You'll soon discover that Forza Motorsport 3 is a no-brainer - if you have the faintest interest in racing games then you'll make sure you have this on pre-order or you'll be trying to sell things around the house in order to buy an Xbox360 just to play it on! In fact, such is the weight and gravitas of what Turn 10 has managed to achieve as we reach the zenith of the console's technical and visual grunt. It must be said the delay of GranTurismo 5 hasn't done Microsoft any harm whatsoever, but at the same time Forza 3 didn't require any feigned assistance: you'll find the game is a breathtakingly complete simulation jam packed with more tracks and cars than any other current-gen console title. It absolutely deserves every sale it achieves! However there's been a raft of racing games this year which have all scored highly on TheSixthAxis - thankfully, Forza 3 still manages to stand tall amongst the crowd and, if you'll permit it, I'll tell you the reasons why.
Firstly, and most crucial of all, the game manages to convey a real sense of drama, as well as speed, without ever resorting to flashy motion blur or ridiculous depth of field effects. And, coupled with a convincing but never intimidating physics model, it is crucial that the game's handling sits comfortably well amongst the best of its genre. The steering remains precise without resorting to arcade-type, plus the sheer amount, that is, of behind-the-scenes calculations, which models accurately which each wheel is doing, provides suspension and traction with real grounding. Indeed, a tap of the d-pad conjures on-screen telemetry which offers minute detail, as if to just prove a point although it doesn't need to - you can feel the road beneath you and driving from the F class starter cars to the race class monsters is as good as we've ever experienced it.
And then comes the damage - this represents visual and mechanical damage on all cars and if you set the modelling to simulation then you'll have to watch shift changes as well as engine heat plus beware of keeping shy of the barriers and away from the rear bumpers of other cars. Each major part of your car's internals can be affected by your driving style, with yellow indicating superficial damage via red signifying quite significant operation issues, such as loss of gears, or aerodynamic problems. Visual damage looks and appears great with scratches and dents giving way to body parts actually breaking free, being part of the track debris for the next lap. And the tracks themselves remain a delight also which is certainly a question of taste: the colours are vivid and rich whilst some of the courses look like they'd fit Sega banners at every corner, but don't take this as a criticism - the style really works for Forza with strong contrasts and deep blacks procuring the game a unique aesthetic, especially against the minimalist white menus too.
Equally impressive for this third Forza title is the painting and livery options. While technically outstanding in the previous two games they have now been ramped up to insane levels of customisation. But, seriously, no other game offers you the chance to place down 1000 different building blocks of visuals of your own choice to create on every section of a car. It has to be said that the various bits you actually stick down appear primitive but, at the same time, you can twist, turn and stretch each and every single section. You can change both colour and transparency at will and with so much flexibility it's possible to create almost anything. And if you marry this with the crazy amount of mechanical and aerodynamic tuning options you can change a standard stock car into something resembling amazing and conjure a specific job on the track - certainly useful for Forza's new interest in drifting - tweaking the hell out of a 350Z for hours on end has been commonplace in my house this week - one notch at a time, naturally, to create the perfect machine for the downhill course.
There's literally nothing I dislike concerning Forza 3 - it plays like a dream, looks stunning, combines oodles of online features and modes, with a wicked rewind feature plus two-player split-screen, and multiple monitor support. There's also a massive amount of single-player gameplay and, if you bear in mind the developers are sure to bolt on future DLC down the line - well, you'll find the stream of vehicles and both city and tracked based courses will never dry up. Indeed Turn 10s generous "day one" DLC is a treat as well - two new tracks accompanied by a hand picked bundle of classic motorsport legends await your bandwidth when you obtain the game next Friday.
Maybe do what I did last week: install both discs (for a total of about 8GB), close the curtains, invest in a steering wheel, of course, and ring up for a takeaway pizza!
Forza 3 is now only a week away and, if you haven't yet bought an Xbox 360, you no longer have any excuses!
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