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31 Oct, 2009

Forza Motorsport 3 Review

360 Review | Forza gamers that love their cars.
The distance between casual and hardcore gamers can be longer than twenty laps of the Nürburgring. It's a divide that many developers simply don't attempt to cross, aiming their titles at either one end or the other. To attempt to appeal to both markets simultaneously is like locking a dog and a cat in a cage together and hoping they'll be best friends. No genre is spared from this difficult balancing act, but it's a particular challenge for racers, with motorsport an endless well of technical depth that developers can either choose to embrace or ignore. If they don't choose a side, they run the risk of alienating both camps. But those cheeky lads at Turn 10, they want to have things both ways. They've told dog and cat to play nice in Forza Motorsport 3, and amazingly it's worked, resulting in a game that caters equally and unsparingly to both casual and hardcore players.

Sure, Forza 3 has some impressive numbers: 400 cars, 100 circuits, 50 manufacturers and over 200 career events. But numbers are meaningless without gameplay to give them significance, so it's fortunate that Forza 3's gameplay is rock solid. There are no spectacular innovations or gimmicks to be found, just a racing engine that handles realistically, smoothly, and most importantly makes the simple activity of driving around a track a lot of fun. Visually, Forza 3 doesn't quite have the eyeball-numbing sheen of its recent genre companions Shift and Dirt 2, but it still holds its own in motion, running at a silky 60 frames-per-second. The cars look superb, and each sports a reasonably detailed interior view that players aren't likely to use frequently, but is fun to check out now and then. The main drawback of Forza 3 is the painfully slow load times for races. Even with the game installed to the hard drive, your typical load time can reach and sometimes exceed twenty seconds. Interesting car trivia helps the time pass, but it's still way too long.

This track calls for some yodelling.

This track calls for some yodelling.
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The handling feels great, and whether you're pottering around corners with a Volkswagen or powering down a straight with a high-powered V8 you'll get that all important sense of control. If you treat the car right, it's going to do exactly as you ask. Handling can also be tweaked to your preference and ability. If you're less confident of your driving skills you can use the range of auto-assists to get you around the track, while experienced players will want to take everything off and go commando, so to speak. In the game's career mode, which we'll get to in more detail shortly, the game sensibly tweaks the rewards you'll get according to the handling settings you have. Options like switching car damage from cosmetic to full will give you a percentage boost to your race winnings, as will turning off driving assists or upping your opponent's AI.

Another option you can choose to have on or off is the game's rewind function, which is shamelessly lifted from Grid, and more recently Dirt 2. Forza 3's take on rewind is a little different to its use in those games though, both to its benefit and its detriment. For example, in Forza 3 you can wind back as far in the race as you want, as opposed to Dirt 2's thirty second window. However, while in Dirt 2 you could wind back to a precise moment within that window to resume from, Forza 3 backtracks in automatic increments with no input from the player. Exactly how far back you rewind each time seems to vary, and while it is in general faster to use than Dirt 2's rewind, you'll often find yourself rewound far further back than was necessary for you to try a different approach to that tricky corner. Additionally, because it's automatic, it can sometimes place you in difficult moments like the middle of a turn, making it hard to resume without losing your momentum and driving line. Some more flexibility in this mechanic would have been nice, but it's still a welcome addition to the game that, while making things much easier, spares a lot of frustration and time-consuming retries.

HOLDENS! FORDS! FORDS! HOLDENS! etc etc.

HOLDENS! FORDS! FORDS! HOLDENS! etc etc.
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Forza 3's Career mode is gargantuan. We mention again that there are over two hundred events to complete… that's not over two hundred races, but over two hundred multiple-race events. It will keep you going for quite a while. Don't feel disheartened when after several hours of play you check your 'percentage complete' statistic and find that it hasn't even hit double figures yet. It's just a really big game. You'll start off with one free basic low-range car and be thrown into the game's event calendar. The pattern you settle into is completing one multiple-race event in the course of one or two weeks, alongside completing a separate event at the race of one race per weekend. Completing the weekend event determines the end of the racing season, which runs for six years and gets longer every year. You'll always be given a choice as to which weekly event you complete, and Forza 3 intelligently offers up events that are based on a range of criteria. It might offer you the choice of one event because it shows off some tracks you haven't tried, another because you can use the vehicle you're currently in, or another because you'd get to try out a new vehicle. You can also go to an event list and witness the entire grid of events Forza 3 has on offer, which is beautifully presented and colour-coded so that you can instantly see which events are open and locked, which events that you possess eligible cars for, and which events you can complete in your current car. The Career mode, and indeed the whole game, has an economical but classy interface that makes navigating the menus a pleasure rather than a chore. Even searching for specific cars in the store or in your own garage is very easy.

