Forza Motorsport 2 Xbox 360 Review
I love watching Top Gear and tune in every week (or when the BBC can be bothered to air it) to see what the trio of presenters are getting up to. FYI, I do not watch the show due to my love of cars, in fact my vehicular fascination is no where near high enough to let me sit through a program solely about joys of a lovely motor vehicle. For me, I watch the show for the simple reason that it is highly entertaining TV. Of course the fact that I may also get some information about motors comes as a welcome upshot from watching. Now, after some significant time with Forza 2 I honestly believe that it is a similar beast and offers enjoyment in the same vein as that show. Sure, the developers could have easily forgot they were creating a game and as a result made Forza 2 very boring, but instead they kept a level head and never forgot they were building a medium of entertainment. Around every turn (or hairpin) they have made sure those that choose to play it are always entertained and always feel rewarded for their on track struggles. Yes, you may be just driving a car around a track, but there is always something to strive for, particularly in career mode, so each time that you play there is enjoyment to be had.
I Think Forza Is Italian For “Oh No, My Head Has Just Exploded”
Speaking of career mode, that will be the first port of call for most new Forza owners as it is where the basics of the game are learned and hopefully you start to get better with each and every race you take part in. Forza 2’s career is, however, a lot different than other racers; in fact the layout feels almost RPG-like. The game starts out by simply asking you what skill level you think you are (with options available from novice all the way up to champion) and then asks you to pick a region (Europe, Asia and US). From there you are tossed straight into the main game, given a few thousand credits and asked to pick a car from a limited starting selection and start racing. Of course, it is then up to you to hopefully start winning some money. It should be noted that not all of the races are available right from the get go but, unlike other racers, they are not closed until you beat a certain percentage of the game. They are in fact closed until you level up your driver to a specific point. Thankfully levelling your driver up is very easy and just involves you winning races. At the start winning a measly thousand credits will take your driver from level one to two, but the higher you go the more credits you need to make the level jump.
In conjunction with levelling up your driver, Forza 2 also give you the option to level up you car. The levelling is done in very much same way as your driver, but it is however a much quicker process as you need much fewer credits to reach each level and your car can only reach level five before it is maxed out. Why would I want to level up my car you may ask? Well the simple answer to that is that it makes buying upgrades much easier on your wallet as with each level you go up companies start to respect your car and offer you discounts on certain upgrades. Unlike your driver, each car in the game has to be upgraded separately, but that is not a big problem as certain career races require certain types of car to be used for you to be eligible to enter. This means that you will be jumping between a vast selection of cars as you venture through the game.
A particularly nice touch which sets Forza apart from other racers is that it gives you the chance to earn more money based on how hard you make the game. For example, if you turn off the racing line option (which tells you the best way to take corners, indicates where to break and where to clip the apex) then you will be given an extra 10% on top of you winnings. You can also turn of breaking and traction control assists which also make the game harder, but will give you an extra 5% each on top of winnings. In fact if you were to turn all assists and aids off, including setting gears changes to manual, you can add an extra 50% onto your winnings for every race. It should be noted some people may decide never to touch this option, with some even choosing to make the game easier, thus getting a percentage of your winnings taken away, but it is nice to have the option there. Particularly, as it is good way of motivating you to practice and make yourself better at the game.
Believe me this practice will be needed as there is a wide selection of cars on show in Forza and they are all very different beasts to drive. For me the RWD cars in the game gave me more than a few headaches as they have such a slippery back end. In fact it took me a solid hour of messing about testing the car and checking out the vast telemetry data of my races in replays until I was confident enough to enter into one of the races. There are also FWD and AWD cars available and thankfully these are much easier to thrash around the track with, but it should be noted that each car in the 300+ strong roster has its own little eccentricities that could tax some drivers skills. Of course, if you don’t feel confident enough with your car, and should you have the money available, there is always the option to upgrade it into an overpowered beast and leave everyone in your wake on the starting line.
You Simply Ease The Gear Leaver Into S, For Star Trek Warp Speed Mode
Upgrading in Forza is another area of the game that has been simplified so it is easy to figure out what’s happening to your car without checking long lines of stats on weight, horsepower, torque and other motoring buzzwords that may not interest everyone that buys the game. Instead of checking stats the developers have added a Performance Index; this is basically a scale from D to A accompanied by a number to show you how good your car is. For example, almost all the starting cars you can buy at the beginning of your career will be ranked D, but with an engine change, some new breaks, some new tires, a weight reduction and a turbo the car can be pushed well up the list, possibly even hitting an A. Once you get a bit further into the game you will start to see cars with an R rank, these are very powerful racers which have four ranks all to themselves and are also upgradeable. Be warned though, as some races in career will only let cars of a certain rank compete, so some care will be needed to upgrade the car sufficiently to make it the best in its class without hitting the next rank. The game also gives you the option to paint and add a multitude of different designs to your car through an editor. I personally found the editor very hard to use, as it only allows you to add specific shapes to your design, but due to the numbers of layers the game allows you to play around with – over 4000 – some fantastic designs can be made should you have the time. If you are looking some inspiration the guys over at neoGAF have a fantastic thread showcasing what can be done and even more ideas can be seen on the game’s official forums.
