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Forza Motorsport 3 – Click above for new high-res image gallery

Autoblog visited the official unveiling of Forza Motorsport 3, Microsoft's latest racing title for the XBox, at the E3 expo. With graphics playing on numerous flat screens that, to borrow the phrase, moved the game on, and with the backing of an Audi partnership and a gleaming red R8 V10 on a plinth among the crowd, everyone involved was bullish enough on FM3 to make an actual bull think "Better watch out for those guys..." In fact, said Dan Greenwalt, the lead developer at Microsoft's Turn 10 Studios, said "We already made the best racing game the last time, with Forza Motorsport 2." Forza Motorsport 3, he said, signaled that "We were out to make the best game." Follow the jump for the story.

Racing sims really boil down to two titles: Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport. GT is on its fifth iteration, Forza is introducing the world to its third. Even though there are two generations supposedly separating the two, Turn 10, with the mighty backing of Microsoft, has scaled the learning curve with a helicopter, not rope and piton. The Turn 10 folks will even tell you that the last version of Forza was outdone by GT4 when it came to graphics – and then they'll add that Forza had physics and damage and rollover and user-generated content and customizing options that GT4 couldn't touch. With this game, having taken an obsessive aim at graphics quality, as well as improving those other areas and adding a few more, Turn 10 believes Forza 3 sets a standard high enough to make gold feel inadequate.

Those efforts were led by Dan Greenwalt, who is not merely the game director at Turn 10 for Forza Motorsport but the guy who invented it and pitched it to Microsoft. "I want to turn car lovers into gamers and gamers into car lovers," he says. His way of doing that is by creating multiple outlets for people to develop emotional attachments to the cars on screen and allowing them to approach that in whatever way suits people best, and then connect them all in a car-crazed community.

With the last game's driving realism and online driving possibilities, as well as the artist auctions, "We did a good job of turning drivers and artists into heroes with the last game," said Greenwalt. "Now we want to turn tuners into heroes."

Just like there are individuals and groups whose only interaction with Forza is to create custom paint jobs, now for tuners there are more upgrades on offer and tuner files can be downloaded. If you want your Ford GT optimized for Laguna Seca, you can hop on Xbox Live and download the file that will turn your car into a Corkscrew killer. If you want to turn your Honda into a Ferrari, there's a tuner out there that can do that, who knows how to reinforce the chassis and change every number and part necessary to go from red "H" to black horse. "You have to know tuning," Greenwalt said, "but we want to call those guys out as the best tuners."

Knowing that such a community will probably only form around something substantive, Greenwalt's team worked to make Forza a gasp-worthy affair. "Forza 2 had a 360 frames-per-second (FPS) physics update engine and 60 FPS graphics," he said, "and we modeled the way tires and the gasses inside them heat up and affect driving." With Forza 3, the challenge was going further than that. "In Forza 3 we modeled tire and sidewall flexing and the effect on driving dynamics."

Turn 10 also availed itself of one of the world's heavyweights in the arena of car technology. McLaren F1 makes a standardized electronics component for all the cars on the F1 grid called the black box. Microsoft is associated with McLaren in the development of that black box software, and that led to Greenwalt going to McLaren's Technology Center and crunching numbers on the same aero simulator built for McLaren F1 driver Lewis Hamilton. Even though there are no F1 cars in Forza 3, the lessons Greenwalt learned about aerodynamics in one of its highest temples have been used to improve the gameplay for the guy in Topeka. "We learned things about aero that mean you get a multimillion dollar simulator for $60."

Still, he admitted, "Eventually you run out of things to simulate."

The game isn't only for driving masters, though. Knowing that some players would want to be able to pick up a controller and just have a good time, features were added to the game to make it possible for a huge range of ages and abilities to enjoy themselves. On/off switchable aids include ABS and traction control, a green racing line laid on the track so you "know" how to drive, and auto braking that slows the car for you through turns. There's also a do-over function: if you're way too hot into the last corner for a last gasp pass and end up on your head, you can hit the do-over button and the race will rewind itself five seconds. If you think you messed up the last few corners, you can hit the button three more times and go back up to 20 seconds to correct the errors of your ways.

