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Forza 3 Review
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If you’re a petrol head like myself and dream of recklessly driving expensive cars around a track but unfortunately haven’t won the lottery or struck oil yet, then your next best bet is practicing and enjoying the thrills that a racing game on the Xbox 360 console can provide. There have been plenty of classy racing games released this year such as an inevitable new Need for Speed, Dirt 2 and Fuel, and this made me wonder whether the third instalment in the Forza series could stand out from the rest and announce itself as this years best racing title, or instead fade in to the ever growing back catalogue of “average” Xbox 360 games.

Having immensely enjoyed Forza 2, I excitedly jumped straight into Forza 3’s newly designed Season mode. The object of Season Play is to simply win events throughout the week and enter a Championship per season for a certain Class of car. With each year comes a new Class Championship to compete in and win, declaring yourself as the best driver out there. You start your career racing cars me or you could afford such as Ford Fiestas, Volkswagen Beetles and Renault Clios. Expect to be using these bog standard cars for a few hours until you are either awarded with higher classed cars or have earnt enough credits to purchase the vehicle of your choice. Winning races and events, along with avoiding damaging your car will award you with credits which you can use for buying new vehicles and objects from the Storefront; which I’ll explain more of later. Winning races provides you with XP which increases your Driver Level; with you being gifted a nice shiny new car every time you rank up.

Instead of following a strict calendar and forcing you to race events in a particular order, you get to choose from one of three events per month. The choice will either allow you to experience new tracks, race with your currently selected car, or race with a new car. Having the option to choose events which allow you to experience new cars and tracks helps keep the game from becoming tiresome. To fully complete Season Play, Forza’s developers Turn 10 reckon you’ll need to spend approximately 150 hours churning through the 220 events on offer; that’s a long time! These events will either be your average Circuit, Drag, Drift and Timed events.

Turn 10 claims Forza consists of over 100 different track variations, broken down from 24 individual circuits. Famous racing tracks such as Silverstone, the treacherous Nurburgring and Le Mans grace the game. 100 different tracks sounds great at first, but infact many of these tracks appeared in Forza 2 and have only had a touch up in the graphics department. If you put 150 plus hours into Forza 2 like myself, then you’d already be bored of these tracks and begging for new, exciting circuits to test your wits on. Playing through the Season mode, it felt like at least every other track I raced on was a re-hash from Forza 2 and this was extremely disappointing. Although good tracks in their own right, I’d expect new tracks to come along with a new game.

The variety of tracks might bore you after a while but the selection of cars certainly won’t. The main disc ships with 300 cars available, with an extra 104 cars having to be installed to your Xbox’s hard drive from a second disc included with the game. These cars, along with a few extra tracks, mounts up to a hefty 1.9GB in total; gamers with a 20GB hard drive might struggle to find the necessary space. You’ll find some of the best and most desired cars in the world available to purchase, such as the Bugatti Veyron, Audi R8, Enzo Ferrari and the feisty McLaren F1 supercar.

Designing and tuning up cars is as much an attraction in Forza 3 as the actual racing itself. Turn 10 have re-hauled the customisation options and made painting and tuning your cars surprisingly easy this year; even I managed to pimp my Ford Fiesta into a slick looking machine, choosing bright orange paint and adding flames down the wings for a nice finishing effect. The great thing about Forza is you can then sell these cars in the Auction House where other gamers can bid on your car, and you can obviously bid on other people’s designs and standard factory cars they are selling. You can grab some real bargains in the Auction House and purchase cars you wouldn’t unlock until many hours of gameplay in Season Play. A new addition to the Forza series this year is the fantastic “Storefront” where you can sell your designs to other gamers and therefore get rewarded for your hard work, while showing it off to the world. The Storefront is the place to show all the photos and videos you’ve taken and get them rated by the Forza community.

If you haven’t got Lewis Hamilton’s driving skills then fear not. You will be able to have an enjoyable experience with Forza whatever your racing skills due to a number of driving aids you can switch on and off. You can choose whether you want the correct driving line to follow, which also indicates when to accelerate by turning green and brake by turning red. Keeping to the best driving lines is key to achieving the best lap times available, resulting in this being an essential aid for most; especially me! However, breaking assist is available for those, and probably only those, new to the racing genre. This essentially allows one button racing, with you only having to accelerate and not having to worry about breaking around corners. There are also a number of other driving aids such as ABS (Anti-lock Breaking System) and TCS (Traction Control System), which when switched off aids realism to the handling of the cars. Gamers after a challenge will relish having these aids switched off, especially whilst handling the more powerful cars as it’ll be a real battle to keep the beasts on the road. Those brave enough to switch the driving aids off will get rewarded with extra credits per race.

A feature that seems to be popping up in the majority of racing games these days is the “Rewind” feature which lets you, as the name suggests, rewind the race if you crash, take a corner incorrectly etc. I personally love this feature due to many times in the past having raced for a stupidly long time, only to crash or get overtaken on the last lap of the race. There is a bad point however, with this being the gamer having an unlimited amount of rewinds per race. In similar games, you are limited to a certain number of rewinds which adds pressure to the race. In Forza however, you have as many as you like and this essentially makes it impossible to lose a race and removes challenge from the game.

Another disappointing feature of the game is the seemingly lack of effort and intelligence from the A.I racers. Other cars in the race seem happy to stick to the racing line instead of blocking you from passing and driving aggressively. When you take the lead, you’re rarely ever challenged for the pole position; I’m pretty sure I never conceded first place after taking it, and that’s not due to being a good driver!

The gameplay in Forza 3 is overall fantastic and extremely addictive, but it’s a great shame that the game has some awfully long loading times. I’ve literally sat there for between one and two minutes waiting for a race to load, with Facebook on my mobile the only thing keeping me from pure boredom; and there’s only a certain amount of times you can check for status updates! When you consider the huge amount of races in the game, you’ll be waiting around instead of racing way too often. Installing the game to the hard drive doesn’t seem to make a huge difference either unfortunately.

At the huge gaming event E3, Turn 10 promised to deliver the best racing visuals seen to date. This was a huge claim seeing there were already some gorgeous racing games available, but I’d have to agree with them as Forza 3 undeniably looks great. Each of the 400 cars looks like its real-life counterpart and your designs fit each car so naturally. The tracks and scenery look fantastic and have some brilliant textures, adding realism to the game. Two things let Forza’s graphics down however; firstly, the apparent jaggy lines seen on the cars which takes away the photo-realism of the vehicles, and secondly the cockpit view looking poor compared to other games of the genre. Textures in this view seem downgraded immensely and no animation for gear shifting has been included, which seems like a very strange and lazy decision from Turn 10.

The roar of the engines in Forza 3 sound incredible as you would expect. The games soundtrack seems acceptable as you listen to the songs as you browse menus and customise cars, but it strangely drowned out by the sound of the engine during races. You can barely hear the music which is a huge disappointment; they might aswell switched it off all together.

Forza 3 is easily one of the best racing games created for this generation of consoles. Gorgeous visuals, highly addictive gameplay and fantastic customisation options provide hundreds of hours of gameplay. If you’re a fan of the racing genre in the slightest, you owe it to yourself to check out Forza 3.

VN:F [1.9.6_1107]
Rating: 9.7/10 (3 votes cast)
Forza 3 Review, 9.7 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
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