For folk with even the smallest amount of car lust, Forza 3 could have you dripping petrol from your mouth. For those people who eat alternators for breakfast, and munch limited slip differentials with a cocktail of engine oil for lunch, Forza Motorsport 3 will grab you by the sugar lumps.

As an introduction to the racing of powerful motors, Forza places the player straight in to the cockpit of the Audi R8 for a run through the mountains of Spain. Things get a little slower after this, but the pace and progress through the automotive journey is one of variety and fun.

The game structure works very similar to its older brother, with the player gaining experience as he completes races. The experience increases the driver’s level and with each grade passed comes a gift from one of the manufacturers. In the Season Play mode, the game appears to customise the player’s path through the game, based on the type of car they like driving the most. Each season consists of a series of selectable events, capped by a championship at the end of the racing week, and along with the XP comes cash prizes. However, the player isn’t forced in to following this structure, and is free to choose any race series as so desired.

There are hundreds of cars to choose to drive, from the humble Ford Fiesta to the luscious Lamborghini Gallardo. Each has been devotedly recreated in digital from, and new to Forza 3 is the in game dashboard view. Perhaps not quite as well detailed as those in Grid, but nonetheless it’s a great addition that adds that extra level of realism to the racing. To collect all of this metal is going to take a lot of hard work, as some are abhorrently expensive, and races don’t provide mega wedges of cash.

There’s more to Forza 3 than just cars though; the customisation options give hundreds of possibilities, though it does require a level of artistry to get anything decent from it. There are painters in the Forza 3 community that have mad skills, and the game gives them a platform from which to display their wares. The storefronts allow customizers to sell their designs for in game credit, and every player can use this for marketing either car graphics or tuner setups.

Forza has always made progression in the game easy, providing vehicles that help the player compete in more events. It seems almost unnecessary to even purchase another car given the rewards on offer. The game goes further though, rather than penalising the player for being in the wrong car, Forza will suggest performance upgrades when needed, offering a “quick upgrade” option to quickly put the impatient gamer in to a race. Changing car is equally painless, with a single button press bringing up the selection, rather than having to trawl through menus.

There is a need to be a little tolerant though. Even when the sizeable install is put on to the HDD, there’s still a good wait for the race to load up. It’s been improved over the demo available on Xbox LIVE Marketplace, but all those polygons and textures take time to explode into life on the machine.

Turn Ten have said that the game’s physics is more important than out-and-out eye candy, with the engine claimed to run at a boggling 360 cycles a second, even modelling the flex in the walls of the vehicle tyres. All this attention to detail could be missed though, as on the easiest of settings the driving aids make things so trivial that the player will be lapping the AI in no time. It’s a great way to get the inexperienced driver in to the cockpit, but veterans will need to ramp the difficulty up as soon as possible or else they’ll get quickly bored.

Handling the motors with little respect can now find the player spinning down the road on the roof, and all this pandemonium can be reviewed and watched in the replay editor, then uploaded in-game to the Forza Motorsport web site, immortalising the experience and sharing the love with everyone else in the world; but it’s not just in the replays that things can be rewound. Perfectionists may well gag at the ability to rewind time in a serious drive-em-up, but how often have you restarted a race because of an unfair bump from an opponent, or have drifted off into the gravel due to lack of concentration? This game feature is surprisingly useful and after all, the player doesn’t have to make use of it.

Usually it’s the cars that are the stars in driving games, but for Forza 3 the tracks have an equal billing. There are dozens of different circuits, from the hills of Spain to the streets of New York. They look gorgeous, and the lighting is such that it’ll have you reaching for the sun visor on some courses. Turn Ten claim there are over a hundred different bits of tarmac on which to burn rubber, and that’s true, but many of these are variations on around thirty unique tracks. What is pleasing to discover is the point-to-point sections have made a return, something that was sorely missed in the second game.

The Forza 3 experience is mostly a very positive one, but there are a couple of floaters in what is otherwise a happy pea green soup. The game is very much on the side of easy and achievements here don’t have much thought about them; after playing the game for fifteen minutes you’ll have gained at least five of them without trying. The AI is little bit stupid and overly aggressive but do not put up much of a fight on anything other than “hard”, it’s not annoyingly bad; it just doesn’t seem to scale very well.

The online racing is restricted to R1, R2, R3 and R4 classes, making choice of motor a bit limited, something Forza 2 did better. However, there is still a wealth of options to customise each battle, though things do tend to get a bit “bumper cars” with no real penalty for tapping other players off the track. Match making works well, but to avoid first corner carnage choose your opponents carefully.

Forza 3 is a game that caters for the novice and hardcore players with equal aplomb, providing those with less skill an enjoyable Sunday drive whilst pushing the gear-heads to try even harder. Some may ask what’s new? The answer is not all that much, at least on the surface. However, Forza 3 takes what was great with the previous outings and adds more polish to it, tweaking every part of the game almost to perfection. As a driving simulator, Turn Ten has delivered a package that beats its peers like a riot officer with a new truncheon, and comes highly recommended.

Marty Greenwell

Marty has been gaming since the heady years of the ZX-81 and still owns most of the gaming systems purchased since those days, including the Atari 2600, ZX Spectrum, SNES, Jaguar, Dreamcast and GameCube. Being a collection junkie (or more accurately, hoarder), he buys more games than he can possibly play, far too many of which are still sealed in their packaging. Marty favours RPGs and Driving games when it comes to genres, and is possibly a little bit too addicted to Disgaea. When not gaming he’s out frightening OAPs on his motorcycle, clad in black leather.

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