If you’re 30 and under, and have even a small interest in playing driving video games, chances are you’ve heard of Forza Motorsport, Microsoft’s major-league offering on its XBOX 360 console. For those not familiar, the Forza series has delivered a more serious product — like Sony’s Gran Turismo series on the PlayStation — compared to the arcadey Mario Kart and Need for Speed offerings.

The latest iteration — Forza Motorsport 3 — features over 400 cars and over 100 real and not-so-real tracks to race them on. All of the big-name manufacturers are here, not just exotics like Ferrari and Lamborghini.

However, developer Turn 10’s proudest moment is that FM3 is the first game to feature the 1,000-hp $2 million Bugatti Veyron supercar.

“There are 900 data points per car that we used to ensure everything is accurate to the millimetre,” said Turn 10’s Korey Krauskopf. “The biggest thing was to create an accurate physics model that’s evolved from the first game. This year we added tire deformation as a characteristic, and had to consult with the tire manufacturers, the car manufacturers, and even some race drivers, to make sure everything works properly.” Cars suffer damage in FM3, and the game has now incorporated roll-overs.

The tracks are split about 50/50 in terms of recreations of real-life facilities — like Laguna Seca, Road America and the famed Nurburgring – and courses created out of thin air.

Seventeen-year-old David Ostella, a racecar driver competing in the Star Mazda series, said that the cars he’d sampled acted as accurately as a real car, and that the tracks were impressive too. “The final turn at Sebring [International Raceway] has a ton of bumps and dips, and that comes through in the game,” he said.

However, Krauskopf was clear that their other goal was to make FM3 as fun and enjoyable to play for the first-timer as for the hardcore gamer. In addition to the usual ABS, traction and stability controls that can be turned on and off, there’s a switchable racing line, a “rewind” button that allows you to go back in time in five-second chunks to before your crash, and a brake-assist mode that will automatically apply the brakes properly when entering a corner.

They’ve got game

• Gran Turismo PSP (Sony PSP): Sony’s legendary auto “simulator” gets its first showing on the powerful handheld. With over drivable cars and 70 tracks, GT PSP will happily entertain you during those long winter evenings spent commuting on public transit.

• Need For Speed: Shift (XBOX 360, PlayStation3, PC): A 180-degree turnaround from the series’ usual arcade-game feel, Need For Speed: Shift goes after the same crowd as Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo. While 72 cars may not sound like a ton, they’re each detailed so well, especially the in-cabin shots, that you’ll never notice the difference.

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