It never ceases to amaze me that Gran Turismo sells as well as it does. Oh, it’s certainly well deserved, but as far as painstakingly authentic sims go, they’re ridiculously dense, difficult, and not all that accessible when compared to other game series that sell fifty million copies and move PlayStation consoles. I’m positive Gran Turismo yanks more than its fair share of hardcore car enthusiasts out the analog woodwork, but what about the rest of us?
Above: The answer is on the last page!
I’d wager that a substantial percentage of those copies go to gamers interested in owning the most beautiful title on the console, fanboys purchasing out of solidarity, and those who merely dabble in the nuances and couldn’t possibly be utilizing the game for everything it’s worth. Fortunately, Forza Motorsport 3 has finally bridged the vast divide between gearhead and average gamer in a way that Gran Turismo seems to have little interest in attempting.
Above: The single best new feature in Forza Motorsport 3
You’ve seen Rewind modes elsewhere, but the ability to take the race back a couple seconds enhances the experience tenfold. Unlike other racing sims, Forza’s vehicles get beat the hell up performance-wise AND cosmetically. Thank the Gods: Wrecks, spin-outs and all those other little F-ups that shatter sizable chunks of invested time are literally things of the past with just a push of the Back button. It’s not as refined as the Flashbacks in DiRT 2, but rewinds are unlimited, and you’ll only suffer the small penalty of an asterisk next to your lap time record.
Hands down, Forza 3 is the most accessible sim the world has ever seen. Everything you’ve ever perceived as impenetrable about the comprehensive racing sim can be turned on and off like a light switch. It’s not simply that every damned detail is customizable, it’s that the adjustable options are available at any time and are never buried under parchment scrolls of convoluted menu options. Just on the surface, you’ve got in-game leg ups such as colored guide lines, traction and stability control. Best of all, you’re never penalized for calling in an “Assist,” but you’re rewarded with more XP and cash the less you use them. Turn ‘em on when you need ‘em, off when you don’t.
And while we of the vigilant hardcore once begrudged the game’s much touted “Auto Brake” as a baby mode that plays the game itself, it’s actually extremely fun and a giant step toward making the genre less daunting for the average player. Sure, the gas-to-brake finesse nestled within the 360’s analog sticks are, once again, Forza 3’s crown jewel. They truly represent what makes a phenomenal game and a feat of digital engineering, and it’s a shame for people to miss out on the subtle complexities of two-fingered feathering. But it can’t be denied that games like Need for Speed, Burnout, and GTA have fathered a new breed of racing fan that doesn’t care to take their finger off the accelerator. And thanks to a single adjustable menu option, Forza’s built a place for them, too.
Forza 3’s ability to change with your specific level of skill and comfort isn’t just a triumph of accessibility… It’s a total game changer. I started the game on “Regular” and after an initial race to gauge my skill, Forza’s omniscient Sorting Hat assigned me to a class with the Auto Brake on… without telling me. I had a great time. Fellow editors with no interest in racing games had a great time… and it was only after several hours that I realized the game had been decelerating for me! “What do I look like, some n00b?! Let’s turn that off.” And Forza 3 became a completely different game.