Don't pull...squeeze the trigger (brake).
Strong Points: Driving feels excellent and realistic. Presentation is seamless. Xbox Live integration is wonderful. Customization is satisfyingly in-depth. Tuning is almost ridiculously detailed. Career mode makes you want to keep progressing and making more money.
Fall Backs:Leaves a little to be desired in terms of tracks. No ability to change time of day or weather.
Forza Motorsport 2 delivers a truly satisfying experience on almost every front, it’s great to look at, fun to drive, and a joy to delve in to. Forza Motorsport 2’s real shining point though, is its ability to appeal to such a wide and hard to please audience. It does this by it’s almost fully customizable difficulty. There are plenty of options available to keep the newcomer and the purist happy. But there’s a lot about about this game that make it worth playing. Let me break it down for ya.
- If there were ever a game that you would want a steering wheel and pedals to play, this is it. The driving model in Forza Motorsport 2 is fluid and really gives each car its own personality, but not without giving you the ability to tweak it to your taste. Each car handles the way it would in the real world and you have to drive them like you would in the real world. You won’t be able to come into a turn at 100 mph in a VW Golf and just slam on the brakes and be okay, you’re going to need to stop accelerating quite a ways away and slowly apply your brakes in order to slow down but not lose control. The same goes for coming out of the corner, you need to let off of the brakes slowly while slowly pushing down the throttle in order to keep as much friction as possible between the tires and the track. This can be intimidating at first for someone who isn’t big into racing games, or someone who’s used to “Need for Speed” type racing games, but Forza does a good job in helping out those who aren’t adept at serious racing-sims by giving the option for ABS (anti-lock brakes), TCS (traction control system), and STM (Stability Management). The purist can turn all of these options off, but the game is much more challenging with no automated help; besides, most modern cars come standard with ABS and many with TCS as well. Another automated, and very helpful, feature is the Forza driving line. The driving line is a dynamic line that is rendered onto the track which can show you the “optimal” driving path on the track while at the same time telling you when and how much you need to accelerate and brake. By default, this line is set to the option that shows the line when you need to slow down for a corner, which makes it unintrusive to the experience and is really usually the only time that you will need it anyway. What really makes the line great is that it is real-time and will account for how fast you’re going, whether you’re driving a RWD, FWD, or AWD vehicle, the handling and braking stats for your vehicle, and anything else that could affect how the car your driving is going to handle those corners. This feature will help you get used to different cars without having to just go out and crash into a bunch of walls before getting used to your new car’s handling. The AI in Forza can be forgiving or can wipe the floor with you depending on what level you’ve set them at. They drive professionally and will try not to hit you if you’re close, even conceding corners if you cut them off, but if you start ramming into them, they will probably start ramming back. If you’re having particular problems with the AI in a certain race, you can change your difficulty settings at any time and try again.
- The way the cars are organized is also very intuitive. Cars are separated by classes, D being the worst, then C, B, A, S and U. These are all “Production Cars”, cars made specifically for racing are in their own “R” class. Aside from their class, cars are also rated by their “Performance Index” which is a number that defines how high or low in their class the car is. This is really helpful because you can scope out your opponents in a race circuit before actually entering and if you and all of your opponents have “B” class cars, you can still see who has a better chance at taking the cake by everyone’s performance index. Another twist is that you can bump your car up into a higher class by upgrading it, so if you really like your car but you need it to be an “A” class car to enter a circuit, you can try giving it a new fuel injection system, or some other upgrade, and see if you can give it the boost it needs to climb up the scales. The problem with this is that each car has its limit and if you can only get your car into the lower ranks of the “A” class, you are probably going to have some problems keeping up with the other “A” class cars in the later circuits.
- Arcade mode is broken up into three parts: Exhibition, Time Trials, and Free Run. Exhibition is almost just a “quick-play” option, but you can unlock plenty of tracks and cars while going through the races. Time Trials puts you up against the clock while trying to unlock new cars. To unlock each car, you much beat a track time in the car that you are trying to unlock and when you do beat it, that car is unlocked for you. Free run just gives you a chance to dive freely on any track with any car that you have unlocked or that you’ve obtained in Career Mode.
- Career mode is probably where you’re going to spend the bulk of your time. The first thing you need to do in Career mode is choose your home region: Europe, North America, or Asia. The region you choose will determine how easy and expensive certain cars are to get and at what times they become available; you will also build better relationships with manufacturers from you home region, netting you sweet discounts on cars and parts. After you choose your region, you need to choose your first car; your choices will be determined by which region you chose. After choosing your car, it’s off to the races. Race circuits are divided into different levels, starting at the “proving grounds” and moving up to “amateur”, “semi-pro”, so on. You qualify for these higher levels by leveling up your driver status, you level up by winning money, you win money by winning races; everything comes down to winning races. Winning money also levels up your car’s status, earning you discounts on parts and other cool things from manufacturers around the world. Aside from being categorized by level, race circuits are also have car restrictions, some requiring a 4WD car, Turbocharged speed demons, heavy weight luxury cars, or super light drifters. This system is fun because it forces you to drive all kinds of different cars but really lets you appreciate all the work that the developers put into all the different cars. As you progress through your career your will fill you garage with cars and unlock all 12 tracks in the game.
