Thoughts on Forza 3
While release day for the UK isn’t till tomorrow thanks to a postal strike my Limited Edition came early. First off I’d like to tip my hat to whoever designed the box for the LE. It presents the game, the USB stick and the key ring in a very cool yet classy way. What is even better is the game itself is in a sleek black case and not plastered with the usual XBox 360 stuff and the lime green cases. While not a huge thing it certainly ties the whole thing together.
Along with the key ring and USB memory stick you get some downloadable goodies. At time of writing I’ve been able to download everything but the LCE dashboard theme. While not part of the game it was a little frustrating but from what I’ve read on the official forums its absence is simply due to the fact they haven’t uploaded it. So with any luck come Friday, I’ll re-download the pack and it’ll be there. They key ring is a lovely, brushed steel key ring which looks really cool and has the Forza 3 logo engrave on there. The USB stick on the other hand is your run of the mill plastic casing but contrary to some office jibes not a cheap knock-off stick. The make is SanDisk so should be pretty good and reliable though I have not yet used and don’t plan to either.
On to the actual game itself and oh my is it beautiful. The one thing that really struck me is how better looking it is than Forza 2. Maybe it’s just me but everything just seems to have that extra bit of polish, colours are brighter, cars are sharper and the off track scenery feel much more part of the circuit. What is even more amazing is when you think ‘it looks this good and still plays at 60fps.’ This for me is the big plus point as I’d rather have a game that makes you feel you’re going fast than one that looks pretty but at 140mph you feel like you’re doing twenty. Couple that then with some awesome physics and you find you’ve got a top draw sim racer.
The words sim and racer would put a lot of people off however don’t as Forza 3 is really easy to pick up and play. Don’t care about upgrading your car? Forza 3 will upgrade your car for you if it’s not competitive enough to race in the Championship you’ve just entered. Pretty awful at driving? With all the assists Forza has to offer you should find your happy medium. Add to this the new rewind feature which, like in Race Driver GRID, allows you to rewind the race if you mess up, it makes the whole racing thing a less stressful affair (well mostly). It also means that the more someone plays and gets used to how it all handles with the knowledge they can rewind it will probably encourage the “all assists” crowd to turn the odd one off. Personally I’ve played each iteration of Forza without assists, not because I’m amazing, but because you get more cash in-game if you do. At the same time though I’ve felt more a part of the game and find winning a lot more rewarding.
Next on the change list for Forza 3 was the look and feel. The menu system in Forza 2 was okay but not great and at times could get a little confusing. Forza 3 however has a clean white look with minimal menus which are easy to follow and intuitive. The first thing I said about the menus to myself when I played the demo was ‘how very Gran Turismo’ and that’s not a bad thing. Either way the new look interface is welcomed as is the new way to make vinyl groups. Ask any of the painters in Forza 2 the way they made a lot of designs was find the car with the biggest roof and make the groups from there. There is now a stand alone option to make a vinyl group in Forza 3 and it takes you to an area where you have a grid layout. This makes making vinyl groups much easier as you have lots of space to play with as you don’t have to worry about part of your design going off the side of the roof. These groups can then be saved and put on a car later or, if you’re an awesome painter (which I’m not) you can put up for sale on your storefront.
The storefront is another new addition to Forza 3. Here the community at large can check out the best painters and tuners and buy their designs/tunes. For someone like me who was awful at painting and tuning in Forza 2 this is a fantastic addition. Now I can easily find tunes and designs and give something to those who provide them. Right now there’s not much on there as the game isn’t out but I can’t wait to see what the games best painters come up with, especially with the new painting method for vinyl groups. However don’t think that this replaces the auction house as that is still there and seemingly for me, still impossible to win a bid.
Finally then it’s on to the single player game as I haven’t touched multiplayer. The first thing of note is the new season play. One of the biggest issues with previous Forza game was that it was just race after race and a slow progression through every category. Forza 3 introduces Season Play to combat this. Each season you’ll compete in one World Championship which take place on weekends then after each of those you’ll be asked to select a week based competition. It’s definitely a more engaging way to play the game but if you want to slog through just competitions you can still do this and is where I selected my first drag race which to be honest wasn’t as fun as I thought it’d be. There’s also still the usual leaderboards which can be asked for every track and event for fastest lap as well as for drifting, the other newcomer to Forza 3.
Drifting was a community startup with drift teams like Project Blackjack being the forerunners of this sub-community. In Forza 3 it’s an add-on accessed by pressing left on the D-pad but it’s fun sometimes to turn it on and just go nuts. The drift points are awarded in a Project Gotham like way and the familiarity is nice. The other thing to is that it’s not easy or at least I found it hard to get anything good going which makes your respect the drift teams immensely.
So in closing Forza 3 is such a huge step-up from the impressive Forza 2 I almost couldn’t believe it. Forza is a seasoned racer now and the current iteration shows this in the professional look and feel. At the same time however it’s still a serious simulation editor which, with all assists off will bite your head off if you get it badly wrong. What is even more amazing is that despite this it can still be picked up and played by the arcade type racer or those who aren’t big racing players and still be enjoyed. What Turn10 has done with Forza 3 is impressive and sets that bar high now for its competitors namely Race Pro. At the same time though it puts quite a lot of expectation on them for the future. But if Forza 3 is anything to go by they’ll excel under pressure and can’t wait to see what they do next.