Naturally by winning events you'll earn credits (some of which you'll lose as repair costs if you bang your car up during the race - a clever and fair penalty). But you can also earn experience points over two categories. Your driver experience increases simply by racing, and for every level you gain (up to 50) you'll be awarded a shiny new car. You'll also gain experience points for the particular car that you're driving, and for every level you gain (up to 5) you'll pick up discount perks on upgrades relating to that manufacturer. It's a beautifully balanced reward system that turns career mode into a compulsive affair, and watching your garage grow as more ticks appear on the event grid is a perpetual source of satisfaction. In terms of car upgrades, Forza 3 again caters to both the casual and hardcore. All of the minutiae of tuning setups and upgrades are there for car nuts to tinker with, and for the casual punter there's an incredibly convenient quick upgrade option that will take a gander at what can be improved on your car based on how many credits you have, and then ask you whether you'd like to implement the changes.

It's not a racing game without an autumn track.

It's not a racing game without an autumn track.
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Forza 3 expands upon and embraces the aspects of community in Forza 2. Pretty much anything you can create in Forza 3 can be given away or sold on the game's Storefront, which uses the credits earned in-game as its currency. The main focuses of this miniature economy are the custom tuning setups and the decal creations, which range from full car designs to smaller templates. The range of shapes available to you are fairly basic, but you're given so many layers to work with that it becomes possible to create some incredibly elaborate designs if you've got the time and inclination. Of course, if you don't, you can just purchase somebody else's design. There's also an Auction House specifically for selling cars that pretty much works exactly like Ebay. As for actual online play, races are stacked to the hilt with options to tinker with, though beware if you've come to rely on the rewind option: it won't be there to save you.

The game's sound is mildly disappointing, really only because it never stands out. The British voice that gently guides you through the career mode is appropriately soothing, but the music is as generic as can be. The cars themselves sound good in general but again, it's not noticeably better than other recent racers.

Forza 3 is close to the complete racing game package. It's got the sheer volume of content in terms of cars, tracks and options, a deep and very lengthy single player mode, a creative, thriving online community, and it successfully balances casual and hardcore appeal. Forza 3 may not look the best or sound the best, but it races the best.
The Score
If not the definitive racing game, the closest thing we have to it for now. 9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Forza Motorsport 3 Content

New DLC zooms onto Forza 3
12 May, 2010 It's all a little bit exotic.
New Forza Motorsport 3 DLC
13 Jan, 2010 Ten new cars!
New DLC packs for Forza 3
18 Nov, 2009 One is even out now for free.
11 Comments
4 years ago
i want to plus that pun. icon_sad.gif
4 years ago
Also, thanks to Al3x for the PALGNmobile picture on the front page.
4 years ago
ObsoletE wrote
i want to plus that pun
At first i didn't pick it up but when i re-read it realised it was quite clever.
Oh well, it deserves a *thumbs up* at the very least.
And this new Forza looks like the definitive racing game to me too.
4 years ago
I really wasn't all that impressed with this one. The game just didn't feel very balanced to me - cars felt far too heavy and the graphics were just underpar. Guess that's just my opinion, though, seems its caught the hearts of many out there.
4 years ago
The graphics aren't amazing to look at, but when driving, the 60fps is absolutely fantastic. The game is so smooth and more importantly, CONSISTENT, so you never suffer because of slowdown, which would be a nightmare on some of the tougher courses in the top level cars.

I'm a huge fan of the auction house/storefront, it's easy to go on and find hundreds of interesting designs for cars I'm using. Wether you want a racing car design (real or imagined), something like a fast and the furious ricer, or even covered in all sorts of anime characters, it's all there waiting to be bought.

There are plenty of faults in the game- some of the menus are absurdly designed (it's like half a dozen clicks and 2 load screens to get to your favourite sellers list on the storefront!!!), you can easily reach the R3 world championship in career mode before you've actually been given an R3 car (protip: '08 Dodge Viper + AWD = you'll win!), they've purposefully locked cars to give them away later (RX7 Spirit R, WRX S204, Camero Z28 SS or something)... but on the whole, definitely the best all-encompassing racer I've ever played.
4 years ago
An 8 out of 10 game...AI problems,circuits seem tighter and track width narrower,some suspect car handling etc

Hopefully for Forza 4 they will come up with a bunch of new tracks as well - having "driven" around Suzuka,Laguna Seca etc for years now how about something new and fresh
4 years ago
^ How about not? What tracks, pray tell, would you use to replace some of the most popular and respected race tracks in the world with? Not having Suzuka, Laguna Seca, Silverstone and the like in the game is like not having Ferrari, Porsche and BMW in the game -- it's just not logical to take out such big names just because they've been in previous versions and may be getting 'old' for some people.

