Game Review: Forza Motorsport 3 (XBox 360)

forza3

Forza Motorsport… the reason I own an XBox 360.

Seriously, I bought one just so I could play Forza 2.

Forza 3 is on store shelves now, and it’s time for my review. Of course I’m going to love it… right?

RIGHT?!?

Jump inside to find out.

It seems whenever I say something bad about an established franchise, especially if it’s a beloved title, I wind up spending weeks or even months justifying my review.

Hopefully I’ll circumvent some of the questions and vitriol by describing in detail what has made me angry.

Yeah… helluva way to start a review. Settle in, it’s going to be a long article… some good, some bad, some ugly.

Upon opening the Forza 3 packaging I discovered it came on two discs. One is labeled ‘Disk 1 Play Disc’ and the other is labeled ‘Disc 2 Content Install Disc’. I also found a card with a code for 10 downloadable cars and 30 tracks.

Only having a 2oGB XBox 360, I was curious as to exactly how much space this game was going to use on my harddrive, so I looked at the back of the package.

The ‘required’ space is ‘7MB to save game’, but if you look at the fine print that’s NOT part of the requirements, it also says ‘Extra content disc requires up to 3GB’.

Okay, that’s a decent chunk of space, but at least I don’t have an Arcade system. At this point I was expecting to have a choice between installing and disc swapping.

There is no option for disc swapping.

When you insert the game for the first time you are prompted to use the install disc or you WILL NOT HAVE ACCESS TO ALL CARS AND TRACKS. Would have been nice if the description on the box would have mentioned how many cars and tracks you would have access to if you only had an Arcade console.

Imagine getting the game home, expecting to have ‘400 fully-upgradeable cars’ and being able to ‘race on over 100 of the most renowned real-world tracks’, and then realizing you’re going to get substantially less because you don’t have a hard drive.

I’m just saying that the game says it has 400 cars, 100 tracks, and you may need 3GB of space to get EXTRA content installed.

It should say ‘This game requires 3GB if you want all 400 cars and 100 tracks’. It’s dirty pool to claim anything else.

I freed up the space to install the content, then entered the code to get my ‘free game add ons’. 10 additional cars and 30 additional tracks.

Correction: these are not ADDITIONAL tracks and cars, these are included in the 400/100 claim.

I understand the need/want to curb used game sales, but a one-time code for material that is advertised on the box?

More dirty pool.

Another 500MB (approximately) download and install later, I’m ready to play the game.

This brings me to my biggest sticking point with the game and it’s harddrive devouring install: it loads slower than a cold dog turd rolling uphill through molasses.

I had friends over, and they commented on it.

Friend: “It’s okay to play the game, Matt. You don’t have to pause it for me.’

Me: “It’s not paused, it’s loading.”

Friend: “Still? Hasn’t it been a couple minutes? Are you sure it didn’t lock up?”

Is there ANY excuse Turn 10 could give me why a game that installs 3GB of it’s material onto the harddrive can take over a minute to load a track? Or why there are TWO loading screens before an event, the first one taking approximately a minute, the second about 30-45 seconds?

Before anyone asks, a full harddrive install of the game takes about 5GB MORE space and shaves off around 5-10 seconds of loading.

I would gladly trade down to 50-100 good cars and 40 good tracks for a smaller footprint on my harddrive, and races that lasted longer than my loading screens.

Need For Speed: Shift got it right. Fewer cars, fewer tracks, but it’s all good stuff… and it works.

It seems that the need to get the mostest cars and the mostest tracks into a game is seriously hindering the sim racing genre. Forza 3 has loading and space management problems, and Gran Turismo is terminally delayed while they get the perfect model created for a 1974 Ford Pinto station wagon that nobody will drive.

Off the soapbox…

How does it play?

Physics appear to have been tweaked over Forza 2, with additional attention being paid to tire deformation. You can feel the wheels roll sideways and rebound, especially with lower air pressures. It’s a nice touch.

Controls have been improved, with a gamepad now being a viable option (I’ll always be a wheel guy though).

An in-car view has finally been added to the game, which makes me happy, but it’s not nearly as detailed or convincing as the cockpit view in NFS: Shift. It’s serviceable though, and a nice addition.

The graphics are much improved, with higher res textures and running at a solid 60 frames per second, although the aliasing suffers a bit. You’ll see ‘marching ants’ around the edges of objects, especially diagonal lines.

ALL cars are unlocked from the start, you just need to earn enough credit to purchase them. That’s another bonus.

Then there’s the new rewind feature. You can rewind the race at any time, in five second increments, to correct a mistake or a bit of bad luck. Since you can do this indefinitely, there’s never a reason to lose any race. Love it or hate it, it’s there.

