Forza Motorsport 2 Reader Review
It's obvious from the green light what Forza Motorsport 2 is trying to achieve: to be a complete realistic racing experience. It doesn't try to entice you through shiny puddles reflecting the neon light of gaudy racing environments, or use gimmicky cut scenes to develop a character based 'career'. The game wants you to feel like you're testing out cars at a race day, rather than living the chase scene from a Bond movie. It is all about the cars and the racing, and as such will appeal to fans of both. Fortunately, if you're not a big fan either, Forza Motorsport 2 is the type of game that will make you one.
The lengths developers Turn10 have gone to in order to achieve this realism is astonishing. Just hit up on the d-pad whilst on the track and you can browse through a whole range of realtime facts and figures, concerning everything from the friction on your tires to the stress on your suspension. Of course, only true petrol heads will have a clue what most of the data means and how it is useful, but it serves a purpose for the rest of us in demonstrating the approach the developers have taken to achieve realistic handling: to simulate as many physical conditions as possible. The net result is that each car truly handles uniquely, and this is determined not by some settings calibrated by the developer, but by the vehicle's individual properties being simulated by the game engine in real time.
The basic premise of the game is the that of the standard racer: win events, earn money, buy new cars, buy upgrades. So nothing new there then. But for once this feels like a good thing, as it means the game doesn't rely on gimmicks or other distractions, and instead concentrates purely on the racing. Progression through the game is achieved by leveling up through racing success, which in turn opens up new events with greater financial rewards.
It's also one of the most accessible games out there in terms of difficulty. Turn on all the driving aids and you'll find your lap times improving, but the funds earned decreasing. Turn them off and up the AI difficulty and you can really appreciate the different forces at work on your car as you scream around the track, and earn more cash in the process.
But Forza 2 is about more than winning races - it's about looking good as you do it. The paint shop allows you to go into a crazy amount of depth in decorating your cars, and some people who clearly have too much time on their hands have creating some unbelievably complex looking vehicles. Fortunately, it's possible to throw on a few decals and a nice colour scheme quickly enough, but the chances are that you'll want to put a bit of effort into your favourite cars to really make them your own.
The vehicle upgrade system is also one of the games strengths, deep enough for those in the know to spend time thinking about yet simple enough for your average gamer to bolt a few extras on to a car and see how what affect it will have. Each car is given a Performance Index (PI) number, which also determines its class. Most upgrades boost the car's PI, but go too far and you will bump the car up into the next class, excluding it from some competitions. Upgrading therefore becomes a balancing act and what you add to your car should be determined by how you want the car to behave on the track.
'Balance' is a word that springs to mind time and time again when playing Forza 2. Even the graphics strike a balance between looking good and running smoothly, managing to achieve both. The graphical style isn't to everyone's taste, with the emphasis on a realistic look rather than the more eye catching visual tricks used in most modern games, and the game certainly looks more impressive during race replays (where it seems an extra layer of gloss is added) than it does in real time. The environments also lack one major component - weather. Apparently it's sunny everyday in Forza land, which is odd since the focus seems to be on creating a complete racing experience, surely the odd wet track is essential?
However these are minor qualms in what is an extremely solid racing title that is a must have for fans of the genre. Having said that, there's still something missing from Forza Motorsport 2 - that elusive x-factor that some games just don't have that means true greatness is just out of reach. For all its depth and impressive realism, there's nothing that makes you stop and say 'wow', it's just too regimented in its quest to be a racing simulation, rather than a racing game.
8 / 10