Review by Rage028

"Forza 3 the best on the market?"

Forza Motorsport 3, No Game Competes with it right now.
Forza 3 according to Dan Greenwalt is the best there is, the ultimate driving simulator and it has no competition on the market. I'm going to review it and dissect the game for people that might still be deciding on whether or not to buy it. So keeping that in mind, we should expect something amazing and ground-breaking in Forza, especially while we wait for Gran Turismo 5.

Car List: 8/10
The game has 400 cars, most of them are cars you'd actually want to drive. This is a good thing. However some cars that you would want are missing. Why is there no stock version of the '08 Dodge Viper SRT-10? There's the ACR version. Why isn't there a Nissan Skyline GT-R (R34) V-Spec II Nur? Why in particular must we have the '93 and not the '94 version of the R32 GT-R? Some of the latest cars available are here, 2010 Nissan 370Z, 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS, but why not the 2010 Ford Mustang GT? I'm sure there's an explanation for these. Forza's car collection is good, it's smaller than Gran Turismo 4s and Gran Turismo PSP, but most people don't need 20 MX-5s, 30 Skylines and 20 Lancer Evos. However, it is important to have the best of each, so the best MX-5, the best Skyline and the best Evo.

However! If you don't buy the Limited Edition of the Game you're seriously short-changing yourself. In Australia its $20 difference for the Limited Edition. Never mind the extra things you get with the game, you actually miss out on some cars in the game if you don't buy the Limited Edition. The VIP car pack has in it the '08 Aston Martin DBS, '09 Corvette ZR1, '07 Ferrari F430 Scuderia, '07 Lamborghini Gallardo (pronounced Gayardo) Superleggera, and the '07 Porsche 911 GT3 RS. These are cars you will actually want to drive!

Presentation: Graphics and Sound 5/10
The first thing you see when you load the game up is Turn10's logo, then the Microsoft Game Studios, and then Forza Motorsport 3's start video. Now the game's native resolution is 720p, which is 1280x720 for anyone that isn't aware. The video immediately showcases Audi's R8 5.2 FSI. The camera spins around the car and then the car feeds onto a race track, then the cheesy music starts. We get to see some LMP type cars race each other at LeMans in France, some V8 supercars and drifting. The Drifting has been done completely incorrectly, the Nissan S15 drifts with its tail right at the guardrail on a mountain pass. The correct method for drifting has the nose of the car at the inner edge of the corner so the car goes right around the apex to have the fastest racing line. Clearly Forza is focusing on dramatic effect rather than demonstrating proper driving technique or proper racing.

All the menus function quite well, your current vehicle is panned around and shown off and the menu hides itself if you don't touch your controller. The car itself looks quite impressive in this mode. Even the tyres on the car look good. However the car causes the background and surrounding area to look cheap and tacky. It seems that Turn 10 have simply applied textures to the road surface, the brick wall on the mountain pass and the scenery. Even the guard rails look flat. The lighting is imperfect and for a game that is apparently the best on the market it seems like a half-done job. So much more effort could have been put into the visual representation of the car and its surroundings. You only need to look at Gran Turismo 5 : Prologue's handling of this similar situation with the car in the background. However keep in mind that Gran Turismo 5's native resolution is 1080p, which is 1920 x 1080.

When you go to "Buy" a car the level of detail in the car seems to drop dramatically. The cars do look good, don't get me wrong, but in the sense that you're not looking at a true physical car anymore. There are graphical flaws, for example the paint stripe has strange edges and isn't straight. One would expect a certain level of perfection especially in this component of the game when the only thing the Xbox360 has to render is the car itself. The lighting is also quite peculiar, it doesn't fall the right way on the cars. I'm also quite certain the exhaust pipe on the '08 Dodge Viper SRT-10 is larger than is graphically presented here, as I've seen it in real life. The cars in this mode look more like plastic models that you put together yourself before they've been painted in most cases.

Time to race! I'll talk about the realism later; here I will focus mainly on how it feels to be in a race. When you first load into the menu for the race, allowing you to set up your car and your assists etc, you can hear the audience at the race track. The camera travels around the course and you can see various corners. Immediately you can see the lack of visual quality at 720p. So you start your race and you get to see the nose of your car roll up to the grid and then the engine revs and you get to see your car vibrate. The trees look cheap, like there's a trunk and then the leaves are just bits of paper attached to it, with a drawing of leaves on it. The grass looks even worse. There's just no racing atmosphere, it's simply you and the road. Never mind your 7 opponents, they don't contribute to the atmosphere either, there's no intensity like Racedriver GRID had. The only time you feel like you're racing is when you look at the stop watch and have opponents around you, or you remind yourself you're playing a racing 'simulator'.

