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Forza Motorsport 3

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Forza Motorsport 2 was a wonderful racing title, despite a few flaws. It really shone in the online department. A testament to the game is that it still had a solid community playing right up until the release of Forza 3. There have been other racing titles that have offered plenty of fun moments, yet none of them have ever touched the depth of Forza. It was a tough act to follow, so would Forza 3 really be the second coming that many were expecting? Or would it be a let down?

In Forza 2 the front end was fiddly, awkward and a little ugly looking. The front end on Forza 3 however is beautiful. The menus are clean and crisp, the cars in the menus look perfectly at home, all the stats and figures fit in nicely. It is a good job really, as you will spend a lot of time navigating through them because of the sheer size of the game.

Graphically the game is stunning, the extra time put into the car models has really paid off. They look like perfect recreations of their real life counterparts and a huge step up from Forza 2. Forza 3 has the best looking cars of any console game out there today. The tracks are great to look at too. The new tracks, especially Fujimi Kaido, Amafli Coast and Montserrat are simply stunning. The scenery is beautiful even when flying past at 150mph. It really can be worth spending time just taking it all in. Turn10 have done a cracking job in the visuals and deserve plenty of praise indeed.

The photo mode makes a welcome return, it is pretty much untouched from Forza 2 with the usual options of adjusting angle, shutter speed, focus, etc, etc. The results are stunning and if you are talented enough it is possible to take photos that do require a double take to make sure they are from a game. These can be uploaded to your storefront to be rated by your peers. You can also share your replays to the storefront too. Great for getting replays from online races your forget to save. Have a little bit of time? A lot of talent? Then you can now export clips of up to 30 seconds to the website, download them, create your own movie and share with the world. Take a look and it is possible to be blown away by what some have created. This does lead to one minor downside of this fantastic package. The fact that it is such a long winded process and that you cannot export an entire replay will likely see many leave it untouched.

The paint mode is back too, with some added features. The ability to create vinyl groups on a blank slate is a truly fantastic addition. No longer do you need to buy a BMW Mini and do a painting on the roof to save out as a group. This means you can create entire works of art and slap them on the side of your next car with much more ease. Hours will be lost in the paintshop and again some of the creations will leave you flabbergasted. All this leads into the biggest addition to the game and quite frankly a step up in User Generated Content sharing.

The Storefront is amazing, simple as that. You can share your photos and replays to be rated, these then reflect in online leaderboards. You can share your vinyl groups and full car designs and sell these for in game credits to spend on new cars, new parts or to spend in the storefront yourself. So that is the artists taken care of in the storefront, so too are the mechanics. Those that have a talent at setting up a car can finally be rewarded by putting up their tuning sets to be shared or sold in the exact same way as the artists can for their designs. Everyone is catered for in the storefront. Navigation too is simple as you can find, with it being easy to go to anyones storefronts within a couple of clicks of a button. Simply brilliant, brilliantly simple.

So far so good. What about the racing though? On the track the game doesn’t disappoint at all. The physics are spot on, the AI has been much improved and even the dull season mode from Forza 2 feels like it has some more life injected into it. You have to consider Forza in two parts. Offline and online. Offline is essentially the same process, you complete a series of races, get rewarded and move on, wash and repeat. However a bit of smoke and mirrors helps you feel you are actually progressing with the addition of a season mode. The game chooses a race series based on your current car and progress. It will suggest three different events for you to choose. Stay in the car you are in, choose a new car or try new tracks. Each of these is then placed on a calendar with a Championship event thrown in at the end of these events. In general you will play 3 or 4 week day events with the Championships spread across the season. It is a nice touch and well implemented. You can still view every race and move through at your own pace though. It is all about choice at the end of the day.

Online is where this game really counts though. Lots of options are there, from standard races, team races and the return of point to point. There is also a bunch of new modes such as cat and mouse to keep you interested. Forza 2 had some excellent net code which meant collision detection was spot on. You could get to within a millimetre of another car and not touch, it is vital to online racing and Turn10 have kept up with the high standards in Forza 3. Races are really smooth and lag doesn’t affect them too much, so you can pretty much drive on the edge all the time. Playing against other humans is how a racing game should be done and Turn10 have the game set up that it really is a joy to do this. There are some frustrations with online though that at the time of this review are yet to be fixed. There seems to be an issue with some users being compatible with others. This is apparently a NAT issue, yet it the various fixes on the net for this are 100% guaranteed to work. Hopefully it is something Turn10 can fix as it is a stain on a nearly flawless experience.

Finally the on track action. It would take an awful long time to go through it in full detail, so just be assured, Turn10 have this spot on. Cars handle as you would hope. RWD cars feel different to FWD, which in turn feel different to 4WD. Add bigger and more powerful engines and again it is a different experience. Fiddle with the tuning and upgrades and you can feel how the car is affected. Play with a wheel and the feedback really helps get the feeling of the road, you find the moments you need to put the power down, or where to take it easy. This level of feedback helps you control the car to almost perfection. If you spin out, it is your fault, whether it be your mistake on track, or your mistake in the garage. Tyres and fuel affect your cars handling too, and the effects from the tyres are refined and improved. Those who liked to set their cars up for drifting will love the addition of the drift score meter. Just a press on the D-Pad will bring up a score tally. It doesn’t have to be used, but it is there for those that want to use it.

Many had moaned that the lack of weather effects, the lack of a day night cycle and the omission of minor little bits of personal preference, had meant Turn10 hadn’t produced the game they should have. The truth is though, what they have done is refined an already fantastic racing game, given it a much needed lick of paint and really thought about the community. Once you are on the track with seven friends and battling around fantastic courses it doesn’t matte that there is no rain, or night time. It doesn’t matter because what you have in front of you is almost perfect. The trade off may well of been a worse net code for these added effects, or having to lose each cars individuality. Take those away and you have a lesser game. Quite often minor niggles can see a game marked down, however the game is so much fun and the modes are so packed that once you’re painting, tuning, taking photos, watching replays, browsing the storefront and finally racing… Those niggles don’t matter at all. It is fair to say that on the current generation we have a perfect racing package.