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Game Profile
Xbox 360
Turn 10 Studios
GENRE: Racing
May 29, 2007

Forza Motorsport 7

Forza Motorsport 6

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More in this Series
 Written by Glenn Wigmore  on June 13, 2007

Review: One of the most highly regarded racers of the original Xbox comes blazing back for a second iteration.

It's safe to say that for all of the racing titles on the first-generation Xbox, the two standouts were Project Gotham Racing (1 & 2) and Forza Motorsport. While games like Rallisport Challenge also made an impact, the aforementioned Gotham and Forza were the most iconic racers on the system, and they excelled because of their driving control, feature set, and ? eventually ? online play.

Project Gotham Racing 3 has already christened the Xbox 360, and it did so with some amazing arcade/sim driving, jaw-dropping visuals, and robust online support. This leaves very little room for the Forza series to pull ahead, yet Forza Motorsport 2 manages to ? in some respects ? actually do this. The development team at Turn 10 have crafted an improved driving experience over the original Forza, blown out the online features even further, and added some extensive (as if there already weren't enough) customization and creation features. The small sacrifice is that the visuals don't quite match the overall sheen achieved by PGR3, but Forza 2 still looks good while having plenty of horsepower under the hood.

What was clear with the original Forza Motorsport on the Xbox was the simulation feel the game possessed, and this was especially apparent from the selectable cars and tracks but also from the handling within the game. The great news is that not only does Forza 2 add new tracks and over 100 new cars, but the game also handles better and offers an even greater sense of precision.

The car list has gone from about 230 to over 350, and you'll see all types of makes and models from throughout the world. You'll have the usual array of Bentleys, BMWs and Buicks, plus some nimbler rides from Toyota and Nissan. Of course, driving a boat like a Chevy Camaro is going to feel a whole lot different than driving a Lamborghini Diablo, and this is something that Forza 2 nails so well. These stark divisions are made clear by several layers, including the region in which the car comes from. There are the muscle cars from North America, the speed machines of Europe, and the tuner imports from Asia. Beyond these style differences based on the three continents, the letter-based class system returns from the previous game, so, for example, a D-class car is a basic store model with no enhancements or upgrades. Just the same, the R and S class of cars are high-performance machines built for crazy speed and handling. In Forza 2, there's also a ?Performance Index? that dictates a car's capability even more than the letter. For example, a car would ?become? a C class car once it hit 451 PI, a B class once it hit 551 PI and so on. This way, the PI leads into the tweaking and upgrading aspects of Forza quite well, since you can tune your car in various areas (weight reduction, handling, engine block, etc) in order to find the right wiggle room within a given car class. Admittedly, a lot of the changes you can make only really improve the cars and there's no real risk-versus-reward element, but certain races will require specific load-outs and you'll be able to tune a vehicle to hit the perfect sweet spot, if you so choose.

As for the tracks you'll be racing on, Forza 2 has a pretty good selection. There are returning favorites such as N?rburgring and Road Atlanta, as well some fictional offerings like the decent Maple Valley Raceway and the PGR3-insired New York Circuit. The coolest new addition to the track selection is Sebring International Raceway in Florida. This former military base turned raceway makes for some crazy fast (and occasionally bumpy) driving, and it can take a heavy toll on your car. Overall, the track selection is totally acceptable for Forza 2, but a few more distinct racing locations is probably fair to have expected, especially since a good deal of the tracks have a sort of ?clinical? feel to them.

While more cars and tracks are a good thing, it's the precision of control found in Forza 2 that really makes the racing satisfying. The first element that helps the responsiveness of Forza 2 over its predecessor is the fact that Forza 2 runs at 60fps. The crispness and immediacy of the vehicles is much more apparent, and there's no sluggishness that is occasionally found in a 30fps experience. Beyond the upgrade in framerate are a series of subtle changes such as adjusting the responsiveness of the analog stick and refining the ?driving line.? The analog stick remains the dominant input, even though a racing wheel can be used, and the developers at Turn 10 have ensured that it truly responds to subtle movements and light pressure (when applied with the brakes or gas). The feeling of precision this achieves when barreling around a corner or catching a rumble strip is completely satisfying, and the nuance in response based on the vehicle used is to be commended. Adjustments have also been made to the driving line, as it now is subtler in that it just denotes when to brake ? dynamically ? as you approach a turn. The option for the full driving line still exists, but just having the braking line gives more apparent freedom for the user to make passing moves, and it looks more aesthetically pleasing to boot.

