Customize Your Speed
Written by Mike Lowther
Oh, customization - you're so good to me. The first thing that comes to mind when playing a new racing game is the array of selection. Red pill or blue pill, I thoroughly enjoy getting to pick anything from the color of my car to making micro adjustments to my chassis. I don't care what it is, as long as I have the option to choose. Games are developed in a series of 1's and 0's and each combination of 1's and 0's determines how the next string of events will act differently. The more, the better. As for a simulation, Forza Motorsport 3 delivers, and delivers well. A highly acclaimed series, Forza has a reputation of supplying beautiful graphics with customized gameplay. Turn 10 Studios developed a system that makes navigating through career mode a cinch, and upgrading your vehicles easy for newcomers and veterans alike. Regardless of how it may seem, anyone can feel comfortable in this racing simulator, and rewards certainly ensue.
As with any simulation game, you begin from the bottom and work your way to the top. It's a long and sometimes strenuous road. But with persistence, creativity and strength, you feel godly at the peak of the pole. Race through events you book on your calendar and earn reputation and experience, while receiving credits to purchase new cars and upgrades. The harder you make the game, the more rewards you will get, such as discounts from big-name car manufacturers, access to specialty races, and free cars. The biggest complaint I get from gamers is that simulation racing is too difficult. Lots of people give up on this genre because they're restarting the first race they play within the first five seconds. Here, you customize your difficulty too the tee, leaving few unhappy customers.
Ironically, I learned the basic fundamentals of manual transmission from Gran Turismo 2, and drove my second car home from the dealership only stalling once. Never before have I seen a game where you need to activate the clutch while changing gears. For a racing sim, I need to race on the manual setting; you can easily drop a gear on a quick turn to overtake an opponent. But to switch gears using a clutch in a video game is ingenious, yet requires a little extra skill. This is a customizable feature, along with traction assist, ABS, and damage affliction and you will be rewarded for using these features if you choose to do so.
The typical racing sim consists of in-game opponents that follow the line, have perfect driving skills and creep up behind you every passing second. During the first race in Forza 3, I witnessed an AI driver spin out of control and nail a wall 50 yards in front of me. I was quite impressed to discover I'm a better racer on my first run through than a computer. Realistic damage shows on your car and the x-ray view on the HUD shows how badly you're beat up from dings and collisions, and you're also able to view tire wear and stability details. If you collide roughly with the wall on your right side, you're going to have trouble turning right. Realism - at its best.
Quite possibly one of the coolest features in this game is the REWIND feature. If you miss that turn, or collide with the driver in front of you, go back in time and correct your mistake. This feature was first introduced in Codemaster's GRID, and seems to be catching on with some new racing games. My only issue with Forza 3 comes from the HUD being too vague and hard to read. I feel like it's a hassle to break away from concentrated racing to find out what lap you're on. The font is quite small, even while playing on a 62' LCD. The soundtrack is decent, featuring artists like Celldweller, The Hives and Rise Against, but the actual in-game car audio is stellar, illustrating realistic vehicle and engine sounds from each individual car.
Growing up on the Gran Turismo series, which has yet to be succeeded, it's good to know there's variable competition that will keep us busy in the world of racing simulation. Forza Motorsport 3 continues valiantly with new features that keep the racing simulator genre interesting and fun for everyone. Maybe now’s a good time to learn stick-shift if you don’t already know it.
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