E3 2009: Forza 3 Hands On Preview - Them Be Fightin' Words
Written Friday, June 12, 2009 By Dan WebbView author's profile
After the doors of E3 closed late last Tuesday night and the stands were cooling down, Microsoft ushered the British press back onto a now desolate show floor for an extensive hands on and presentation with Forza 3 and its developers Turn 10. To sit here and say that Turn 10 are a confident developer would be a total understatement. Some call it arrogance, some call it passion, we're not sure what we'd call it. The 30 minute presentation alone had more sound bites than you’d expect with a 5 minute chat with Peter Molyneux discussing the impact of Milo on the future of technology. We were ambushed with bold claim after bold claim from a confident Dan Greenawalt, the Game Director at Turn 10. Forza 3 is the “best simulator you’ll find on any console,” it will try to “redefine the racing genre”, it’s the “biggest racing game in this generation,” “no racing game looks better on any console” ... and it didn’t stop there. The enthusiasm and audacious sound bites continued long after the presentation had finished with John Wendell, Forza 3 Content Director, continuing the ambush whilst we went hands on with the title. Bashfully Wendell admitted that “Forza 3 was where it was because of Gran Turismo” before then adding that the GT series “wasn’t evolving fast enough, so we did it ourselves,” pointing out the fact that Forza had released 3 titles since Gran Turismo’s last effort. Right then, enough of all the bold claims, let’s talk about the title, how it handles, what’s new, and why it was our best racer of the show this year.
A quick number crunch before we head on; Forza 3 will feature over 100 tracks, 60% of which are real world with the other 40% being original. It will also feature 400+ cars ranging across 40+ manufacturers and all this content will come across two discs; with the second disc containing mostly cars, but it essentially means that a hard drive is a necessity if you want to access all the content.
New features in the series include the “rewind” function (yes, as seen in GRID), which can be used as much or as little as you like during single player races; allowing players to rewind play for as many 5 second segments as they see fit. It felt like a bit of a cop out for a self certified simulator from my perspective but Wendell noted that Forza 3 is all about having fun and get rammed off the corner on the last lap losing your hard work totally drains the fun out of the experience. Those watching the Microsoft Press Conference will probably have come away from the presentation thinking that Forza may have gone a little soft ... a little arcadey, and in some respects, that’s true. The racer has now opened its doors and broadened its horizons and can now be picked up and played by anyone who wants a racing experience. This doesn’t mean that they’ve sacrificed the sim aspect, far from it, it just means now that with all the assists on, Forza is bloody easy to play, it’s essentially becomes a “one button driving” experience then. However, take off all the assists and the game is probably as Greenawalt says, the best simulator on any console.
In terms of physics, Turn 10 have worked alongside McLaren in the UK to improve things like their aero package, picking up a few hints off McLaren’s very own simulator; the very one that Lewis Hamilton uses. This exchange of notes per se also allowed the Turn 10 guys to improve how the air gets dirty behind the car and how it affects the down force. It essentially means Forza 3 will perform real time calculations on how things will change depending on the car in front of you. Greenawalt commented, “do we have to do that for most players?” ... “No, we do it because we’re perfectionists and want the simulation to be unparalleled.” Moving on, the tires in Forza 2 simulated heat, wear, and carefully simulated how the gases reacted inside each of them, now in Forza 3, they simulate tire flex as well. So as the car loads up and gets the load on the front tires, the tires actually deform and roll under the rim. Forza 3 also runs at 60 frames per second with Greenawalt quick to praise that aspect and slam others ... again, “if you can’t run at 60, you’re not a great racing game.” If it wasn’t enough to take a dig at other non 60 frames per second racers on the show floor, Greenawalt then continues to muse that they don’t rely on one feature that “other racing games hang their hat on – “oh we have a cockpit view ... and then we’re done,” and that they have a ton of features and aspects that all sell the game also. Now if that wasn’t a burn on Need For Speed: SHIFT, I’ll eat my hat.
Players can also expect to lose a little time in the game’s broad career mode, which now has a layer on top of it that allows any player to get into the title. Turn 10 call it the “season mode” and it is said to be accessible for all ages and all difficulty levels. The season mode, which features guidance by the soothing tones of the British actor, Peter Egan, is said to assess the cars in your garage, the cars you’ve used so far and the races you’ve tended to race in, and will then offer the 3 best events for you based on those results. Also, expect to face off against immersive AI in over 200 events that can actually make human mistakes depending on the pressure you’re applying. A trait which does sound pretty damn advanced and one that we’re interested to see how realistic it really is.
The game is as you’ll probably have come to realise now, is a visual treat. Instead of choosing to incorporate weather conditions which Greenawalt comments would “actually take a game that has simulation physics and take it to a level where I don’t even think our assists could make it easy,” Turn 10 decided to invest in the game’s graphics and its HTR lighting. That’s abundantly clear when you care to look around at the game’s high detail textures, huge draw distances and naturally impressive rendering of the cars themselves.
As for the actual hands on, we got to experience three different tracks using a wide variety of cars; from a Porsche 911 to a Lamborghini Murcielago, whilst even dabbling in the Aston Martin DBS for a short while. After a few run throughs of the Montserrat track, once with assists on, and once with assists off; it was definitely plain to see that Greenawalt was a man true to his word (or at least some of them). From a self confessed Gran Turismo addict, racing with the assists on was pretty boring and was one button racing, which was no fun at all. Take all the assists off however and the experience really comes alive. Each corner tests you. The damage is no longer aesthetic only and can really affect the car. The opposition are more aggressive and never let you grab the line you want. You can’t just slam your foot on the accelerator when you leave a corner. It’s simulation racing just as it should be.
It wouldn’t be a Forza 3 preview if we didn’t spare a minute to discuss the community aspect of the title. Greenawalt mentions that the community is the core of Forza Motorsport and the UGC allows for people to interact with one another by creating just about anything that they can vision in terms of cars and videos. Forza 3 will include scoreboards for painters, tuners, for people that take photos, make videos and a number of other things. The title doesn’t look to make everyone into great racers; it looks to embrace people’s creativity as well. According to Greenawalt, people don’t go to YouTube to upload videos (although I do), they go to see what’s going on, what’s new and more importantly, what’s cool; and Forza wanted to embrace this attitude by rewarding the best creators out there in this new scoreboard system.
If you don’t get caught up in Greenawalt’s over emphasis on the impact of the title, you’ll be more than happy with Forza 3 when it hits in October. Sure Forza 3 is a fantastic racer, it’s a step up from Forza 2, but I’m not sure how it will redefine the genre. It’s a straight up solid racing simulator if you want one. It’s pick up and play if you want that, and whilst the whole community aspect is a nice aspect to throw time and effort in to, it’s surely only going to appeal to a small section of fans. The rest of us just want to drive the hell out of some sweet cars on some authentic and testing tracks and Forza 3 offers you just that. I’ve admittedly not sunk my teeth into a racing simulator since I lost months on 100%ing Gran Turismo 3, but Forza 3 is seriously good enough to tempt me back on to the track for another long stint. Racing fans won’t be disappointed, just so long as they don’t buy into Greenawalt’s hype. It’s good, in fact, it’s great and most certainly a step up from Forza 2, but it’s not reinventing the wheel ... by any means.
Forza Motorsport 3 will hit consoles on October 23rd in Europe and October 27th in North America.