What's so great about Forza 2, though, is that all of these assists (including ABS braking, traction control, etc) can be modified and altered for any skill level, meaning that the experience can be as lenient, challenging or rewarding as pretty much anyone would want. Another cool touch in this regard is that the game motivates you to turn up the difficulty of the driving AI, enable manual transmission, turn off assists and so on in order to multiply the credits you can earn (in the career mode). The overall balance achieved is to be applauded, as you're encouraged to improve, yet not punitively reprimanded for not adhering to artificial game design choices.

In terms of the driving AI, they certainly make for competitive and flexible competition, but some of this will depend on what vehicle you're driving when up against them. They turn well, maybe even a bit cautiously, and will adjust their strategy based on how you conduct yourself. This means that if you start ramming opponents they will most likely try and do the same to you ? if they can catch you, that is. Just the same, if you get an inside track on them, you'll actually see them decelerate and avoid a collision in order to let you through. When collisions do happen, the game penalizes both parties since it's hard to judge who initiates each contact situation. The damage modeling during these rough situations is very impressive, and you'll see bumpers, side mirrors, and car exterior all fly off, and the effect for a window blowing out on a big crash is awesome. Even better still, the debris stays on the track and you'll see the wreckage on subsequent laps ? watch out for the blue bumper on that hairpin! Finally, you're able to size up the damage to your car by pulling up details on the fly that include heat, damage, and telemetry ? all very cool for gearheads and wannabes, alike.

All of these adjustments and customization options create a phenomenal driving experience for Forza 2. The gameplay was definitely the standout aspect of the original Forza (second only to the customization), but it's very nice to see that sequel has made the racing just as fun and managed to improve it in some meaningful ways.

When starting up Forza 2, you can jump into three basic play modes including free play, arcade, and time trials. The free play just lets you tool around in any available car on any track, and this is obviously helpful for testing out a newly acquired car or getting familiar with a track that you haven't played much. The arcade mode tasks you with beating each of the game's distinct tracks, and earning a gold medal means a car awarded to your garage (for use in single-player or online play, not career). Finally, the time trials force you go through 25 different variations of Forza 2's 12 track locations and achieve a ?target time? in order to beat the challenge. Achieving the target time will unlock a car and it will rank you on the global leaderboards for these time trials. Man, friend leaderboards, is there anything they can't do? Comparing your times against those of your friends can be lots of fun, and it's great motivation to shave a few more hundredths off your race time.

Then again, the career mode is likely where the bulk of your time will be spent. And by bulk, it's fair to say that could be a ton of hours if you want to finish every race and unlock every car. Initially, you'll start out in the Proving Grounds, but eventually you will move up to higher classes of events with improving cars in the field. You can scout out which cars are in the events, so this means that you can prepare accordingly by picking cars (or by purchasing upgrades or tweaking) in order to have an advantage over the competition. There are still races that require certain car models or weights, so this prevents you from just building one great car and using it the whole time. Then again, you won't be relying on car since you get awarded so many for winning tournaments, and you'll be able to tweak and upgrade them as you see fit.

As for the upgrading, it's pretty basic in its execution, but you will be able to buy various parts from different manufacturers based on how you perform, what cars you race in, and how many credits you're willing to spend. Nothing is really too complicated here, and it's pretty clear what a specific upgrade will gain you in terms of performance. Weight reduction is the most helpful modification, and it's the upgrade that gets the most initial benefit from a small purchase. As for the tweaking, it's a whole different ball game as you'll be able to alter tire pressure, aerodynamics, gearing, and alignment. The tweaking stuff is usually something you'll want to do after you've upgraded a car, but it's nice to be able to really make your mark on a car in terms of its performance.