Me? I limit myself to one use, in the first half of the race. I’ll use it in situations that would normally cause me to restart an event because of a poor start or AI spinning me in the first corner.

If you restart, you have to reload the track. A quick rewind saves me minutes of watching a loading screen.

GRID did the rewind thing a while ago, and Dirt 2 has incorporated it… but they put limits on how many times it can be used in an event. Unlimted use of rewinds makes the game far too easy, but then again, only if you USE it.

I guess it’s a nice option to have.

Perhaps the coolest thing about Forza 3 is being able to psych out the AI drivers. I’ve noticed it happens more often with a driver that is leading the race, but you can intimidate them into wrecking.

Pull up on their bumper and watch. They’ll start driving faster, trying to get away from you. Eventually, if you can stay up with them, they’ll push their car just a little too hard into or out of a corner and they’ll wreck.

Just like a real driver, you don’t have to hit them, you just have to scare them into making a mistake.

THE BOTTOM LINE

If you got tired of reading my rant about load times and just want to know what I think about Forza 3 as a buying decision, here it is.

forza3ratingIf you’re a Forza fan, you already bought it or plan to buy it, and my opinion isn’t going to influence you. Okay, it will influence you to leave a nasty comment on this page… and you will.

Forza 3 is pretty good, albeit bloated, and ultimately collapses under it’s own weight.

I’d rather play Need For Speed: Shift.

If NFS:S is too arcade-ish for you, and you can live without a cockpit view, you can find Forza 2 REAL cheap right now. (Buy Forza Motorsport 2)

Lastly, if you own an XBox 360 Arcade (the one without a harddrive) you need to avoid this game. You will NOT be getting the experience promised to you on the box.

Buy Forza Motorsport 3
Buy Need for Speed: Shift

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Comments (4)

 

  1. Dymond says:

    YOU SUCK!!!! Forza 3 is the best game ever!!!! OK I’ve never even played it but thought I would get in the first dig. Seems like a fairly unbiased review to me.. Load times like that when I have that kind of content on the HD would piss me off too. Thats the supposed reason you offload content to begin with! Keep up the good work Matt!

  2. Blizzzz says:

    Great review.. Good info to know regarding when a developer misses the mark on things like load times or how much disc the install will require etc. I can feel the angst of the dev team as I read this..With so much hard work / effort / time spent on other things, it really hurts when you read about basic functionality fails like this. I’m speaking from personal experience on this one.

    Seems like it’s still worth a shot if you are interested in a more ‘true sim’ experience vs. Shift. Although I still don’t think Shift is too arcad-sh. 🙂 I’m not one to care much about the accuracy of car physics when compared to reality. I’m playing a video game and want to have fun and forget about the economic recession. Sometimes ignorance is a blissful state!

    BTW

    Any thoughts on the customization capabilities found in Forza 3?

    Keep up the good work guys!

  3. I do really feel bad for the folks at Turn 10. The people I’ve spoken with are some of the nicest in the industry, and seem to genuinely have a passion for racing and cars.

    I’m sure I’ve hurt some of their feelings, and that truly sucks. Not my intention. What integrity could I claim if I sugar-coated a problem, just because I like the team and know they had the best of intentions? I wouldn’t be doing anybody any favors.

    It is a basic function of the game, and I think a lot of it could have been mitigated by full disclosure on the packaging (marketing problem) and making sure the feature set wasn’t writing checks the harddrive couldn’t cash.

    And I agree… Shift isn’t too arcadish. It’s nowhere close to Burnout Paradise in that respect (which is my favorite ARCADE racer).

    I play Burnout with a gamepad, and Shift with a wheel and dedicated racing seat. That should tell you where I place each of those games. 😉

    The customization options in Forza 3 are still the layered vinyl sets, and while there are a lot of great artists dropping stuff in the Auction House, I’ve never had the patience to make any liveries myself. The aesthetic customization, and tuned parts are… well… pretty much the same as Forza 2. Maybe a slightly larger selection.

    As far as tuning the car itself, there are the standard sets of tweakables, like air pressure, camber, and gear ratios.

    An interesting tidbit I didn’t mention in the review is the ‘Quick Upgrade’ option before you enter a race. It will outfit your car with the best upgrades you can afford and/or the best set of upgrades that you can have installed and still maintain a legal class for the event.

    It’s a time saver, but I wish it would tell you WHAT upgrades it was using, and give you the option to alter it’s choices from the same screen.

    Sometimes you’re willing to sacrifice some speed in your car to get it to behave in the corners, and it seems like the Quick Upgrade tries to focus on Acceleration, then Top Speed, then starts filling in any room left in the Class cap with handling options.

    Works most of the time, and I hope to see it in the next game, just with a few tweaks.

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