The new Gran Turismo? Perhaps.
In the world of racing games, few developers have even tried to create realistic simulations. Today it seems to be all about fluorescent green Honda Civics and nitrous kits. Until the release of Forza Motorsport for the original Xbox, Gran Turismo, the 'real driving simulator' from Polyphony Digital was the only racer that tried to encompass every different type of competitive driving under the sun. Turn 10 Studios changed that, creating a compelling racer with awesome graphics and great damage simulation (something which Polyphony still hasn't managed). While the racing simulation was undoubtedly better than Gran Turismo's, it lacked sheer quantity of tracks, and, more importantly, cars.
There are 700 cars in Gran Turismo 4, compared to some 300 in Forza 2. While this might seem like a bit of a step back, one must remember that there is full damage simulation in Forza 2 - a tremendous feat on the part of the licensing department at Turn 10, and, while the damage simulation isn't as stunning as the damage seen in DiRT or GRiD, it definitely enhances the experience of the game. It also forces the player to be a lot more considerate when flying around the Nurburgring in a McLaren F1 - unlike Gran Turismo, a crash won't just cause a few seconds to fall onto your laptime, but could potentially end the race. The other drivers also seem to be aware of this, and will often take care not too bash into you, or go in at full throttle and hope for the best. This certainly adds another dimension to the races, making the enemy AI feel more like actual opponents than moving obstacles.
The graphics in Forza 2 aren't the best on the Xbox 360 - they still look fantastic, and much better than the previous game. While the showroom models of the cars are incredibly well designed to the finest detail, it seems that the textures are swapped for slightly lower resolution ones out on the track - but this is only an issue if you're using a car with a race livery (and these cars are in the minority). The colours appear somewhat 'washed out', and it can be difficult to create exact replicas of cars in the livery editor if the colours are always slightly off. Aside from this, the graphics are great. There is plenty of detail put into the crowd (obviously if you stop and look they don't look too hot, but that's not the point of a racing game anyway) and the environments look spot on. The only thing that really nags me here is the lack of a pit crew - if you go in for a tire change, your tires are magically reaplced and your fuel tank refuelled on the spot. It's a bit disappointing because this was seen in many of the Formula One titles of the previous generation, as well as Gran Turismo 4.
The scope of the game is, quite frankly, huge. Even though there are only twelve tracks on the disc, there are numerous different configurations for each track (at the least a reversed version), and they never seem to get old. The jewel in the crown is obviously the Nürburgring Nordschliefe, a green hell that will take around eight minutes to lap in even the most powerful cars available. There are also many other real life tracks recreated in the game, and a few fictional ones thrown in for good measure. One thing lacking is point to point races - something that was included in the original Forza, which is why it is even more disappointing that they've been left out now. However, all of the different tracks and ways to drive around them will take a while to master, and even longer to get bored of - if you are in desperate need of something new, you might consider shelling out a few Microsoft points for the two tracks available as DLC.
Sound design is a definite strong point in Forza Motorsport 2. Each car has its own unique audio, with cars like the Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf emitting a muffled yawn and racing machines like the Toyota GT-One letting out terrifying roars when you so much as touch the accelerator. There are also a number of other sounds, aside from the growl of the engines and the screech of rubber on tarmac. As you casually zoom past your faithful onlookers, the sounds of cheering fans and their numerous air horns will be heard for a split second. It definitely adds to the atmosphere of an already great feeling game.
All in all, Forza Motorsport 2 is a great racing Simulator, and a refreshing play if you're used to games like Need for Speed and Burnout. While it may prove a little heavy for the average gamer, there is plenty to do here, so make sure you reserve a few weekends to truly enjoy it. Now with a reduced price, there's never been a better time to invest in the best racing sim on the Xbox 360 - that is, until Forza Motorsport 3 is released.
Graphics - 4/5
Sound - 4/5
Gameplay - 4/5
Value - 5/5
Overall - 4/5