Review: Forza Motorsport 3 (Xbox 360)November 8th, 2009 | Written by Filippo Dinolfo | Topic: Reviews, Xbox 360
Forza Motorsport set out to become Microsoft’s flagship racing franchise. Its first incarnation on the original Xbox showed that developer Turn 10 was very much up to the task. In 2007 a sequel was released for the Xbox 360 and that took what worked in the original and expanded upon it in just about every way. What Turn 10 has done for Forza 3 is very similar. Unlike the progress from Forza 1 to Forza 2, the Community had a lot of input, and much of the new features are responses to requests and discussions that happened on the Forza forums. Thanks to all of that user input, Forza 3 has turned out to be a much better game than Forza 2 in all regards.
What Forza Motorsport has always done well is its in-game physics. Though Forza 2’s physics model was excellent, it did have one key shortcoming: cars could not roll over. No matter how hard you tried, the best you could do was get two wheels off the ground. Turn 10 has addressed this in Forza 3, so you can now roll a car over if you’re not careful. There have also been a number of other “under the hood” tweaks done to the car’s suspension and tire physics that are difficult to really feel if you’re playing with a regular controller, but they become more apparent if you are playing with a supported steering wheel.
Forza 3 makes every effort to help ease new players into the game. It has a number of driving assists that range from the standard ABS, Stability Management, Traction Control, all the way to the new auto-brake assist which will automatically apply the brakes for you when you approach a corner. New to the series, but certainly not a new mechanic by any means is the ability to rewind a few seconds. You can use this to go back and fix a mistake you just made if you’re new to the game, or if you’re more seasoned, use it to practice the same tricky corner over and over until you know exactly how to best attack it. For obvious reasons, this feature doesn’t work online. Though the rewind feature doesn’t really detract from the game, it would be nice if you could switch it off like any of the other assists.
There are a host of single and multiplayer modes to play in, including an extensive career mode where you will build up quite the collection of cars. Forza 3 features a roster of over 400 cars to race with and against, which is up from Forza 2’s 300. The Driver Level and Car Reputation system from Forza 2 has returned to Forza 3 almost unchanged. The only difference now is that Offline Career races and Online Races all count towards the same Driver and Car Levels. The Career mode has received a significant update. It now runs on a Calendar system. At the beginning of the week you can choose from three different events to compete in. The events you can choose from are determined in part by the cars you have in your garage. Weekend events are Championship series. The Championship series will span multiple weekends across the entire racing season. Completing a season in first place will earn you a sizable credits bonus. You can also view a list of events to compete in, however if you complete events through this list then no time will pass on the Calendar.
Along with the restructured career mode Forza Motorsport 3 has an extensive set of online modes. You can race against friends or random strangers over Xbox Live and compete in Circuit races, Drift events, or Drag races. If you want to play with friends the multiplayer works quite well. However as of this writing there are some matchmaking issues that may prevent you from joining games. We’ve experienced this intermittently. When the matchmaking does work, the online performance is excellent.
Forza 2 introduced the Auction House to the series. People could sell off their cars with custom tuning setups and liveries and earn some in-game credits. That element has made it through to Forza 3 relatively unchanged as well. Turn 10 took Community feedback into consideration when they created the all new Forza 3 Storefront. Every player has access to the storefront. They can sell car liveries, tuning setups, and vinyl decals. Those that purchase these items can then rate them. The more positive ratings one receives will help them climb the appropriate storefront leaderboard. It’s now possible to find and buy excellent artwork on the storefront, meaning that you don’t have to be an artist yourself to have a nice car.
One of the most apparent improvements over Forza 2 is Forza 3’s presentation. It starts with the clean and white menus, complete with smooth synth-styled menu music. It’s the kind of music that you can listen to while designing a decal or tuning a setup and it doesn’t get irritating. Though the menus are rather nice to look at, they do have a bit of a problem with the smaller text being just about impossible to read on a standard definition TV. Even on a properly calibrated HDTV the glaring white menus and tiny text induce eye strain rather quickly. It would have been really nice if Turn 10 could have included a “Night Mode” toggle which would toggle the background color to black, the text to white, and also bumped up the font size of the smaller text just a bit. We’re not all twenty-something with 20/20 vision playing this game.
Once you get into the driver’s seat things get a lot better. First off, Forza 3 includes a cockpit mode. The car interiors look quite good, all the gauges work, the dash is lit properly, everything you’d expect to be in a car interior view is present and accounted for except for a couple of small omissions. First off there is no way to break a windshield. It just does not happen. Considering how well games like Grid and Need For Speed Shift did this on the 360 it shouldn’t be a technical issue. More likely it was an oversight. Secondly, when you look behind or beside you from the interior of your car you do not see the relevant interior bits you’d expect to. It simply shifts to an external view. Neither of these are hugely important details, but they are worth pointing out nonetheless. Perhaps a patch could add those in at a later time? There is also a bit of a usability problem with the Ahead/Behind indicators on the top of the screen. Sometimes on very bright circuits they’ll blend into the sky and become virtually unreadable. Aside from those few minor annoyances the visuals are top tier and a clear step up from their predecessor.
If you’re new to the series, Forza Motorsport 3 is the game you want to jump into. It does a good job of easing people into the experience, and yet has all of the options to make the game as hardcore as you’d like. It’s a game that packs a lot of value into its two DVDs of content. Despite a few small rough edges, Forza 3 is a game that is easily recommended to anyone with even a passing interest in cars.