Release: Out now
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Turn 10
How often can you reinvent the wheel? It’s a question videogame developers are more qualified than most to answer. Year after year, driving titles strive to overtake each other for the lead in a continually evolving genre. It’s an interminable race, although one that in recent times has felt like it’s approaching its closing stages. How much more intense can digital racing get than Race Driver Grid? How much prettier can things look than Gran Turismo 5 Prologue? How much more advanced a driving model can be squeezed on to a disc than the one found in Forza Motorsport 2?
In the latter’s case, it turns out there is room for more (provided you include a second ‘Content Install’ DVD in the final package). We could talk figures – not the 400 cars, 100 tracks, but the number-crunching going on beneath the pretty surface – yet that would distil Forza 3 into a cold, impersonal entity, something its predecessor has often been accused of. Far better to discuss how Turn 10’s latest effort makes you feel.
On-track, you find yourself engaged with a handling model that is noticeably more refined than Forza 2’s equivalent. And while you can try to pin down the differences – the utterly convincing behaviour of vehicles under braking, the increased feedback during understeer situations which conveys the point at which tyres regain their grip in one of the most intuitive manners yet – perhaps the biggest compliment you can throw Forza 3’s way is that never at any point does driving feel anything less than fabulous.
That sentiment carries through the rest of the game. The seven AI opponents behave themselves admirably for most of the time, fighting for and protecting positions in convincing fashion. Sometimes one will do something straight from the Jason Plato school of racing, but that adds character and you can’t help but admire its resolve – before hitting the rewind button.
Borrowed from Grid but, bravely, implemented without restriction here, in reality the ability to rewind and retry missed apices, overshot exits or overambitious braking points contributes to better driving. Meaning that, far from having to apply monk-like discipline, the longer you play, the less you come to rely on the option.
Additional welcome tinkering can be found in the inclusion of a narrator, a reworked Season mode that varies the choice of race series (cleverly broken up by ‘World Championship’ rounds) and, at last, an in-car view. Together with a stylishly revised presentation they work to imbue a more involving and much-needed personal touch than anything Forza 2 ever managed.
Grid still offers the most on-track excitement (and better car damage), and the forthcoming GT5 already looks graphically superior, but anyone looking for the most rewarding console driving experience to date has found their ride. Where does the genre go from here? With no one looking particularly threatening in its slipstream, Turn 10 has time to decide.