Forza Motorsport 2
Have you ever wondered what obsession truly is? It’s a word that gets tossed around a lot these days. However, like love, hate, and other strong descriptors, does it really exist? Ask the developers of Forza Motorsport 2. Specifically, ask the person (or persons) whose job it was to code the tire pressure system for the game. Or the people who recorded all of the unique engine noises, or the people who tweaked the engine noises so that they’d sound different depending on what players did to them. The sheer level of detail in Forza Motorsport is astounding, and nothing short of obsession could have achieved this brilliance.
The best aspect of Forza 2 is its driving model. Rivaled only by the Gran Turismo series, Forza incorporates a highly detailed and difficult driving engine that emulates real race driving. Brakes are required, which in and of itself may throw off many casual racing fans. However, unlike Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsport 2’s driving engine is effected- heavily- by tweaks that players make to their cars. Every aspect of your car, provided you’ve purchased the right parts, is available for tuning. Things like tire pressure and downforce can make or break a car’s performance on different tracks. It’s ironic, really, that the only other game with this level of depth in tuning is about giant robots. Fortunately, for those of us who don’t speak car, there are some helpful handicaps- on the track and off- to help players along the way. Driving, regardless of how powerful a vehicle you’re pushing, is always intense and demanding, thanks to a great sense of speed. Unfortunately, there is no in-cockpit view, which fans of PGR3 will sorely miss.
However, the first-person view will do nicely for thrill seekers. Races are usually fairly long, and the AI, while nothing groundbreaking, puts up quite a fight in the later tiers of the single-player career mode. Different tiers require different cars, so you’ll have an impressive collection of rides by the time you reach the harder levels of the game. The fact that some cars can only participate in some races means that unlike many racing games, you won’t have one go-to car for every event, meaning all of your vehicles will end up receiving equal attention in the garage.
Outside of the career mode, there is an arcade mode for those who want to jump into a race, and a robust multiplayer racing mode that includes an auction house where you can buy and sell cars using the in-game currency. Thanks to the detailed vinyl design mode, many unique paint jobs will show up here, so keeping your eyes open will often yield a gem of a car for you. Painting your own car is an activity that could take hours or minutes, depending on how patient you are; practically anything can be crafted from the provided brushes in the game. As for the multiplayer itself, racing against real people is just as rewarding as the rest of the game, thanks to a set of customizable rules and regulations that will determine who you drive against.
Forza looks good, but unfortunately it isn’t a visual showcase. Other than the gorgeous car models, the tracks look rather flat and bland. Grass textures, trees, etc. are all fairly bog-standard and nothing pops out as much as it should. Thankfully, the game does run at a brisk 60 frames per second, which could well have been part of a trade off- cars are usually moving so fast you don’t notice the imperfections on the track, and frankly at 200mph everything looks great. The damage modeling on the cars is impressive, as well, especially considering that most high-class racing games feature no damage at all. However, after gobsmacking graphical performances from games like PGR3 and DiRT, it’s a bit of a shame that Forza couldn’t up the ante with its visuals. At least the audio is top notch; Forza 2 features the best aural design period when it comes to engines. Every car, every tuning setup, and every bump and scratch will change the way cars sound, which is absolutely stunning. There’s a nice Euro-pop soundtrack in the menus, too, but for some reason this can’t be listened to during a race. Maybe the idea is that the engines sound so sexy, music shouldn’t be required; I could certainly vouch for that.
All in all, Forza 2 deserves the hype that it has been receiving ever since the launch of the Xbox 360. Given the fact that it was given its own controller, it was expected that the driving model would be excellent, but as with many games, doubts were cast on just how good a sequel could be. While the visuals leave something to be desired, they’re easily overlooked thanks to the brilliant job the developers did with the actual gameplay. And really, isn’t that all that matters?
Nine out of ten
- Absurd attention to detail
- Great-looking cars
- Excellent driving model
- Detailed paint system
- Bland-ish visuals