Friday, September 25, 2009

Forza Motorsport 3 Demo

Turn 10 have released a demo for their upcoming racing opus, Forza Motorsport 3, which is due out on 23 October 2009. Forza 2 is without a doubt the best racing game I have ever played, so Forza 3 has to be one of my most wanted games this year, and I thought I'd better check the demo out.

It doesn't take long for the demo to make a car enthusiast smile. In fact, even the car colour selection process does the trick; in Forza 2 you had the in-game model rotate in the upper half of your screen, in the Forza 3 demo it cuts away to a full screen rendition (still using the in-game model), which it lovingly sweeps across, fading in and out of different views. It really is car porn, and it is indicative of the kind of full-on automotive fetishism that Turn 10 have brought to their games. Another example of this is the pre-race routine, which focuses on your car's front wheel as it rolls to a stop on the starting grid, before switching to the usual three-quarters view as the car blips its engine. It doesn't always work, for example the screen shake accompanying the engine rev is the same whether the car is a Mini Cooper JCW or a Porsche 911 GT3-RSR, which seems a little silly.

The demo includes 5 cars in different classes, and one track, Camino Viejo, Montserrat, a short winding strip of road that works its way around a mountainous region. Despite being a circuit, it feels very much like a point to point race compared to the wide open, structured race tracks that made up almost all of Forza 2's tracks. It looks stunning, even if you do get the impression that Turn 10 are doing the Gran Turismo trick of sticking a photograph behind the engine-rendered foreground. The good news is that the handling model instantly feels every bit as right as it did before, you get a definite sense of the weight and balance of the car and the tyres' interaction with the road surface. You still have to drive properly, you can't brake and turn at the same time, but even with almost all the assists off (I still can't cadence brake efficiently enough on a controller trigger, so I need ABS on) the cars are satisfying to race, the faster cars being scary enough to stop you from just flattening the throttle out of every corner, but not so scary that they become a chore to drive.

It's not all choirs of angels, though. The car models are still quite flat and shiny compared to other racing games, they don't look anywhere near as good in game as they do in the screenshots, which are no doubt taken with the game's photo mode. On the bright side, despite far better background detail, the game is still rock-solid at 60fps, which I'll happily take over slightly flashier car models. I'm also a little concerned about the game's rewind feature, which is a great idea, especially for people like me who seem to have an uncontrollable tendency to throw the car off the road on the final lap of a race. The problem is that (in the demo, at least) there are no limits to the rewind facility, you can just hit it and redo any part of the race as often as you would like to, which means you should probably win every race on the first attempt. I'm no fan of having to redo entire races because I lost control or overshot my braking point on the last lap, but many of my best memories of racing games have come from the tension of knowing the whole race was at stake. Rewind worked fantastically in GRiD (dubbed Flashback in that game), but you were limited to about 4 usages per race, so you could only use it to correct major errors, not just every time you missed an apex. Maybe they will change the number of uses in the full game.

Regardless of any tweaks Turn 10 do or don't make to the final game, the demo has got me even more fired up for it. 23 October can't come soon enough.