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Start your engines

SEAN BACHER retires his everyday car, starts up Forza MotorSport 3 and gets ready to climb behind the wheel of cars that he could only dream of owning – or for that matter- even driving.

To be perfectly honest, I am very selective about the games I play. Role playing and quest games where you have to run around speaking to funny people, collecting magical charms and upgrading your weapons along the way to defeat mind numbing monsters, ghosts and the like is just not my cup of tea. To be perfectly honest, I don’t see the point, I find myself pushing all the buttons at the same time with the hope that I am doing something right. Add to this the long and tedious history and story line I have to watch before playing the game and then again during it, and the CD will sit in a corner and collect dust.

When it comes to fighting and combat games, I also don’t see the point ‚ unless of course I am having a party and have a couple of friends I can challenge. As for SingStar and Guitar Hero type games ‚ well let’s not go there. I can’t sing, nor can I play a musical instrument.

However, when I get a racing game such as Forza Motorsport 3, things begin to change. I have always been a fan of this type of game, my best being Gran Turismo. They are easy to get into ‚ everyone knows how to drive – there are no epic sagas that precede the game and there are no amulets, charms and magical spells you need to collect before you can begin a race. Simply select your car, chose your circuit and off you go.

Now, because I am such a fan of Gran Turismo, I tend to compare every motorsport game to it, in terms of realism, car control, scenery and sounds. And out of all the games I have played, many have fallen flat on their faces in comparison. This, however is not true with Forza Motorsport 3. When I first played the game, I thought the developers could have done a lot more, the car I was driving, an Audi R8, didn’t really sound like it sounds in real life and the game music was a little on the slack side.

However, after starting my first race of the season, I slowly started to change my mind. The game includes every conceivable car you can think of, it gives stats such as kilowatt output and when compared to the real car, these stats are spot on. Furthermore, the race tracks are beautifully done, are identical to their real-life counterparts and when combined with the awesome scenery in each one, you soon forget about the dodgy driving music and horrible engine sounds. Furthermore, when you start your season, you are encouraged to improve your driving. The game offers something called experience points and the more you earn, the more respected you become in the motorsport world ‚ resulting in being sponsored by other car manufacturers and in the process being given one of their cars as your own to race.

As with many motorsport games, Forza Motorsport 3 segments the cars into various categories ‚ all determined by the car’s attributes such as speed and output. The races are then limited to certain types of cars. So, say for instance you enter a Class D race ‚ this race is limited to cars such as a VW Polo or a Toyota Yaris. Therefore, you cannot rock up to the race with a Mercedes McLaren or similar. This helps keep each race competitive as each driver is driving a car of a similar spec. At the same time it drives you to win, as the more races you win the more experience points you get and the more exotic cars are unlocked.

One problem I have noticed with these types of games is that because there is so much data that needs to be loaded before each race, starting a race takes a lot of time. Whilst waiting, many games give you tips on how to perfect your racing, or give you your current standings and although Forza does this, it adds a little something special. Whilst you are waiting for your race to begin, you are able to brush up on your car facts and history. The game brings up facts like ‚Did you know Volvo first developed the three point seat belt’ or ‚Subaru is the Japanese word for the constellation Pleides and the insignia contains six stars ‚ representing six visible stars in the Pleides constellation.’ I thought these facts were very useful as firstly you learn something new before every race and secondly you begin to forget about the time taken for each race to start.

Just before the race starts you are offered the opportunity to tune your car. You can upgrade your exhaust, tyres, engine and many other things ‚ each upgrade improving your chances of winning. When the race starts, you are positioned on the grid ‚ at the beginning of the season right at the back, but as your experience points climb so to does your position of each starting grid. When you complete the race, you are awarded experience points and credits, the credits allowing you to buy additional cars and perform additional upgrades. The experience points also improve your status.

Forza MotorSport 3 lets you enter your profile where you can view your current standing, time played, cars owned, cars tuned and game completion in percentage. After driving for six odd hours, I learnt that I was a mere eight percent into the game ‚ meaning many things – the challenges are going to get much harder: I am going to be driving a myriad other cars: I am going to have to pull a few more late night stints in front of my TV and lastly I am still miles away from driving that oh so beautiful and fast Bugatti Veyron.

If however this long drawn out season play is not what you are looking for, the game does offer an option to simply ‚Go Race.’ Here you select your car, select your circuit and drive.

Game: Forza MotorSport 3

Platform reviewed on: Microsoft Xbox 360

Availability: Immediately

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