Being a bit of a driving game fanatic who fell in love with the Gran Turismo series, it was refreshing to get a different take on a fully-involved driving simulator when Forza Motorsport 2 was released on Xbox 360. I sadly missed out on the original Forza, but Forza 2 was an excellent game that I hoped would tide me over until GT5 is released.
It wasn't without its faults though and, while I didn't expect to be playing Forza 3 before GT5 was released, developer Turn 10 has gone some way to correcting the major issues with Forza 2. The result is Forza 3, which is one of the most rounded driving games we've played to date - it's kept what was good about Forza 2 and has added a smattering of goodness on top of it.
At first, it felt like we were playing the same game we played a couple of years ago now, albeit with a slightly more refined interface. Many of the tracks in Forza 2 are back again and while there are a number of new cars introduced, most of them are just newer versions of the same model.
The good thing is that the cars and the way they handle still feels realistic, with smooth cornering in particular being heavily rewarded. Each of the cars has its own distinctive feel, helping to make the game more challenging - it also helps to make it feel fresh too, as there isn't just a generic feel depending on where the engine is situated and whether or not the car has two or four-wheel drive.
What makes this better is that the new car levelling system rewards you for using every car in your garage, as every time you complete a race, both you and your car are awarded experience points. The amount of experience you receive after each race depends on the game difficulty setting you choose and the good thing is that there's a lot of depth in this part of the game.
Turn the various driving aids off, for example, and you'll get an extra 25 per cent of your score added on. Turn off the suggested racing line and you'll net even more points at the end of the race. If you turn everything off and set the AI to its hardest level, you'll double the amount of experience you receive at the end of each race.
The points go towards increasing yours or your car's experience level, which in turn results in rewards every time you step up. Manufacturers gift you new cars when you step up to the next driver experience level, while increasing your car level offers you discount prices on upgrades. While your driver level can continue to push on, the maximum level any car can reach is five which prompts you to consider trying other cars to give the game a more lasting appeal.
In addition to being given cars for free as you progress through the game, you're always welcome to buy new cars if you can amass enough credits. The cost of new cars depends not only on their performance, but also on how rare they are - the Ferrari 250 GTO, for example, is almost impossibly rare and it'll set you back a jaw-dropping 20 million credits, which is about what you'd pay in Euros for a real one in immaculate condition.