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Gear for the Winter – 1/13/09

January 13, 2010

Things have been slow around here as of late, I am the first to admit that.  Unfortunately, the deep freeze on the East Coast means that pleasure drives are largely out of the equation.  Though thoughts of spring are dancing in our heads, the next 10 weeks seem endless.  Luckily, we are able to drive, sort of…

Before I go any further I want to state this edition of Gear for the Road is a slightly different from what we typically do.  It is gear, it is car related, but it isn’t for the road.  Rather it will keep you off of the road (happily) until the spring.

I am not going to contradict what I just said about us not going out on pleasure drives.  We are not.  Unfortunately the fix has to come in the form of a disc in a drive and a plastic controller in the hands.  Though it is far from being the same, Forza 3 offers the best virtual driving experience I have encountered.  Ever.

Driving games can typically be divided up into to categories:  First, and more common, are the “Arcade” driving games.  These are face paced, feature unrealistic circumstances, limited real world physics, and just urge you to go fast and go nuts.  Typically these are throw away games that offer nothing that resembles driving.  The one exception is Need for Speed: Most Wanted.  Though it is clearly in the “arcade” camp, it has just enough realism (delivered via realistic cars and not wholly unrealistic upgrades) that it was anything but throwaway.

The second, and far less common, type of driving games are simulation games.  Simulation games are just that, they attempt to simulate all types of auto-racing down to every detail.  The gold standard has long been the Gran Turismo series.  Gran Turismo long had excellent cars, tracks, and physics but as it approaches a 5 year lapse with its last full update, the grays are showing.

As the old guard has faded, a power vacuum has opened.  The Need for Speed brand made a valiant (and excellent) effort to enter the simulation market for the first time in over 10 year with Need for Speed Shift (ProSport is intentionally being ignored for this article) but it was competing against the new big dog… Forza Motorsports.

Forza made an initial splash with its original version on in a 2005 release for Xbox.  Though a very solid game, it was release during the time that Gran Turismo was king.  Forza 2 was the first in-depth simulation racing game for Xbox 360.  Also an excellent game, but not particularly accessible to first timers, Forza 2 still did not manage to take the racing simulation crown.

Enter Forza 3.  Without dispute Forza 3 is the new king.  Forza 3 does something that no racing simulation has since the original Gran Turismo:  it keeps me entertained.

In most racing games there is a point where entertainment takes a backseat to the mission of getting the fastest car and the fastest lap time.  Forza 3 makes you want to get those times, but somehow does it in an extremely entertaining fashion.

The physics are spot on.  The cars are accurate to every meticulous detail.  The opponents react in ways that human drivers would react.  It speeds by predecessors, passes expectations, and easily takes the checkered flag.

With no doubt, I can state that Forza Motorsports 3 is the best racing game of all time.

So buy it, play it, love it.  You will still yearn for a real drive (probably more than you did before you started playing it) but it will still quench, just a little of, your thirst for the road.

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