Racing online can be equally as compelling as the single-player offerings, and you'll be able to play in ranked matches that count towards your career, take part in qualifying tournaments, and just get some casual racing going against buddies. On top of this, there's some great leaderboard support and even Forza TV, which looks to capitalize on the success of the spectator function found in PGR3. The action is pretty awesome to watch in the provided camera perspectives, and viewing a race from cinematic angles can be quite entertaining. The quality of the online racing is pretty good, and you'll rarely see any lag in the eight-player races. There's plenty of options, too, as you'll be able to set the track, car class, lap length, and just about everything else for the race. There's even some anti-spam functionality in that cars will ghost when going extremely slow or when stopped in the track, meaning people can't ruin games by being in the way (of course, drivers will still ram into you around many turns).

Some of the cooler online functionality comes from the ?auction house? and the buying, selling, and gifting of cars. This is where the creative minds can really shine, as the decal and painting portion of the previous Forza has been totally blown out. Now you're able to add literally thousands of decals on a car, and you can layer them, stretch them, skew them, or color them in any way you see fit. Some of the designs available for sale in the auction house are amazing, and you'll see plenty of comic book heroes, pop culture icons, or random sponsor cars. The sky is truly the limit for this type of creative option, and if you have the time, this custom experience can be very rewarding. Once you've created a masterpiece, you can sell it online (or just buy someone else's) for maximum dollars (for the in-game store, of course). You can even gift a car to somebody, meaning that they can learn the design methods of your cool Lando Calrissian car. All told, these features are very cool, and you'll possibly spend as much time buying and making cars as you will be racing them.

To be perfectly frank, Forza 2 does not look as good as the previously released PGR3, but what Forza 2 does well in the visuals it does very well. The cars are easily the standouts, and many of the models are insanely accurate representations of their real-life counterparts. The sheen and light reflection on the windows and exterior look amazing, and the aforementioned damage modeling is as impressive as was promised by the developers. The 60fps framerate has to be mentioned again, as well, since this does really manage to keep the action smooth and responsive. That being said, the replays only take place at 30fps, but they do add anti-aliasing to remove the jaggies ? it's unfortunate that they remain for the actual racing, and you will notice some odd edges on certain cars and peripheral details. Speaking of the periphery, it also is a bit on the weak side of ledger, as the crowd, barriers, and environmental detail all looks quite average for this generation of racer, but nothing is too jarring. Overall, Forza 2 doesn't quite sport the sexiness of PGR3's visuals, but it looks quite good, nonetheless.

The audio is on a similar level to the visuals, in that it does a lot of things right, but could've been a bit better. The soundtrack is actually pretty good, and the mix of tunes is pretty catchy when surfing through the menus or for designing a car. Unfortunately, the game doesn't play said music while actually racing. This is somewhat understandable since this is a simulation racer, but the option to do so would've been welcome ? custom soundtracks are there as a bit of a save for this. The effects on the vehicles themselves are fairly good, although a lot of the screeching and burnout sounds are similar to one another. Then again, the engine din is distinct from one vehicle to another, and the overall ambiance is pretty good. There are some basic yells from the crowd on certain tracks, too, but nothing that really gets you too pumped up ? it's more the competition of friends that will do that.

The Achievements in Forza 2 are quite well implemented, as you've got various awards for reaching high levels in the career mode, beating time trials, and unlocking certain car models. In addition, you've got Achievements for lapping opponents, not taking car damage and winning with the lowest PI in the field. Online doesn't get neglected, and you'll be encouraged to buy and sell cars and accrue credits from your transactions. All told, the Achievements are varied and balanced enough to keep driving you forward while encouraging you to explore all that the game offers.

Forza Motorsport 2 had to do a lot to achieve its predecessor's own lofty accolades, and this entry certainly has all the right moves to match and ? in some respects ? surpass what the original Forza did. The driving is decidedly simulation, to be sure, but the precision of the control and subtlety of the assists make this game accessible to those with even a passing interest in real-world racers. Add to that the amazing car selection, customization options, upgraded decal/painting engine, auction house and smooth online play, and you've got Forza making its case (once again) for being one of the best in the business.

Bottom Line
While the visuals don't have the outright sizzle of something like Project Gotham Racing 3, the racing action is extremely fun and customizable. There's plenty to do off-line or on-line, and you'll find that the revamped car detailing tools make for some exceptionally individual vehicle designs.

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