Getting started with Forza Motorsport 3 is an unintentional advert for Blu-ray. Before you boot up the game you are presented with the usual optional install (though this one clocks in at an unusually large seven GB), a second content install disc containing a further two GB of content, then finally a DLC scratch card to download just under another GB of content.
I’m not entirely sold on Sony’s insistence on Blu-ray capacity being essential for gaming, but setting up Forza 3 really feels like going back to the Amiga days of multi-floppy disc installs. Let’s just say it’s not surprising that Microsoft chose to release a special edition Forza 3 console complete with 250 GB hard drive.
Having force-fed the 360 hard drive with nearly ten gigs worth of shiny vehicles you may think it’s safe to assume you would have a smooth loading-free time, though nothing could be further from the truth. Waits between races are agonisingly long and really do beg the question – if there is more data available for instant access on my hard drive than there is on the disc, why is this taking so long?
Casting those irritating technical issues aside, it’s only fair to ask what Turn 10 have changed in the two years since the critically acclaimed Forza 2. Forza is often dismissed as nothing more than Microsoft’s Gran Turismo, and while that could be seen as much as a compliment as a slur, Forza 3 clearly plays to its strengths, building on the unique features that separate Microsoft’s exclusive from Sony’s. Forza has built a solid reputation for creating a strong community of racers and moders and Forza 3 has expanded this aspect greatly with the introduction of the storefront.
The storefront is an Xbox Live Gold-only option that allows petrol-heads and designers alike to pedal their wares to the Forza community. Forza 2 only permitted production models to undergo the paintwork-Picasso treatment while the third game is more than happy for you to take a 1989 Ferrari F40 Competizione and childishly scrawl dobbers all over it. If others in the Forza community share your interest in defiling million pound sports cars with phallic imagery, you can sell it for in-game credits that you can use to buy other logos and designs. There’s even the option for eBay-style auctions and achievements for last-minute sniping.
While Gran Turismo 5 is getting ready to implement body-damage to cars, Forza has long since allowed such destructive desires to be indulged. It’s only with this third iteration however that you can finally flip cars, which when you consider the sophistication of the physics engine, was painfully long-overdue. Further increasing realism options, the interior view puts you right in the driver seat, though the relatively minute dash-board dials still necessitate the HUD.