You get 4 different viewpoints when racing. Bumper, In car, 3rd person, extended 3rd person. Personally I prefer in-car view if I can get it, otherwise bumper cam. Both in-car and bumper cam have serious flaws. Bumper cam, seems to be too far forward of the nose of the car OR the car isn't a physical object until you hit something. Particularly in split screen mode, I noticed that when you get right on the tail of an opponent, your camera goes through your opponent before you have even collided. In car view on the other hand, it's almost as your driver has a neck like a giraffe and the view point is situated almost directly above the steering wheel. In real life you are taught to sit yourself properly in a car so that you can look at your side-view mirror and rear-view mirror. Well, in Forza you can't unless you play with some advanced settings (but this warps the view of everything). By default, your mirrors are useless. When you use the right thumbstick to look around the car, if you go past the front 160 degrees or so, if you look to your left, right or behind the car isn't rendered, you're not actually in a car, you're given a complete unobstructed view of everything around you. You don't look out your windows and you can't see the back seats if the car has them. Turn 10 needs to look at what Polyphony has done in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue for an example.

Sounds? Well, when it comes to the car and it's engine, nothing short of amazing. The music? It's not bad; half the songs I swear were used in Midnight Club: Los Angeles. That's not a bad thing necessarily. The in game while racing experience when it comes to sound is pretty involving it's a shame the graphics let it down. The music when you're in the menus is pretty entertaining; I haven't gotten bored of it yet.

Overall? Forza can be pretty, but it's not always pretty. In most cases it just does the job, it achieves the bare minimum of what it needs to achieve. I guess the best way to sum it up is the word "cute". It does run at a solid 60 FPS which is easy on the eye though, this is a great thing but nothing new. It's definitely not eye-candy except at the Main Menu screen. When it comes down to presentation, it is nowhere near the best on the market. It looks better than GRID, worse than Gran Turismo.

Gameplay & Simulation 6/10
The events list is quite varied and will keep anyone entertained for hours. If you can stomach a bit of a grind and the way the cars drive, the game has hours upon hours of racing. It has racing between the different classes of cars in the game, different drive trains and car types, e.g.: 3-door, 2 door coupes, hatchbacks etc. The game has the excellent feature where you can view a list of opponents before entering the event itself. Thumbs up to Turn 10 for this feature. It's something missing from Gran Turismo currently. The game also lets you know if cars you currently own are eligible for events OR if you don't have any OR if your current car (the one you're in) can enter. Fortunately the game has a search feature for the cars and allows you to search amongst the classes, drive trains FWD, RWD or AWD. However the search feature is a bit lacking, it'd be nice if you could search via the criterion of some of the events. Just now I'm having to go through the whole list of affordable cars (which is a lot when you've got $300,000) for a 5-door car. There's some events which require a 4 cylinder, 6 cylinder, 8 cylinder etc car. Unfortunately... when you look at the cars it doesn't say. You can only see the displacement of the car. This is useless. However you can press X a few times to see a list of all the cars which you can buy and then sort them via pretty much everything under the sun. It's just not pretty and the list doesn't go full-screen.

For a simulation game it has a incredibly inappropriate treatment (almost infantile) of cars. Sure it has an excellent car list and they're modelled fairly well. What Forza does wrong is this, when you go to select a car or buy a car you're presented with bars that rate the car. You get speed, handling, acceleration, launch and braking, these grey bars are apparently representative of the vehicle at hand. So my Ford Fiesta had 4.0 speed, 4.9 handling, 3.5 acceleration, 4.5 launch and 4.8 braking. What does it mean? Who knows!? 4.0 speed, does that mean a top speed of 100mph? or 120mph? or 240kph? 3.5 acceleration? is that a 0-60mph relative comparison? or 0-100? or a 1/4 mile time? On the other hand my Nissan 370Z has 6.6 speed, 5.6 handling, 5.5 acceleration, 6.4 launch and 5.3 braking. Only arcade games treat cars in such a manner, such as GRID and the Need for Speed series. Gran Turismo presents the player with the car's dimensions, Length, Width, Height, Power, Torque, Displacement, Engine type, Drive Train, and numerous other information in a table. Forza does give you the power, torque, weight, weight balance and displacement but where's all the other information? Certainly for the team that modelled all the cars at Turn 10 it wouldn't have been too difficult to provide all the other information about the car? You can also "benchmark" your car and Forza does a calculation of the car's acceleration 0-60mph, 0-100mph, top speed, braking distance from 60mph-0, 100mph-0 and lateral gs. Which is nice, except that the numbers are wrong. Using the 370Z as an example again, it should stop at 100-105ft from 60mph as demonstrated by various car magazines and reviews but Forza says it'll stop in 130ft. That's a big difference.