And when you just want to have fun and show off, there are leaderboards, and you can tape your winning lap around any track – up to 8 drivers at a time can even do simultaneous stunt driving – and upload your wheeled prowess to XBox Live for all to enjoy.

After covering the basics, the skillsets, and the hooning, what was left? Graphics. Beyond the simulation of physics is the simulation of the physical vehicle, now a headlining event in Forza 3. While Audi's R8 V10 is the marquee car and Turn 10 had near total access in order to recreate it, the dedication to verisimilitude runs throughout. It was said that 9,000 data points were used to model the vehicles. The Audi R8 V10 car, in real life, has twelve vents running down both side of the engine cover, together representing the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The engine centerline is slightly to the left of the centerline of the car in order to package the quattro system most efficiently. The car's two inboard headlights are bracketed by curved bits of metal that take their inspiration from the sail forms of the Sydney Opera House. The LED strips underneath the headlights each have 24 LEDs in them, also in celebration of Le Mans. The dash information display contains a lap timing function that can display three laps at a time. The car's top speed is 196 mph.

All of those features have been recreated on the R8 V10 in the game.

In fact, said Chas Murphy, the product manager for Audi sports cars, "I've had this car on the track. Even the sound of the car coming to the start line and braking is perfectly captured."

And the game contains 399 other cars, all with the same level of detail.

In case you're confused about the Audi involvement (we were), Audi is working with GT5 because its cars are licensed, but Forza 3 represents Audi's only official partnership. With Turn 10's interest in taking this game to ever more massive masses, after speaking to a number of potential partners they hitched up with Audi because of the German company's genuine motorports heritage, fans, and passion. Said Brad Stertz with Audi PR, "Being detail oriented is also a brand alignment" between Audi and Forza, and "we're both challengers, so there's a hunger with both brands."

And Audi plans to make big music with the association. A contest has already been held to decide three teams of Forza 3 players who would compete in an actual 24-hour race at the Audi Forum in New York City to coincide with The 24 Hours of Le Mans. Said Younghee Wong, in Audi's experiential marketing department, "There will be 3 teams of three just like the real race, they start at the same time as Le Mans, 9 am New York time, and they can't do more than quadruple stints [1 stint = 1 hour]. We're bringing an R10 race car to the Forum and Audi Sport North America will demonstrate a pit stop and how to do a tire change. There will even be a room to sleep in. The winning team goes to the 2010 Le Mans with Audi."

And if you're a Forza fan, word is there'll be other incentives coming from now through to October, when the game is officially launched.

Is all of this enough to make Forza Motorsport 3 the bees knees? Not having played it (yet!), we don't know. But the philosophy behind it and the look of it on screen is all most encouraging. Showing his console and game competitor due deference, Greenwalt allowed, "I have full respect for GT. Playing that game is what got me into this business." Still, as far as he was concerned, he had already crossed the finish line first – not least because GT5 is still, literally, waiting to finish. "Compared to GT our physics are better, our graphics are now as good, we have more cars, we have damage, rollover, and user generated content. No racing game can beat it."

If what he says is true, it could be good that the game is coming out in Q4 – you'll need the holiday breaks to get your playing fix in. And Greenwalt knows it. "My goal," he said, "is to ruin work days."

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      I will still buy this game the day it releases, but Turn 10...please license Formula 1 cars. Polyphony got FIA WRC and even NASCAR licensing. Just PLEASE do it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yeah, but it doesn't mean that Turn 10 can't get licensing as well. Or does Codemasters have exclusivity in this case?
        • 5 Years Ago
        codemasters already has the f1 license and is coming out with a game in 2010
      • 5 Years Ago
      graphics may be as fine and crisp as GT5, however, the lighting doesn't compare. that is what makes GT5 graphics so much better .. not the actual graphics themselves.

      i'm a big forza player, but i know that visually, FM3 won't stack up against GT5. The xBox 360 just doesn't have the power and ability to do so.

      can't wait until october.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You know that without ever having played the game, huh?
        • 5 Years Ago

        Making free Iphone apps doesn't count as game designer.
        • 5 Years Ago

        Polished graphic wise yes but depth, no... Forza encompasses so much more than any GT game has so far. You get more than just a "pick your car and run on the track" kinda game. Forza career mode this time around sounds as if it will be very deep with alot of gameplay and such. This is also pared with the new season mode, not to mention a few new additions to driving modes such as drifting (which like it or not is an up and coming sport here in the states) and drag racing. Also add in the customization ability to your cars that GT has yet to come close to. GT has yet to be polished in many aspects of game that has great replay value... I easily got bored with prologue.

