Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Night Forza: Overview

I love Forza Motorsport 3. The latest in a franchise I’ve played since inception, the game is the culmination of years of dedicated and hard work by developers Turn 10 to create not just a product capable of going up against (and, in some people’s eyes, beating) well-established rival Gran Turismo, but also one that explains, enhances and allows players to experience car and Motorsport culture and the passion that is born from it. From a pure videogame point of view, it wasn’t hyperbole when the word definitive was thrown around by both Turn 10 and Microsoft in the lead up to its release: Forza 3 doesn’t just iterate on its previous versions, it takes everything they learned from the previous two games -- but particularly Forza 2 -- and delivers the package that, in hindsight, some might say the original game on the Xbox should have been. Whether it’s racing on the track, tuning or painting, every aspect of Forza 3 isn’t just a polished piece of work that could be in their own separate games; they also exist as a significant factor in creating the Forza Motorsport experience. If LittleBigPlanet has "Play, Create and Share", then Forza’s racing, tuning and painting combine to form a community whose strength doesn’t just rival that of Sony’s effervescent and utterly charming franchise, it eclipses it. Why? Because a love of cars can be shared by all sorts of people, and car culture is global.

As you can see, I love Forza Motorsport 3 but more than that, I love the franchise and the genre that it exists in. As a Motorsport enthusiast in the real world, Forza allows me to drive real cars on race tracks in a realistic manner, enhancing an enjoyment of a sport I already love as well as fostering my passion for it by providing an understanding of what it’s like to not just drive cars, but to do it at speed and as precisely as possible. At the end of the day it may just be a simulation, and I may use the controller the majority of the time, but regardless of its input systems and approach to racing games and racing in real life, Forza clues me into a lot more than I think some people -- who aren’t necessarily in my position -- may realise. Basically, the depth Forza has as a game and franchise -- and let me be clear right now, Gran Turismo shares this complexity -- alone is astounding, but when you consider its ability to provide insight into racing in real life as well, well that is nothing short of exceptional. That’s why it is my equivalent to the annual iterations sport games receive; it’s why Forza 3 is my RPG where statistics are pored over, main quests and individual quests are undertaken, leveling up and character progression occurs and ultimately a narrative is told; and it’s my first-person shooter, where I don’t just get to test out my skills, I also must practice my precision, my aim, my reactions, and decide the best time to fire out of every corner. Winning a race is the equivalent to a team winning an intense, competitive multiplayer match, whilst achieving a perfect lap time is my very own version of a headshot.

So, with that in mind I welcome you to my weekly (yes, you read that right: weekly) column about Forza 3, in which I’ll cover everything from personal opinions on the game to analysis of the game’s tracks, modes, and just the game in general. I cannot emphasise enough just how many different areas I could explore with this game and so, as a demonstration of my love and respect for it, writing about all of these things will allow me to describe to you not just why I feel the game is amazing, but the intricacies of both it and the culture it resides in. Videogame elements or real life racing techniques -- it can all be covered in this series. I might even be able to record some footage of the game too in order to demonstrate the points I make or to show you what I might be referring to, so while I admit this series will be an experimentation of sorts, it will also be a varied bunch of subjects that I hope -- even if you have no interest in cars, racing games or Motorsport -- will interest you. And if, by chance, I run out of things to say about Forza Motorsport 3, then I can use this column to discuss the racing game genre -- or franchises within it -- instead, so there should be no reason for this regular addition to the blog to run out of content.

It begins next Friday with a look at driving mentality whilst on the racetrack, a subject that doesn’t just apply to racing in the game but also racing in reality. Hope to see you then.

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