Beyond the career is the games arcade mode which could be seen as slightly basic when compared to career, but is still fun as it offers a bit of entertainment in its own right. In arcade mode there is a selection of different races and time trials all waiting to be participated in and with each offering a car is available as a reward should you win. The races in this mode are pretty much identical to career, but the time trials offer a stiffer challenge as you have got to race nigh on perfectly to get the gold medal on each one, more challenge comes from the game forcing you to race in a specific car meaning should you happen upon a car you are not proficient in then you are in for a lot of trial and error. The game also boasts a huge number of competitive online modes which significantly adds to the game’s lifespan. There is a multitude of different races that you can partake in with oodles of options available that, if you’re the host, let you customize races to certain types of cars, set the number of laps you want and turn certain assists on or off. In these races you can win cash, just as in the offline career races, and shoot up the online ranks should you have sufficient driving skills. Microsoft have also added options for gamers that wish to take part in weekly online tournaments, which thankfully seem to have a well laid out structure.
Another aspect of the game that has been upgraded from the original is the buying and selling of cars. In Forza 2 the auctions now mimic eBay and let you use your in-game credits you’ve won in career mode to bid on cars. There is a nice selection of search options available letting you narrow your search down to cars of a certain weight, certain class, and particular price, along with a wide selection of other settings. If you know exactly what you want you can even search for a certain make and model. This mode is also where you can buy some of the fancy designs I talked about above. I personally now have a Simpsons, Futurama, Halo 3, Spiderman 3 and Jean Luc Picard car in my collection which I bought from the service. Regrettably, this mode does have one problem that kind of ruins the fun, unlike eBay you cannot define a maximum price you want to pay for a car. This means that if you find a car you want you have to wait around until the end of the auction and put a bid in and hope someone else does not do the same. If they do you are then in for a fight should you want the car and multiple bids will most likely go back and forth until one of you give up! There is, however, the option to meet a buyout price, but not all sellers set these up. The last portion of the online options to talk about are the game’s Achievements, and if these are your thing then that’s yet another aspect of Forza that will keep you playing well up to the 100 hour mark. The Achievements are well laid out amongst the games plethora of modes and a solid amount of play is needed to get anywhere near all of them. The game certainly is great value for money; there is no doubt about that!
It’s Like Listening To Cirque De Soleil Being Chopped Up By Their Own Chainsaw
In terms of audio things are solid, but sadly the realistic feel of the game falls apart when it comes to engine sounds as, rather unfortunately, a great deal of the cars on show sound suspiciously identical. Now, I know that getting 300+ different engine sounds from the multitude of different manufacturers would have been a big ask, but when every other facet of the game is basking in realism the fact that some cars made in a different region of the world sound the same could be considered a glaring error. On the other hand, you could choose to applaud the game as the engine sounds that are on show are top quality. As you upgrade your car you will hear slight changes to let you know what you’ve added has made a difference, even before you leave the starting grid!… a little bit more variety would have been nice though! For the game’s soundtrack Turn 10 have opted for an eclectic mix of different bands with tracks from LCD Soundsystem, The Chemical Brothers, Bloc Party, The Crystal Method, Prodigy, CSS amongst many others making an appearance. All the music in the game has been confined to just the menu screens with no in-game music available, you can however fix that with a few custom soundtracks if you so wish.
Graphically the game is also impressive, but it seems most of the visual lavish has gone into just the cars with the tracks themselves looking solid, but far from spectacular. The cars themselves all look great though with each car in the game brilliantly detailed with some of the cars boasting up to 210,000 polygons. Of course most people will choose to ogle the Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches and other supercars for their intrinsically detailed exteriors, but the fact that the same amount of detail has gone into the basic Golfs, Hondas and Seats shows how much work Turn 10 has put into the game. Unfortunately, a small bit more disappointment comes when you realize that the games damage modelling is very basic and even if you crash into a barrier at top speed the most destruction you are going to see is the cars bumper falling of and a few dents and scrapes on the paint work. This fact hits home much harder if you have just been playing the likes of Burnout and possibly the Colin McRae DIRT Demo on Xbox Live. Speaking of Mr McRae, that brings me to the final and possibly cruellest realisation as the game has no in-car camera. I found this very disappointing as I have played the likes of PRG3, Test Drive Unlimited and more recently the Colin McRae DIRT Demo using the in-car or helmet cam which hugely added to the immersion factor of each of those games.
And On That Bombshell
Recently I wrote a review for Pokemon Diamond where I summed the game up as “more of the same but just different enough to make it the best version of the game yet”. Right now I am kind of regretting cobbling together that sentence for use in that review as I am going to have to regurgitate it here once again. It just seems the perfect phrase to sum up Forza 2. All in all Forza 2 is truly a great game and one hell of an achievement for Turn 10… and yes, like I just said, it may be more of the same, but it is just that little bit different enough to make it worth picking up as it offers gamers the best version of the game yet. Whether your car experience consists of simply browsing the latest issue of Auto Trader at a visit to the barbers or attending the multitude of trade events taking place every day across the length and breath of the UK, there is something here for you. Sure the game does not vastly differ from the Xbox original and a few more tweaks could have been made to the audio and graphics, but in all honesty there is no need to change a winning formula when it was nigh on perfect in the first place.
There is enough here to keep you playing for months.
8.5 out of 10