        Yeah you can have the prettiest looking game out there but if it has little to no substance then really what is the replay value... Ill take a game that I can play all the way up until the next version without getting bored anyday over one that has outstanding graphics alone. Forza 2 was that game for me and now Forza 3 will definitely take its place.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I wouldn't say the Xbox doesn't have the power or ability. In most cases games look better on the 360. I think the edge comes from the talent at Polyphony compared to Turn 10.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That is the most laughable and unsubstantiated comment Ive ever read on this forum. What game has proven either systems superiority graphically, as a game designer I can assure you that both systems have their caveats, but graphic output is more inline than they have been in any previous system generation. That being said Polyphony has an excellent team with a great lighting department and thus a slight edge in that realm, but this has little if anything to do with the systems horsepower.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Um, Forza 3 is already better looking, including lighting/hdr than GT5.
        • 5 Years Ago
        But you don't understand, Forza III is the "best racing game of this generation". The highest scoring game of "this generation". *snicker*

        I will definitely check this game out. But, I know it will never compare to the Gran Turismo series. That series is so polished, nothing comes close.
      • 5 Years Ago
      i bought my ps3 around launch date in hopes of picking up a copy of GT5. Same for my PSP on launch date in hopes of picking up a copy of GT mobile. WTF happened? Anyways, i have both forza2 (bundled copy) and GT5 Prologue, i still go back to FM2 more than GT5 Prologue to keep me entertained til the next great thing gets released. Also when did PS3 turn into windows box? it updates every time i turn the damn thing on
      • 5 Years Ago
      One facet of FM2 that I absolutely love is that you can swap Engines. Who doesn't love throwing an RB26 into a Silvia or swapping various racing engines into production models??

      If GT:5 has this feature then it'll crush FM3, cause graphically GT is better
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ GatorLCA

        actually, graphically speaking you can't tell the two apart. what makes GT5 "look" better is the lightning effects that the creators have built into the game .. nothing to do with graphics.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Looks good. Too bad GT5 isn't coming out for a few years.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm shocked (snark) that this story's comment section turned into a GT fanboy gathering.

      I guess that while the GT fanboys sit around watching old video's of vaporware (GT5) the rest of the world will be happily playing Forza3. Forza players are comfortable enough in themselves that they don't have to keep trying to convince others that their favorite race game is really fun and well worth the money. Of course if they did have to convince someone of it's fun factor all they would have to do is let that person sit down and play it. That's something the GT fanboys can't do with their game.

      GT fanboy's are kind of like Linus and the Great Pumpkin. They sit around trying to convince everyone that GT5 is coming and it's going to be the best. Yet year after year GT5 never shows up and the rest of the people spend their time enjoying great racing games.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Even some of us GT fan boys still enjoy good racing games. I loved FM2. I played it on my friends' 360s for hours. I went back and bought FM1 for my old XBox after playing it, just to see the whole story.

        But I am a PS3 owner. So I am salivating over GT5, and I have loved every game in the GT franchise. Whatever console Sony makes in the future that plays GT 10 is going to be the console I buy. If that makes me a fanboy, so be it. But FM3 is going to be great, and I can't wait to get my hands on it.
        • 5 Years Ago

        The original!!! trailer fro GT5 debuted at E3 2007 .. two years ago. it's pathetic. every since details on Forza 3 hit last summer, GT5 has been nowhere. it's because they went back to the drawing boards.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I respect that, TTown.
      I even agree that 2 discs makes the 360 look bad. Blu Ray wasn't a bad idea. Neither was HD DVD. Sony finally won a format war. Who would have thought...

