Forza Motorsport 3 Review

By Brian Leahy - Posted Oct 08, 2009

Forza Motorsport 3 improves upon Forza 2 in almost every way. It doesn't redefine the genre, but it adds enough to be a solid upgrade for car lovers and simulation enthusiasts. New features like Rewind and Quick Upgrade help lower the barrier of entry for casual players and the new cockpit cam is a much-needed franchise addition.

The Pros
  • Cars And Tracks Look Great At 60fps
  • Rewind Feature Removes "Restart Race" Fever
  • Quick Upgrade Helps Casual Players Improve Cars
  • Top Notch Customization And Multiplayer Features
The Cons
  • Full Experience Requires Hard Drive
  • AI Still Races Perfect Line

Turn 10 Studios returns with Forza Motorsport 3, a new installment in its Xbox 360 exclusive simulation racing franchise bringing some new features for casual players, over 400 high-poly cars, 100 track variations, and the “Season Play” mode, which guides the player’s career based on the cars they purchase and acquire.

Sure, a lot of the tracks return from Forza Motorsport 2, but that’s to be expected with a game that prides itself on recreating real world locations. The new locations are gorgeous and offer some new scenery, away from boring racetracks and into the mountains or oceanside, cobblestone streets. The graphics upgrade on the tracks and cars is instantly noticeable for those coming from Forza 2.

Every car is available for purchase from the start of the game, provided that you have the cash. Well, provided you also install the game’s remaining content from the second disc. For those Xbox 360 Arcade owners out there without a hard drive, be warned: you will not be getting the full Forza 3 experience. You’ll miss out on a lot of the game’s top-end racing cars and a few tracks including the 5 tracks of the Nurburgring. You should really buy a hard drive, though.

Forza Motorsport 3

So Is This Just A Roster Update?

Like its predecessors, Forza Motorsport 3 is a sim-heavy game that anyone with a deep interest in cars or racing should give a chance. Although the attention to detail might bore casuals, Turn 10 has included a lot of assists to aid novice players including auto-braking, a rewind feature, and a quick upgrade option. Auto-braking does exactly what it sounds like: the game will automatically apply the brakes according to the driving line. With it on, you can just hold the gas and steer. The game will do the rest. Experienced players will want to turn this feature off instantly.

The biggest change to the game is the new rewind feature, which allows you to rewind to a previous point in the race and continue from there. It’s always available and has unlimited use in offline races. The feature completely eliminates the need to restart if you make a mistake. After a while, it begins to feel like cheating and does not impact the amount of money or experience you’ll receive for completing the race, but beats a punishing tradition of racing games.  If there’s any drawback, it’s that there’s no real penalty for abusing the feature, but you’ve always got the option of racing on your own merits.

Quick Upgrade is a new option that lets the computer do the heavy lifting when it comes to car tuning. It’s an excellent way for players to kit out a car for each event in a matter of seconds instead sweating the small stuff. But all of those detailed options remain for players that want to perfect their tuning setups. It can even downgrade a car to optimize it for a lower class event. The quick upgrade system isn’t perfect and won’t completely optimize a car for you, but it will give you a competitive, drivable vehicle. Advanced users will still be able to get more out of their ride with manual tuning.

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A Car For Every Season

Forza 3’s career mode takes place over several seasons in which the player competes in different events based upon their car collection. Before choosing an event series to compete in, the player is presented with three options: one that will take place on new tracks, one for their current car, and one for a different car. Every few weeks on the in-game calendar, there is a weekend race in a car class championship series. Completing these events brings you to the next season. You won’t be able to complete every single event in season play, but you can attempt any series at any time from the event list, which shows all of the events and breaks them down by your eligibility.

Turn 10 has also added two leveling systems: driver level and a level for each individual car. Driver level goes from 1 to 50 and will determine available events in season play. Each level up also comes with a shiny new car as a reward, which increase in class and performance as you go. Car levels yield discounts on upgrade parts and sponsorships. It’s a welcome addition, but the system isn’t as robust as the one in Need for Speed: Shift. Free cars are nice, though.

Interestingly, Forza 3 includes a few stock cars for a NASCAR-like experience, but without the license. Those rights went to Gran Turismo 5, but the cars in Forza 3 handle extremely well and serve as what NASCAR in Forza could have been. We’ll have to see where the license ends up for the next round.

Forza Motorsport 3

Robot Drivers Drive Perfectly

Unfortunately, the AI drivers in Forza 3 still tend to drive perfect lines around the track and their positioning comes down to the performance ratings of their cars. The AI rarely makes mistakes, and you’ll usually be at the root of collisions. It also means that passing an AI racer in an evenly matched car will almost always involve a bit of contact. Again, your personal feelings on dirty passes may differ from mine, but I prefer clean overtakes.

The AI just feels a bit sterile compared to the rest of the game. It would be nice if the computer drivers were fallible, making mistakes without direct player interaction, but thankfully the game remains incredibly challenging when you start removing assists. Of all of the components of the game, the AI hasn’t quite made the leap from Forza 2’s level to match the rest of Forza 3’s improvements.

Take Your Skills Online As Everyone Picks The Same Car

Thankfully, there’s a robust multiplayer component that can be customized, almost like Halo 3, to create unique gametypes and events for eight players at a time in addition to standard races. One of the included custom gametypes created by Turn 10 is “Cat and Mouse” which pits teams of drivers against each other in a chase-based event. The players serving as “mice,” typically driving lower-end cars, race to see which of them can cross the finish line first. The other players, serving as “cats” in higher-end cars, attempt to impede the progress of the opposing team’s mouse by ramming into him, spinning him out, or blocking him. The team that gets their mouse to the end first wins the event.

On the traditional end, there are regular race events and tons of options for scoring and determining the winner. There’s even an option that scores players based on how cleanly they conduct themselves on the track. Hit someone with “Keep it Clean” scoring on and you’ll rack up points. Like golf, more is worse and the player with the least amount of points will win the race.

Forza 3’s online offering truly shines as a playground with seven other players exploring the game’s modes and tracks. Lobby creators are given more options for customization and restriction than ever before to truly enable a different experience for each race.

Forza Motorsport 3

A Community Of Car Lovers

Forza Motorsport 2 set the standard for car customization with its robust car painting and stamping tools along with an auction house for creators to sell their work to the masses. Forza 3 brings all of that back and adds the ability to sell tuning setups instead of entire cars along with custom stamps or vinyls rather than fully decorated cars.

The game also adds a movie-making feature to the replay theater, which can upload HD or SD videos to for sharing. Unfortunately, the tool can only record a set amount of seconds from a starting point with one camera. There’s no keyframing or camera switching. You can create some amazing looking sequences, but it doesn’t match the offering in games like Skate 2 or FIFA for creating movies of your exploits. It’s a good start, but it doesn’t live up to the rest of the game.

More Cars Than Pixar

If you are a car lover or sim fan, you owe it to yourself to go out and get Forza Motorsport 3. The entire package drips with polish and the physics-based gameplay is solid across all game modes. This title transcends a pure gaming experience to become something of a virtual driving tool. Forza 3 is a deep simulation experience and it’s the best racer available on any platform right now.