Forza Motorsport 3 - Xbox 360
Forza 3 was an undoubted hit of 2009, one that we enjoyed playing so much, that it never got reviewed, so we thought we'd correct that. It comes in to supplant Forza 2, which launched in 2007, blending a huge variety of tracks and cars and a game we loved.
Forza 3 races in with over 400 cars to choose from and over 100 tracks to race. The choice is truly staggering, you won't find every car you can think of, but most of those cars you've lusted over are in here: Ferrari, Aston Martin, Audi and a range of models across classifications, from the humble Ford Escort to obscure racing cars you've never heard of.
Forza 3 achieves something that not all racing games do - it eases you in gently, starting you off in career mode with a fairly regular car that you've probably got parked on the drive. The cars are beautifully rendered, so much so that you'll probably spend a good deal of time just looking at them.
You don't have to unlock all those cars, you can just jump in and start driving them. Career mode sees you earning credits and gaining experience points to move up the scale, spending your cash on upgrading your cars and repairing damage. As you race in career mode you earn discounts on parts, which when added to cars will upgrade the performance index of that particular model.
Racing is divided into different classes and you'll have to generally race the right type of car in each class, but you do get some freedom of choice as to which car and class you race in. If class B suits you, you can race your Ferrari California. If you want to race in class A, buying the necessary upgrades will get your Ferrari up to spec for class A racing – although not all cars can skip up a class.
As you race and win you'll move through various tournaments of your choosing and you'll be gifted cars fairly regularly, as if you've caught the eye of a hopeful manufacturer who wants you racing in their cars. This helps fill your garage and you might be racing a major tournament in one class of car, whilst racing mid-week in another, so there is plenty of variety to be had, from rear-wheel drive races, to Toyota only races and so on.
The career mode will gently take you through things, giving you the chance to learn now the cars handle, but also the tracks. Knowing the layout makes a huge difference to race performance, especially as you progress from the easy levels with the racing line to guide you, up to harder levels with less assistance. And this is where the fun really lies.
Forza 3 is essentially an easy game with the difficulty set to the easiest level. You get both that track guidance and a range of assists, which include the likes of stability and breaking assists, minimal damage, traction control and so on. You can dive in at any point and change the levels on these assists to change the nature of the game, including mid-career.
So you might start out racing on the easiest settings and slowly move things up. This gives you a great chance to experience what the game has to offer and set your own pace. Winning can be easy, but the game's no fun like that. Once you start winning, turn off some of the assists and see how you go. You'll only get better by having to tune your skills.
One of the biggest challenges is mastering the manual gearbox. It is a logical enough system, but given that you'll be breaking, steering and changing up or down gears, it’s a lot to keep track of. For many drivers, we'd suspect that the heady heights of "Expert" difficulty will be left well alone.
AI levels are also set by difficultly and you'll find that some drivers just don't turn the corner and head off into the barriers. Once you flip up to higher levels, they'll be on your rear bumper, waiting for you to make a mistake on a corner at which point they'll pass you. Not turning up the difficulty on your rivals makes the game just a little too easy.
Multiplayer is available, and split screen racing against a friend on a large TV is sensational with those luscious HD graphics. Pick any car you like and throw it around a track – it’s a great laugh. Multiplayer online is perhaps a little less satisfying. It isn't a hugely populated online world and drivers have little regard for their machines, so crashes are often, usually when someone tries to take a deflection off your inside to get past you on the corner.
The damage system kicks in as you move the difficulty up and can really change the nature of a race. If you are only racing 5 laps and you hit the barrier and damage your steering, you'll find the car pulling to one side constantly, so you'll have to pit, losing you valuable time.
Of course you don't have to constantly soldier on in a damaged car. You can hit the rewind button and reverse the game to then reattempt that particular corner. Some might call it cheating, but it does mean you can practise and learn and hone your skills – but yes, a reckless overtaking crash can be wiped out too.
Replays look glorious and can be saved and shared with Xbox Live friends or with the Forza community, if that's your thing, and you can customise the paint or graphics of your car too. If you want to race a pink Ferrari, you can. If you want to plaster it with decals, you can. Whatever options you choose it all looks fantastic.
The soundtrack is also fantastic, both music to accompany your racing, which isn't overbearing, as well as the sound of the cars themselves. Attention to detail, like the echo of a tunnel, makes Forza 3 really shine.
Variety, options, customisation and glorious graphics and sound. There is little that Forza 3 can really do wrong. Loading times can be a little long, the online racing experience doesn't really excite, and the AI on easy settings is a little poor.
Get past these few niggles and Forza 3 is a racing game that will appeal to all manner of racers. If you've never enjoyed the precision of F1 racing sims, then Forza has plenty to offer you, before you get to those more demanding requirements.
So much fun, we forgot to review it.