Comparison: the Destroyer of Dreams

Driving competition (do you see what I did there?)
Driving competition (do you see what I did there?)

I couldn’t wait, the days were clicking by and I knew that I’d be out there on the day of release waiting to get my hands on it. Forza 3!

I even got the special edition in the flashy case with the key-ring and the 2GB branded USB drive, I was THAT excited about this release… this is FORZA!

But there is some additional scene setting to be done here. You all know by now that I’m a big fan of driving games generally and will pretty much buy everything that comes along (unless it’s truly bad!). There have been mistakes along the way of course – who could forget NFS: Pro Street – but on the whole it’s not been a bad choice of genre to get stuck in to.

Typically my game purchases have been pretty linear; I buy a game, play it to conclusion and move on to the next one. With driving games there’s usually been a hiatus between them where I play something else, either for review or just for fun, so there has never been an occasion where I’ve done back-to-back driving games… until now.

So, Forza 3 is released, there’s much hype about the game – after all this is Forza and we all remember how good Forza 2 was – and it seems that the world is ready for this to be dropped into consoles and to be gazed upon in awe.

I’ve been playing NFS: Shift and very much enjoying it. I’m actually pleased I gave the NFS franchise another chance after the truly awful Pro Street; Shift delivers on pretty much every level. There are the tracks and disciplines from Pro Street but they have been wrapped in the structure of a proper set of competitions. Haggis and I have been chasing each other through the series taking fastest lap times and getting those nice little green lights showing we ‘own’ that race or series. It’s been fun, good solid fun and the cars are pretty good too!

But then along came Forza 3 and I immediately ejected Shift and slammed in the new disk, ready to be elevated to some level of ecstasy. An hour later I felt thoroughly flattened.

It’s not that the game is bad because it’s not bad… or actually good. The dynamics are solid, the car performance is pretty much spot on, the tracks are familiar from Forza 2 but seem to have matured over the intervening months and are now a little more detailed and a little more “real” if I can use that. It’s just that I was somehow expecting more than I got and the comparison to what I had mentally pegged as the lesser game, Shift, was a little too close for me. I also thought back to my other favourite driving game of recent history, Race Driver: GRiD, and found myself noticing bits I felt were missing from Forza.

Let me re-state that – I feel that there are some elements missing from Forza 3.

This is giving me a strange feeling inside. I’ve heard it said that one should never meet one’s heroes as they turn out to be just people, the same as you are. I feel that way now, Forza has become just another, albeit very good, driving game with good bits and bits that are not so.

If I was at all graphically oriented I’m sure that the new vinyls collection creator would be seriously turning me on, but I’m not and it’s just ‘meh’ to me.

If I was mental about tuning and tweaking then I’m sure that creating tune-ups and settings sets would be flicking my switch but again, I’m happy to press the Quick Upgrade button and see how it goes.

I’ve got most of the driver aids turned off, I’m running as an Expert driver after the initial test race and I’m very much enjoying the racing itself, as I’ve said the tracks, cars and handling dynamics are pretty damned good, but Shift is delivering this kind of experience too.

Have I become ‘casual’? Am I missing the point? Or are we simply seeing that the playing field is being levelled and other developers and producers have stepped up their game. I don’t have a conclusion to this post – in itself unusual as I normally have some platitude to deliver! – other than to say I’m still enjoying Forza 3 very much and will continue to do so, tonight though I think I’ll be dropping NFS: Shift back in the console and stealing some more tracks from Haggis The Lord!







3 responses to “Comparison: the Destroyer of Dreams”

  1. Ramsden avatar

    Hmm. I’m really enjoying Forza 3, and for my money, I consider it superior to its current contemporaries. Perhaps the fact that you had so over-hyped it in your mind, there was no chance it could meet those expectations? That’s happened to me with other games before. I’m not sure I’d write Forza off as just another driving game, because it still has a level of detail, refinement and polish that is lacking from a lot of racers, and which I suspect is the result of Microsoft’s spending power in funding the development. But hey, different strokes for different folks.

  2. John avatar

    Ramsden, don’t get me wrong here. I’m totally enjoying Forza! I just reached level 25 (mmmm… Reventon), I’ve over a million in the bank to spend on goodies if I like and I’ve just completed a most enjoyable 8 lap race around Catalunya. Tracks, cars, driving, all of it is great!
    You’re right though, the hype caught hold and I was expecting.. I don’t know, just more I suppose. Comparisons are always going to be made, and I know that Forza, GRiD and NFS: Shift are actually different animals but perhaps I want my different animals to be either a lot more different or the same – with ALL of the good bits. Fickle.. me?! Yes it does seem that way doesn’t it! 🙂

  3. Ramsden avatar

    Heh, well, that’s fair enough. Maybe when you’re a bit further into the season play, you’d be up for a race or two over Live? I’m at Level 47 at the moment, so I imagine I have the advantage in terms of the cars available to me, but we might be able to work something out. Perhaps racing in the same car or something? I currently have a 100% win record in the game and am in the top 9% for overall on the leaderboards, but considering your own passion for racing games, you might finally give me the challenge I’ve been looking for. If you’re interested, just send my Gamertag a note, it’s Erudite Knight.

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