- Multiplayer in Forza Motorsport 2 is wonderfully satisfying and the Xbox Live integration is awesome. You’ll find your normal split-screen, system link, and on-line head to head races, but you will also find some other things that you might not have seen before. Forza Motorsport 2 will let you play your career mode on-line with other people, play in tournaments, give one of your cars to a friend, head to the auction room to buy and sell custom cars, or if you don’t feel like working at anything, you can sit back and spectate any current on-line tournaments by watching Forza Motorsport TV. If you are playing single player but would like to see other players’ times on a certain track, you can press “X” while while a track which will switch your view from local machine best times to your Xbox Live friends’ best times, best times from players in your region, or best times from all over the world. It’s always nice to know when you’re better than your friends at something, and even nicer to know that your better than strangers.
- Customization is incredibly deep, cosmetically and functionally. Every car can be upgraded simply by purchasing upgraded parts, which isn’t too difficult, but the deep part kicks in when you start painting, putting decals on, and tuning up your car. Painting your car is fairly easy but picking the right color can be a little more difficult when you get into Forza’s laying system for its shapes and decals. You have six areas you can stick decals and shapes: front, left, top, right, rear, and wing; each of these areas can hold up to 1,000 layers, each layer containing one object. That means you can have a total of 6,000 shapes or decals on your car, each can be scaled, skewed, rotated, painted, and applied transparency. Oh yeah, and you can tint your windows any color you want.
- You can tweak the feel of your car by tuning it, and you can tune your car at anytime up until the race actually starts. Tuning your car is in-depth but not overwhelmingly so. The tuning screen will let you change the pressure in all of your tires, tweak all of your individual gear ratios, tweak your tire alignment in three different ways, tweak the stiffness of your anti-roll bars, tweak the stiffness of your springs, tweak the stiffness of your dampers, tweak the aerodynamics of your car to increase down-force, tweak your brakes’ balance and pressure, and increase or decrease tire differentials. All of these options have explanations and tips for tweaking on screen and each option has a very distinct impact on the way your car will perform. Having trouble with a car losing control too easily? Try lowing the tire pressure a little to give more surface area for the tires to meet the track, allowing for more friction, which in turn allows for better handling. Not sure what’s causing your car to perform in an unpleasant way? Try using Forza Motorsport’s real-time telemetry feature. By pressing “up” on the d-pad at anytime during a race, test drive, or replay, Forza will display your car’s real-time telemetry values. This feature gives a real-time visual interpretation of many of your car’s performance stats: individual tire pressure, friction, heat, wear, and alignment, overall vertical and lateral G’s, total torque and horsepower being exerted, pressure on your suspension, and many other things. This is a great tool when you are trying to figure out what’s causing your car the loose control on the uneven turn.
The graphics in Forza Motorsport 2 aren’t mind-blowing, but are nice to look at and can make you feel like you’re going 200 mph. What doesn’t make you feel like you were going 200 mph is what happens when you have a head on collision with a wall at that speed. The major collisions don’t feel very major; any wreck over 70 mph feels almost the same in terms of damage. Still though, the minor collisions feel like they should and still look pretty good. Where Forza Motorsport 2 really shines is its car models. The cars look amazing, especially since there are over 300 real-world licensed cars to look at here. The VW Bug looks like a VW Bug and the Jaguars look like Jaguars, every cars looks like it supposed to look, they aren’t super edition, incredi-gloss versions of themselves. The environments look nice and have some pretty lighting but each track has a static look, no time or weather changes from what I’ve seen. This really makes you feel like you’re playing the same track over and over again, even a change of daylight would have helped. None the less, the graphics will look nice regardless if you have an HDTV, so don’t sweat it.
The sound in Forza Motorsport 2 is satisfying in most every aspect. The music is standard euro-techno type music that you would find in most any soccer game. One thing that surprised me was that there was no option for music during a race. This isn’t any kind of huge set-back but it would have been nice to have the option for in-race music (you can always listen to any music on your HDD). The racing effects are good but can get old during a long race, especially if you’re way ahead of the pack. The racing effects aren’t going to get annoying, but you will probably notice the lack of variety.
Forza Motorsport 2 is absolutely enjoyable and will appeal to pretty much anyone who has ever wanted to play a racing game. It has some minor fall-backs but Forza delivers so heavily on so many fronts, it’s hard to really focus on its shortcomings. Forza Motorsport 2 is worth playing.
Graphics - 9
Sound - 9
Replay - 10!