Forza 3 at Microsoft’s Christmas In July

Forza Motorsport 3

I’m not a big fan of driving simulations. Why? Because I’m abysmal at them. My ability to successfully navigate a track is inversely proportional to the realism of the driving simulator I’m playing. Once you get to the classic Ridge Racer end of the spectrum, I can drift ’round corners like a pro. But challenge me to master the right speed and racing line to take a corner in a sim, and I’ll be buried in gravel faster than cat poo.

So, two things impressed me about Forza 3, the third (I’d never thought you would have guessed) installation of the acclaimed Forza driving simulation series which I received a brief but delicious preview of yesterday.

The first is the very, very heavy focus on accessibility that permeates every aspect of Forza 3. Don’t be afraid, the absurd accuracy of its driving simulation has not been compromised, no, even the pressure and resulting deformation of your tires is accurately modeled as you fly around corners and the developers take great pride in the accuracy of their car physics.

Forza 3 boasts the ability to crank the difficulty up, or down, as much as you desire. You can go from full-on, painful simulation to mind-blowingly-simple arcade racing, which will even handle breaking so you need only accelerate constantly and make a vague attempt to keep your car on the track.

This means that, finally, a driving impaired numpty like me can enjoy Forza 3, which is good news because the game is absolutely, freaking, beautiful! GT5, where are you? Hello!?Never mind, you’re too late anyway.

Forza 3 also boasts “over 100 tracks” and “over 400 cars”, although no exact numbers have yet been stated.

This leads me onto the second surprise, a feature that was apparently available in Forza 2 but, in my ignorance, passed completely under my radar. Multi screen gaming.

With an absurd quantity of hardware, and between 3 or 6 copies of Forza 3 you can re-create the most stupidly immersive living room driving experience you will ever encounter with a Forza 3 Multi screen setup. With, for example, a relatively affordable (compared to 6 TVs and 6 Xboxes) 3, 720p (Forza 3 doesn’t run at true 1080p, and who really cares), 32″ LCD televisions, 3 Xbox 360s and 3 copies of Forza 3 alongside the requisite networking gear (cables and a hub) you can great a split screen experience with a single screen representing your front view and two additional screens positioned either side, which you can angle as much or as little inwards as you feel comfortable with.

This ain’t no demo kiosk magic, no siree, you can build this multi-screen setup in your own living room for around a cool £1.5k.

If 3 televisions are a little out of your budget, you can get by with a trio of 24″ LCD monitors and drive them in 1080p over DVI. Or a single TV for the front view, and separate monitors for the left and right sides. Of course, that doesn’t take into account the fact you’ve still got to get hold of 3 Xbox 360s.

At the moment, about the best you’ll get a 32″ TV for is £299, which brings you to about £900 for the sets if you round it up. A trio of Iiyama 24″ LCDs (at £190 a piece) will set you back £570, and you’ll still need something to handle the audio and three HDMI capable Xbox 360s at about £160 a piece. Add a trio of Forza 3 copies and this brings you up to £1170 before you’ve even thought about audio, network equipment or a racing controller.

A Logic 3 TX101 will give you acceptable sound for £180 and we’ll call it another £100 for the rest of the kit. Bring your own chair!

So, for around a bare minimum of about £1.5k you can buy and drive 3 out of the 6 possible screens for a beautifully immersive Forza 3 rig. That doesn’t actually sound too bad if you’re not a thoroughbred console gamer. And, as I’ve already got several TVs, LCDs and projectors handy, the right audio equipment, and two Xbox 360s I may well convince John that we should go Forza 3 crazy. It’s convincing the other half that’s going to be the big problem. We’ll see.

It’s rare for a racing game to ever get me interested, much less excited. But Forza 3 has done just that.

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