      PS3 fans. Name ONE game you don't need to partially install on your HD.
      How much space did Metal Gear Solid 4 require? 4.6GB's?
      It's ok for you to mount 10% of a Blu Ray's disc space to your HD so the game will freaking run, but if we have to do it for Forza it's retarded?
      Kettle, you're so black! No pot, you are!

      Lastly, noone played GT5 at E3. There wasn't even a TENTATIVE release date like Blizzard TRIES to meet.
      NOTHING! Polyphony couldn't even be reached or bothered to comment.

      Even freaking Miyamoto explained why he didn't show of any Zelda clips, gameplay, etc.

      But no, Kaz gets cart blanche because his team does good lighting and licensing?

      GTFO of here.
      • 5 Years Ago
      @Scott K. GT5 has damage, check out the lastest video, it's clearly shown.

      It also looks 100x better than the Forza 3 footage. My feeling is, the Xbox is really showing it's age now. The real Forza3 killer blow, is the multiple DVD. The game comes on one disc, the cars and tracks on another.

      So it's either disc swapping, or you need a HDD to install the tracks to (which means 10m Xbox owners need to buy an expensive Microsoft upgrade.. to play this game). Talk about constant Xbox nickel and diming...

      Seeing GT5 footage has convinced me, it's time to trade in the Xbox and get a PS3 (it's long overdue anyway, as most my mates have a PS3 or both consoles anyway).
        • 5 Years Ago
        "So it's either disc swapping, or you need a HDD to install the tracks to (which means 10m Xbox owners need to buy an expensive Microsoft upgrade.. to play this game)."

        Right, because not one of the xboxes sold in America came with a hard drive...
        • 5 Years Ago
        I rarely get in on console bashing... I have a 360, and use it occasionally. No PS3, but if i had money laying around I'd buy one just for GT5.

        the problem is you stated is MS "nickle and diming" i don't even own a PS3, but ive heard on PS Home or whatever the virtual world you guys have you have to pay 1 dollar just to have your avatar have some special shirt... crap like that. micro transactions .

        Lets not forget the whole having to supposedly buy GT5 but then spend TONS of money on downloadable cars.

        Sony has a history of being evil itself too you know... just saying, don't be so quick to judge and harp on stuff.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Jeff, there's a massive difference between optional clothing for an avatar you never need to use and having to purchase things seperately like chargable batteries for the controllers, a hard drive, a wireless adapter, pay for online...

        The Xbox gives you less at the start and costs less. The PS3 gives it to you all up front for a higher fee. In the end it's what you prefer.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The improvements from Forza 2 to Forza 3 is amazing! Hats off to Turn 10 for doing what many thought impossible: FM3 matching GT5 in graphics.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I appreciate all the physics and lighting enhancments, but the tail/head lights on the cars still don't look right.

      Solid red brake lighting on the R8 looks out of place on an otherwise well light model. Also, I didn't see the LED running lights from the front view.

      I hope they get those bugs ironed out.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Both FM3 and GT5 look like amazing games. While GT5's graphics may be slightly better, is that really what makes a game fun? They are both gorgeous games and I have no doubt they will both play well. If GT5 has damage (I've never seen that confirmed), then it's win/win for game players. (The lack of damage ended my time with GT3 and was the reason I never picked up GT4.) As it is, the competition between these two games/companies means they'll get better and better. User generated content is a nice bonus for FM3, though.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You missed out then. GT4 looked better, and had more tracks, more cars, and was a waay more polished game than GT3.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Looks like a poor mans Gran Turismo :-(
        • 5 Years Ago
        Looks like someone who has never played Forza 2 and experienced what good fun it is. Y'know, fun? What games should be about.

        Compare that to the last full GT game and how its only new feature was the excellent Photo Mode. I didn't buy it to spend 80% of my time in that mode, but at least it made it worthwhile turning on the console.

        GT has such a fanboy following it's hard to be objective about the series and I've played all of them from 1-4. After GT2 it stayed the same and stagnated. For the next game, I hope what I hear is right and they've livened it up a bit, otherwise it'll be same-old, same-old.
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