So far I'm at driver level 38 and I've accumulated a fair selection of performance cars including the Ford GT, driving it is amazingly easy. I am playing Forza at the maximum simulation settings with all assists off to give me the most authentic driving experience. What I can say generally is that the game is incredibly forgiving, because cars don't behave the way they should (as they would in real life) you can brake later than you should and you aren't severely penalised. In a powerful rear wheel drive car in real life if you inadvertently let one wheel slip onto the grass, sand or dirt on the side of the track you'll spin out. The sudden loss of traction to one of your primary drive wheels upsets the car and you're gone. Not so in Forza. I've found the dirt / grass / sand to be incredibly forgiving, almost a safety net at times when you've gone in too fast into a corner. The cars just have no feel to them at all. All FWD cars feel the same, all RWD cars feel the same and all AWD cars feel the same. Just add more HP to them and they move faster, that's it. I can honestly say that when driving the 2005 Mustang GT downhill it felt nothing like my own personal experience driving a Mustang downhill in California when I had the fortune of driving downhill from Yosemite National Park to Fresno in July 2008. The driving is quaint in the game. Certainly understeer and oversteer are mimicked in the game but they're not exactly simulation. Some things are overly exaggerated while others are not even felt. The Nissan 350Z and 370Z feel nothing like the way the cars behave in real life. It's like there's a complete loss in translation in language barrier between the tires, the car and you at the controller.

Opponents in Forza appear pretty incompetent. All they seem to do is stick to a set path and only deviate when absolutely necessary. They have NO CLUE where you are at all and they don't care. On hard difficulty your first 5 opponents are easy enough to get by but the final 2 will drive flawlessly. Because they're taking the best line there's seldom enough time in say a 3 lap race in a small course to catch up and overtake. It's almost as if the other 5 guys are protecting the top 2. There's only ever 7 opponents and you always start in last at the beginning of the game. It seems that as you progress you get to move up the grid. There's no way to qualify to bump your position. This is a minor thing but could frustrate a lot of people. Gran Turismo 4 was bashed severely by Forza fanboys because it only had 5 opponents, well Forza 3 still has as many opponents as Forza 2. Gran Turismo 5 Prologue can have 15 opponents for you to race. So already the game that is supposedly the best on the market now has less opponents for you to race against than the 'half-game' that GT5 Prologue is.

Gran Turismo as Forza's direct competitor on the PS2 and PS3 teaches the player real driving techniques, such as how to handle the different drive trains, how to pass an opponent and how to approach different types of corners. While Forza doesn't necessarily need to teach the player how to drive, it wouldn't be appropriate. Techniques such as slow-in fast-out are unnecessary. There appears to be almost an infinite number of different lines that a player can use to drive around in Forza and it doesn't really hurt you during a race. While Gran Turismo in License Tests test the skills of the driver with benchmark times of bronze silver and gold, where a gold can be only 0.2s difference and on the track it means 1ft / 0.3m of difference in position or 5ft or a few metres of extra braking distance, Forza lacks the precision that Gran Turismo offers. Previous iterations of Forza bragged about how many more calculations the physics engine was performing compared to its competitors in the industry. I'll point this out, it doesn't matter how many calculations you're performing if your maths is wrong. See above for braking distances as example.

The "real life" circuits in the game are nothing like their real-life counterparts. You need only watch a race at Suzuka, Motegi, Nurburgring or Laguna Seca to see the difference. This is something that Turn 10 has really dropped the ball on. The roads are far wider and more forgiving than they are in real life. So where I mentioned above that precision is lacking in driving and handling, the same is reflected in the circuits. The real life circuits are too wide and the corners either too forgiving or even more difficult than the ones present in real life. I don't need to expand on this anymore as anyone who has seen Forza's representation of Suzuka and has watched Formula 1 will know the difference.

So far one of the best things about the gameplay is the way the game rewards you as you increase your Driver experience points or XP. Each time you level up you are given a free car. I'm not quite certain if it's random but often the game is saving you quite a bit of money. It's nice of them to do so, this is excellent because it encourages you to try a variety of cars and often provides you with a car you'll need later for other events in the game. Gran Turismo always hurt the player when it came to things like this, you'd spend at least a few minutes in Gran Turismo playing particular races to win a particular car which could sell for a large sum of money to make a purchase of a car which could participate in another event.

Overall: 7/10 (Not an average)
Forza Motorsport 3, its fun. Incredibly fun, you get to buy a decent car, drive it around a track and compete with other cars. It is in some ways a simulator but in most ways not. It's a good attempt, it tries to be Gran Turismo in some ways but be its own in others. For me Forza is a really fun game to play with cars I like that I can do stupid things in because cars don't behave like they should. Forza is definitely the best arcade racing game for this generation. Anyone who expects a complete and accurate representation of physics true to real life will be disappointed. If you're looking for fun, with a semi-realistic approach this is it. I'm glad I bought the game and despite its flaws it wills enterain me and my friends for a while to come. So far I'm Driver Level 38 and still looking forward to putting more hours in. I have to say that the Fujimi Circuirt at 10.2 miles long with its winding up and downhill mountain passes is impressive and fun, this course alone will be driven on many a time in Forza. Don't go buy Forza for the graphics or for an amazing driving experience, go out and buy it because it's fun.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 11/18/09

Game Release: Forza Motorsport 3 (Limited Edition) (AU, 10/23/09)


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