Little change

Microsoft's sleek new racer jockeys for pole position

Matthew Kato / Game Informer Magazine /

Our romance with fast cars is all about feeling that spike of adrenaline as your speed increases, pushing you into a different physical plane. In a slightly more abstract sense, it's about flying off to see new sights and escaping to new experiences. Video games aren't that different. You're still on the edge of your seat, driving by the seat of your pants, only you're far safer from danger than you would be if you were actually strapped into a 400-mph death trap. You also want to feel like all that driving is taking you somewhere.

The “Forza” series' progression of rewards has always been one of its strong suits. The driver and car XP levels see to this. Win a couple races and not only does your driver get a new car, but shops give you a discount on parts. Add in the fact that the credit system is generous (even after you subtract some for repairs to offset the damage to your car), and “Forza” avoids becoming a grind like other sim racers. Turn 10 Studios also redid its menu system to make everything more visually inviting, and added a calendar to keep track of the racing events. These tweaks are small changes that greatly help the game's pacing and show a vast improvement from “Forza 2.” One tiny criticism I have regarding the calendar system, however, is that the trio of events the game suggests for you aren't your only options. To see everything you have at your disposal, you must back out of the season play menu and hit up the events list to check out all the races available. In general, you'll go through your usual mix of multi-race series, manufacturer- or spec-specific events, drag races, and some killer marathons courtesy of Le Mans and Nurburgring. Needless to say about the “Forza” series, the driving is still tight.

The game's calendar and progression system make the game very inviting, but I think the game misses a little by being in some ways too easy. What's the point of rating races and cars by their performance level if there are numerous times that you can race a superior car in a lower event for an easy win? The automatic upgrades are great, but take away from actually buying those parts. Remember the cool discounts you won from manufacturers? I never went into a parts store because it was all automatically done for me.

I ate up everything “Forza 3” had to offer. I raced hard through the streets of Italy's coastal town Amalfi, taking in the game's gorgeous sights and pushing the laws of physics around every tight turn. I spent lots of time in the garage adding layer upon layer to my cars' custom graphics with the game's easy-to-use tools. At the end of it all, however, I didn't feel like I was light years ahead of any other game in the “Forza” series. “Forza 3” redefines the franchise, but it definitely didn't take me to anywhere I hadn't already been before.

‘Forza Motorsport 3'

8.5 (out of 10)

Xbox 360

Microsoft Game Studios

ESRB rating: E for Everyone

Top 10

PC Games

The editors of Game Informer Magazine rank the top PC titles for October:

1. “Borderlands,” 2K Games

2. “Batman: Arkham Asylum,” Warner Bros. Interactive

3. “Tropico 3,” Kalypso Media

4. “Risen,” Deep Silver

5. “Majesty 2: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim,” Paradox Interactive

6. “Aion,” NCsoft

7. “Red Faction: Guerrilla,” THQ

8. “Need for Speed: Shift,” Electronic Arts

9. “Wolfenstein,” Activision

10. “Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising,” Codemasters

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Weekly download

‘Axel & Pixel'

For: Xbox 360 Live Arcade

From: Silver Wish/2K Play

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

Price: $10

We're waist-deep in a 2-D gaming renaissance that has seen character animation reach Disneyesque levels, so it's an ironic kind of pleasantry to experience “Axel & Pixel,” which magnificently bucks that trend by acting as if the 1970s never ended. “Pixel” operates primarily as a point-and-click adventure game, and it follows the rules of the genre — explore the scene and figure out what objects and cause-and-effect relationships will get Axel and his trusty dog Pixel to the next area — pretty faithfully. The control scheme and cursor design feel tuned to accommodate a gamepad, making the lack of a mouse a non-issue, and occasionally “Pixel” interrupts the storyline with a more action-heavy mini-game that uses the controller to full effect.

The sum of these parts would be nice in any clothing, but “Pixel” knocks it out of the charm park by taking two very likable leads and dressing their world in a visual and animation style that feels like a product of the same pen Terry Gilliam used for all those wonderful “Monty Python” animations. It's weird, but it works, and it elevates “Pixel” from just another fun point-and-click adventure to a class all its own.

— Billy O'Keefe, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

New Game Releases

The following titles were scheduled for release the week of Nov. 1:

• “Rabbids Go Home” (Wii, DS)

• “Need for Speed: Nitro” (Wii, DS)

• “Chronicles of Mystery: Curse of the Ancient Temple” (DS)

• “Band Hero” (Wii, PS3, X360, PS2, DS)

• “C.O.P. The Recruit” (DS)

• “Lego Rock Band” (PS3, Wii, X360, DS)

• “Dragon Age: Origins — Warden's Keep” (X360)

• “Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron” (DS, PSP)

• “Jurassic: The Hunted” (X360, PS3, Wii, PS2)

• “Pro Evolution Soccer 2010” (X360, PS3)

• “Dragon Age: Origins” (X360, PS3, PC)

• “Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier” (PSP)

• “Star Wars The Force Unleashed: Ultimate Sith Edition” (PS3, X360 PC)

• “Dragon Age: Origins — The Stone Prisoner” (X360)

• “Disney's A Christmas Carol” (DS)

• “Yoga for Wii” (Wii)

— Gamespot.com