There are two types of racing game fans in the world. The first loves the high speed and balls to the wall action of arcade style racers like Cruisin’ USA and Mario Kart. The second is more of a realist—they love the meticulous tuning, customization and trial and error of simulation style games.
Most attempts to cater to both of these groups at the same time have failed, and the games have come out awkward or just plain bad.
Forza Motorsport 2 for the Xbox 360, does not try to make both groups happy. It’s a simulation game for sure, and it has enough modes, features and extras that any gamer would have a hard time putting the controller down. Forza has a few downfalls, but the things the game does right–which is a lot–more than make up for it.
Of course, the first thing anyone will notice about Forza is that it’s aesthetically drop dead gorgeous, especially the cars, which are incredibly detailed.
The game runs at 60 frames per second. Combine that with some of the most photo-realistic representation of more than 300 international cars, and get ready for your jaw to hit the floor. The cars even look good crashing, as they feature some pretty impressive damage modeling. Oddly enough, while watching your car systematically fall apart, the damage system doesn’t seem realistic, as you won’t notice much of a difference in sideswiping a rival or burning out and going head first into a barrier at high speeds.
As we’ve seen in the past, the world’s most amazing graphics don’t mean much in terms of gameplay, but luckily Forza has the goods in this category as well. The game combines over 300 real life cars from over 50 manufacturers, along with an impressive amount of parts, upgrades and tracks. The beauty of all this is that driving each course feels different on each of the cars, and even more different when you start modifying your ride. No two cars will act the same, but they all feel incredibly realistic and true to life.
All too often, the artificial intelligence computer players that compete with you in racing games are horrible. Unlike other racing games, where cars seem to be mere masses of metal plowing through anything ahead of them without strategy or warrant for human life, your rivals in Forza 2 are smart. Drivers will do what it takes to win, but unless you give them a reason to, or you initiate it, won’t hit you. Instead, they’ll take corners or give up a few seconds to go around you. Even cooler, drivers seem to have different personalities, start playing bumper cars and wrecking everything and everyone in site, the more passive drivers will stay back, while the more confident ones will attempt to go through you.
While Forza does have many different modes to tinker with, most of your time will be spent in the game’s career mode. Starting out, you’ll be asked to select a home region, which determines which cars are available at start and which companies are more eager to sponsor you.
You start career mode with a small, yet decent selection of cars and tracks from your region. As you might expect, from here you race to earn cash and up your driver level. Your cash let’s you purchase parts and upgrades, while your driver level allows you to unlock new courses to drive on.
What’s really cool about the career mode is that even though you’re just doing race after race (with the occasional tune-up or upgrade); it finds way to stay fresh for quite some time. You’ll partake in races specific to everything from horsepower to class, which will find you constantly upgrading or making changes before races.
Forza 2 also features a very prominent online presence. There are many deeper and interesting reasons for going online to play this one. You can actually take your career races online, risking cash just as you would during an offline race. Microsoft will also host weekly tournaments open to anyone who finishes a qualifying lap.
The coolest online feature is the Forza Auction House. Players can take their customized rides (everything from engines, to paint jobs, thanks to the games surprisingly deep paint program) and auction them off to other gamers around the world for in-game experience points.
Forza Motorsport 2 is not only the best racing game on the Xbox 360; it has a case for best on any platform. It features enough depth and gameplay to keep even the most meticulous of racing fans happy –all the while looking amazing. Forza Motorsport 2 is an achievement and shows what the next generation is capable of.