for whichever class you choose.
Every time you complete a race, you’ll earn credits –which you can spend on buying cars and upgrading parts- and XP, that gets added onto your driver level and your car level. Every time you reach a new driver level, a car manufacturer will want you to ‘recognise your talents’ and will send a car, free of charge. Of course, most of the time it will need some fine tuning and upgrading to bring it up to scratch for racing, but within an hour you’ll have a great collection of cars at your fingertips.
There is also the Event List mode, where you’re all able to choose any event you would like to complete- though there aren’t many different events to choose from, you’re not just stuck with doing circuits. There are point to point races that you can do with just 1 other CPU, or race around the magnificent 10 mile Japanese circuit. Either way you’ll find yourself racing in some way, shape or form. To complete this you need to be able to get a Gold in all of the events- this might be easy for those of you on the easiest difficulty, but the rest of us it proves a nice challenge.
Sometimes you might want to go and do an event but none of your cars are up to scratch- this is where the Upgrade Shop comes in. You are able to completely customize your car internally and externally, though the Upgrade Shop specializes in internals, but does cater for the spoilers, rims and the chassis.
The parts you buy from the Shop can improve your speed, acceleration, handling, launch and braking among a few others, which makes it vitally important to upgrade your car from the rubbish stock internals. Apart from the Upgrade Shop there is the Quick Upgrade, where you can choose which class you would like your car to go up o and the game will automatically choose the parts needed to get it up there, making it painlessly easy to get a grade F car right up to grade A.
Where this game overtakes its rivals has to be in the online portion of Forza. There are a few different modes to pick from, the biggest of which is the online multiplayer. Up to 8 players can join you in a lobby with just your mates or you can jump in to one of the many Quick Match options. There is the Playground (tag), Curcuit RWD (Circuit with Rear Wheel Drive only), Circuit, Drift and Road Racing (longer tracks where “endurance is key”; disc 2 installation required). The most popular of these, while I’ve been online, is the Circuit- here, you can choose the car class you want to race in and then it chooses a lobby for you to join.
Each lobby has its own set of rules that can be adjusted by a set person in the group. Restrictions can be set to limit what tuning setups you apply to your vehicles, meaning that if you don’t have a setups that meets the requirements, you’ll be driving around in a shoddy stock car.
There are also leaderboards online for just about everything- you can see who’s the best racer, drifter, and more. It’s not like you’ll ever be able to be better than them, but hey, it’s worth a try, right?
The cars you use in this mode though seem a little strange, however. You don’t choose the car you would like to race in from your own garage- you just choose any car available. You can apply your own tuning setup to it though, thus improving the cars’ stock tuning, but I still find it a little strange why you can use any car, not just your own car.
Other notable features included here is the rewind option, giving you the ability to re-do a badly taken corner. Taken from GRID, but here you aren’t punished- do it as many times as you want and nothing will happen to you. There is also the photo mode which allows you to take photos of your race- these are stored on your console and then can be uploaded to your Storefront for everyone to see. You can also download them to your PC- which is how I’ve got mine into this review!
The driving physics do feel very solid but do slightly fall to GT’s realism of being able to adjust the physics to suit your style. The A.I. is also very stable, with not every car following the line through the track, a la Gran Turismo PSP.
I just wish I could say the same about the damage model. It feels very, very half-hearted. Whereas in GRID and Burnout Paradise your car will completely disappear into a shower of bodywork, driving in excess of 200MPH into a solid cement wall just makes your car look like someone’s got a chisel and scraped your car in Forza. Internal damage is applied to the gearstick and all the other car internals, but if you’re going to be putting damage into a serious racing game such as this then it needs to be done properly.
Aside from the Forza Motorsport 3 main game mode (as it is called), there is also Free Play that allows you to complete a quick race, where you can choose any car you want and race on any track you want. Sounds fine and dandy, but there is no customization you can do in your races- you can’t choose how many CPU’s you want to race against or what you want their cars to be, so this mode is a very shallow experience. Added to this that when you race against CPU’s there is no internal damage, only cosmetic, it just seems like a filler mode.
Coupled with this is the Hot Lap mode, which the regulars will be pleased to see- you can race against your own ghosts previously set on laps on your own profile, which adds another layer of longevity to the game.
If you want to play some offline fun then you can do so with the split screen mode- unfortunately I was unable to test this whilst reviewing this game as I only have the one controller, but I understand that you are able to race against one other mate of yours. Could have been nicer, but that’s what the online is for.
James Final Say:
This is the best serious racing game there is available right now. There is vast amounts to do, although it might not seem like it- and if you’re a Gamerscore manic then you’ll be buying and racing our cars ad weeks and weeks to try and ace it. The biggest question is, however, can Microsoft and Turn 10’s simulator really beat Gran Turismo? With GT set to fall later this year (we hope, anyway), we’ll soon find out.
Given that I’ve received a copy of this game to review very late, you might have thought that I’d have the DLC- and I do! There’s the recently released Nuremberg track set, along with the older car packs; all of which will set you back 400 Microsoft Points. If you ask me, I’d say that was a little high- but if you really want some new rides then this is the way to go.