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Best of 2009 - Forza 3

As one year transitions into the next, I find it a healthy and refreshing endeavor to look back upon the past year and reflect upon those experiences which touched me the most; to discover which games stood tall above the rest and, for one reason or another, made a lasting impression.

Over the next few days, I will be sharing my own personal list of the ten best games of 2009, followed by those that didn't quite make the top ten and even a few of my greatest disappointments of the year. These are in no particular order, but they are the games I found most worthy of praise. Reflecting upon them makes one thing clear: it was a great year for gaming.

With Forza 2, I discovered that, miraculously, I could actually like a racing sim. This was something of which I was not previously aware. 

Still, Forza 2 was lifeless and not really built for the casual racer, even if it did manage to reel in a a few. The race events quickly began to drag, there wasn’t enough variety in race types or tracks, I was constantly forced to use cars I had no interest in to race on tracks I was growing bored with, and the whole thing just lacked style. I want to feel cool in a racing game, and Forza 2 was decidedly uncool.

But I give it credit for opening my eyes to the potential of the genre at least. And for being really cheap, because I got it used for next to nothing.

When I started reading about Forza 3, I got really excited. This sounded like my kind of sim game. Not only did it have even more cars but, more importantly, more tracks and race types as well. And it would dynamically structure available races based on what I actually liked to do, instead of forcing me to wade through their predefined gauntlet of events with no personalization. 

Add all of that to difficulty options and race assists friendly to non-experts and the ability to infinitely rewind time to undo (and learn from) mistakes, removing by far the most annoying aspect of racing games and you have a seriously compelling package.

But it just keeps getting better. Forza 3 managed to find its style. It is now a “cool” game. I’m not sure how they pulled it off, but they did. Every camera angle and every menu screen is designed to simply let you drool over the gorgeous cars. The graphics are improved, the replays look better, and the new cockpit views for every car are fantastically immersive. 

I haven’t even mentioned the improved storefront that removes the necessity of dealing with the annoying auction house from the last game and makes it not only easier but cheaper to browse for awesome paint jobs for my car collection by artists far better than myself. The cheaper part is important because in the last game you were forced to buy a whole car along with the paint job. Not so this time. You can buy just the new art for your ride, meaning you can far more easily amass a collection of sweet looking vehicles. 

The new storefront is almost worth the price of admission alone, especially if you have a penchant for design. There are some seriously powerful art creation tools in this game and a lot of wonderfully talented artists out there selling their stuff. I wish I were better at actually creating things, but it’s plenty of fun just browsing the great stuff that’s out there.

The bottom line is, Forza 3 is the game that finally brings simulation-style racing to the masses, making it accessible enough for just about anyone.

For making thrilling, realistic racing available to any car lover who just wants to go fast, Forza 3 is one of my Best Games of 2009.

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