First Exams
Forza 3 Demo Impressions

If you’ve been following the Tokyo Game Show this week and waiting for news, it’s likely you’ll have been disappointed. The big announcements have been and gone. As October looms the focus now is on delivering. For their part though, Microsoft were likely waiting on one piece of news from TGS, the release date of the long awaited Gran Turismo 5. The reason? They’ve been sitting on a Forza 3 demo for just the occasion. A departing Shane Kim might have had an inkling it wasn’t going to make 2009. Then again, he might equally have considered Forza 3’s release next month as a big announcement. Read on for a arcade racer fan’s impressions.

Arcade what you say? Let’s get this out of the way up front. Sim-racers are not a genre I can claim any expertise in. As far as racing games are concerned, I graduated to the PGR series from Sega GT on the original Xbox and loved every minute of them. To this man, other cars on the track are “braking opportunities” and corners should be taken sidewards to look good on replays. You aren’t going to find a rigorous analysis of Forza 3’s impressive physics model or a detailed critique of the representation of the 2009 Ferrari California vs it’s competitor’s games here.

Does this make me a bad person to write about Forza 3 then? Not really. Dedicated sim-racer communities are numerous and extremely vocal on the internet. The debates across the forums are some of the most savage and detailed you will ever come across. If Turn 10 have modeled an interior correctly or if the Ferrari doesn’t feel right, opinions on it will be ten-a-penny. I’m here because of a different reason, notably Activision’s purchase of PGR developer, Bizarre Creations.

In the eyes of many, Microsoft opting to not buy Bizarre was the death of PGR even if they still retain the IP with lip service to use it. Delivering the first party racing experience for Xbox 360 for the time being solely lies on the shoulders of Turn 10 studios. Their mandate for Forza 3 was pretty clear. Broaden the appeal of the franchise without alienating the existing fans who appreciate its realism and attention to detail. A tricky tightrope to walk if ever there was one.

Whether they will achieve this is hard to say from the demo but the encouraging signs are certainly there. Comprising of only one track, five cars and two laps it initially seems like a frugal offering, especially when things like the community features and livery editor are so key to making Forza what it is but the first two laps were great fun and I didn’t hesitate to have another go, and then another. Eventually I was fiddling around with the driving assists, the interface to which is deceptively simple but clearly hiding a lot of depth. It should be easy enough for gamers of all abilities to tweak the game to their liking, which should mitigate any concerns that it’s been dumbed down. Tempting as it might be to use the “rewind” feature (accessed via the back button), I didn’t bother. The game is fun and rewarding enough to simply have another go, rather than cheat that perfect lap-time.

The other main takeaway from it was the visuals. The jump from it’s predecessor is dramatic and initial reports of a lack of anti-aliasing are wide of the mark. It’s there for sure but barely noticeable when you’re zipping along at 60 FPS. The track in the demo (Comina Viejo) was especially impressive. The oft-demanded cockpit view is a little less so but at least it’s present.

For many Forza 2 was a little bit of a disappointment despite being a solid game. It didn’t look great, several features were cut and it offered nothing to the likes of me. My experience with that demo was short lived. Turn 10’s third offering has had the opposite effect and transformed a game I had less than a passing interest in to one which I’m keen to play a little more of. So far so good then but we’ll have a few months yet before we can assess lofty claims of it being “the definitive racing game of the generation”. At the very least though, it has a good chance of going some way to filling the hole left by that other Xbox racing franchise.

Forza 3 releases 27th October.