Now if Turn 10 added some new tracks (of which there are some notable omissions in Forza 3) alongside the old legendary ones, then that'd be a different and welcome story.

But then, they did add new tracks into the mix such as Catalunya, so really, I don't see anything to complain about. Especially not when similar games, like main rival Gran Turismo, have been using the same tracks for much longer than Forza has. The thing is though, that's not a problem -- it's a good thing. Keep familiarity in play while players get used to the newer inclusions. It's striking the balance that's key, not picking and choosing to satisfy a few.
4 years ago
I agree with NismoR34 on this one.

Also I'm not sure anyone can really complain about the handling issues of the cars. Have you driven the same counterpart in reality with the same assists? I think not. How can you then complain the physics are wrong.

The track graphics aren't a great improvement on Forza 3 but the scenery is much better as is the menus. (Still too many menus but they look smooth and nice). the way the menu has an uncluttered almost Euro feel about it, adds to the prestige racing feel.
4 years ago
Errrr...i can think of one straight away..........Bathurst and as video games are an art form how about Turn 10 (and Polophony) showing some creativity and come up with some cracking track designs instead of cut and pasting assets from one game to the next.
It can be done,look at the work done by Sega,Namco,Criterion,Bizarre Creations etc.
4 years ago
^ What assets are cut and pasted? All of the visual work of the fictional tracks was redone. The same applies to the real tracks, and furthermore if any real tracks were taken out (Sebring excluded) I'd be pretty damn pissed off.

I'm not sure I understand your complaint about the circuits being too narrow or tight, as they are accurate reproductions of the real circuit. Perhaps it's just your perception of them and you could try changing the camera angle you're using.

As for suspect car handling, there's 2 possible reasons this is a complaint. The first possibility is you find it too unrealistic, in which case I suggest you turn the aids off. If that's not the case and you're driving with the aids off already, then I'm at a loss to understand how the handling could be 'suspect' compared to Forza 2 when the physics have been improved to become more realistic, and Forza 2's were some of the best around to begin with.


My thoughts
I still think there's a few niggling issues with Forza 3 but I found your (barrett's) complaints to be bizarre. Personally I find the AI to be the usual racing game affair; glued to the racing line and overly aggressive if you're on the line and they're just outside it. The AI seems to hit the brakes earlier than necessary but if I'm in front they'll fly into the back of me despite me braking later than where they normally would.

I find the off-track physics to be atrocious still. By that I mean the grass (not even gravel traps) to the side of the track. If you go slightly off the track you can find your car immediately pulled up even from 250km/h to around 30km/h. I understand why they've done it, but it seems incredibly artificial and unrealistic in a supposed sim. It annoys me to cut a curb (I'm thinking of a chicane outside the Sedona track here) and still have 2 wheels on tarmac but the other two hit dirt and the car immediately halts.

Then there's the shaking/revving of the car in the pre-race intro movie. That belongs in a NFS game, not Forza.

All minor complaints in what is the best racer out there, especially for motorsport enthusiasts. The addition of V8 Supercars was something I wasn't excited about before the game but now I've taken the #1 car and the Toll HSV car for a spin I love them. All of the proper racers (R2 and R3 class I've tried) are great fun and can be very difficult to drive if you take the aids away. I had a go in the 2008 Aston Le Mans car and was spinning out on the exit of 4th gear turns. The physics are top notch and really force you to be smooth on the accelerator, even at such high speeds.

I'm only in season 3 of the career mode but it's been great fun so far!
4 years ago
I'd love Bathurst to be in this game as it's such a fun track, but it won't happen.

Infact, in an interview on the Major Nelson podcast the other week, Dan Greenwalt (Turn10) didn't sound too keen on the idea of DLC tracks. Apparently they werent that successful in Forza 2, probably because it doesn't intergrate them into the main career, so they were multiplayer or free play only.

He said it takes 3 months to make one track.

DLC cars on the other hand is definitely happening, starting with the Ferrari 458 Italia (yum).

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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  23/10/2009 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Microsoft
Genre:
  Racing
Players:
  1

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