October 27, 2009

Forza 3 | First Impressions

Mike Rohde Says Let's get this out of the way: don't be like me and think you can install Disc 2 first and then go to Disc 1 to play the game. No, no, no. Save yourself a big headache and pop in Disc 1 first, enjoy the incredible opening scenes, and then follow the directions to install Disc 2. And don't forget to hit A after the install starts. Otherwise, it won't install. And you'll just sit there. Watching your screen and wondering what the heck is taking so long. Ok, now that we got that out of the way…

Forza 3 got me on the race track fast. Instead of starting off with creating a profile or choosing a car, it put me right into a race. As that first race was loading, I casually took a sip of my cold beverage, and as I was doing so the race finished loading…next thing I knew, I was sitting back in my chair watching a preview of the track...instead of quickly hitting A to start the introductory race. Yes folks, the graphics are good. They are stop-you-in-your-tracks good. I raced through the intro on Casual level and easily won. A quick and easy Achievement popped up and next thing I knew I was picking my first car…and yeah…I was a little disappointed I couldn't keep that sweet Audi I was just driving. Instead, I got a Honda Fit...

I chose the Honda Fit as my starting car because I'm the proud owner of an Accord and a CRV. I thought I'd choose a member of the family to get started in Forza 3. I did feel a little silly racing a Fit after racing the higher-class cars for so long in Forza 2. But whatever, I had to start somewhere.

I have to say, the racing wheel felt good and comfortable. It was nothing like my experiences playing Dirt or Need for Speed Most Wanted. Granted, those games are several years old and Forza 3 is the cream of the crop. It's very good to know there have been remarkable improvements in how the racing wheel handles. So far, there's been no learning curve to using the racing wheel controls. I did choose layout 3 to accommodate the hand brake on the right bumper instead of the B button. Anyone with a racing wheel will probably agree that the B button is hard to hit while going around corners.

To get started, I chose to race on the Easy level, and then quickly moved up to Medium after easily winning my first race. Then, I moved up to the Hard level after easily winning the second race on Medium.

After winning the second race, I had enough credits for a Quick Upgrade, which is a great new feature. In Forza 2, I had to sort through all the parts and then be careful to not outclass my car for the next event. Quick Upgrade removes all of the guesswork and got me right back on the track and into the race in no time at all. Essentially, it removes a lot of the work out of the game and keeps me behind the wheel and out of the shop. Hardcore enthusiasts can still customize and fine tune the cars, but for me, that's not enjoyable. I just want to race and Forza 3 allows me to do just that.

After a few tries, I did win my first race on the Hard difficult level and I moved my driver up a level and I earned a new car. It was pretty sweet.

I'm two hours into the game and have already earned several Achievements. One of those Achievements was for winning a race using the cockpit view. I gotta tell you, I've always stayed away from the cockpit view because I never felt that comfortable with it. I don't see the track as well, I don't see the other cars as well, and I don't get the sense of control like I do with an exterior view. Well, in Forza 3 that all changes. I raced twice in the cockpit view and it was a ton of fun. Yes, my view of the track was limited, and I couldn't see the other cars as well, but that actually improved the experience. It was kind of like a cloud-of-war effect that provided a more realistic driving sensation.

Some of the added effects of racing in the cockpit view include seeing the hood of the car dip down when I hit the brakes too hard, the view shook a bit when I drove off the road, and, the coolest part (and this actually made me laugh a bit) was an occasion when an opposing car slammed into the back of my car causing me to spin out of control. I was coming around the final corner, I was in first place, the finish line was within sight, then next thing I know I feel a jarring thud and my car is spinning out of control and I headed straight into the crash barriers! I was like, WHOA! What just happened? I turned on the new Rewind feature, watched the series of events happen in reverse (had to smile at seeing an opponent take me out on the final corner) and then I played it over again starting at the spot right before I got nudged. This time, I put on a little more gas and steered out of the way before I got hit. I won the race, and DING, I got another Achievement.

You can find me on the Xbox 360 as Jimmy James 70. Let's race some multiplayer!