When Forza released on Xbox it was revered as one of the great racing games and one that would easily rival the more established likes of Project Gotham Racing. With its simulation approach and of course the editing tools for users to create new and distinctive paint jobs for their cars; Forza was a breath of fresh air and really opened up the possibility that Xbox had a game which was just as good as the long running Grand Tourismo series on the Playstation consoles.
Well enough about past glories and what about the present where once again Turn 10 have unleashed what potentially could be a mighty game. Some racing fans didn’t “get” the whole handling of the cars in the original and so with this next generation iteration of their game have they made a more accessible racer or is it still 2 nuts and three screws short of being overly complicated for the average gamer due to its sim like qualities?
Forza 2 from the offset feels very familiar especially if you’ve played the original on Xbox or to be more precise played any game that claims to offer simulation aspects. A tried and trusted formula has been with us for years and in this respect Forza 2 is no different. What gamers will notice amongst all the options to buy, tweak and purchase new parts for their vehicles is the underlying theme that with enough money and perhaps some skill thrown in they can easily dominate races by simply going through the tried and trusted process. It goes something like this; you choose a car for an event and then race. During the race you discover that your car isn’t quite up to par for catching the leaders. Rather than endure and keep trying until you start performing some awesome laps times you opt to try an easier alternative. After the first race you then head on over to the shop and upgrade your car with say an exhaust system or a turbo, perhaps some weight reduction and new tyres. Once done you return to the same race where this time your car has the power to simply dominate with ease. This method works and at the end of the day it’s up to the player to feel whether they cheated a little or that it’s simply fair game.
Forza 2, like its predecessor and other games of this nature introduces players at the beginning with low end street cars and as experience is gained opens up more races to participate in, greater rewards and the chance to test out some real meaty vehicles. However time is of the essence and this is paramount to the game as some races can take quite a while when there are 6 or more laps to race. In my experience I tend to quit a race and start again if I do badly rather than try and retake the lead; knowing that it’s simply not going to happen as the AI zips away. Because you are encouraged to come in first for the Gold trophy then second place simply feels like a waste of time (although you do get some prize money). With so many events to participate in you really do have to focus on the time element. It takes time to earn money to be able to purchase the better cars yet at the same time gamers would like the cool stuff as quickly as possible. I guess this is what the Arcade mode is for but it’s simply not the same enjoyment or as personal as the career game.
Forza 2 has a number of cars to purchase with earned cash from winning or placing highly in races. Most of the top worldwide manufacturers are featured which means that whether you are American, European or Japanese then there are cars from your region of the world to get in and drive to your hearts content. There are a number of real world tracks featured that will test your mettle but the problem is the fact that as gamers we have probably raced Laguna Seca millions of times before; and so there is always an air of familiarity.
Being a simulation and for those gamers who want to get real in depth then each car can be tuned to the up most detail including things like tyre width, gear ratios and such like. What is more the aforementioned performance upgrades are also in full effect and it is here where you can potentially take a stock road vehicle and transform it into a racing beast. This aspect of the game is enjoyable but there’s always a sense that stock cars in the higher classes perform better than those you have upgraded into the higher classes. The interface for upgrading cars is pretty simple and easy to navigate and so I suspect won’t pose too many problems for those gamers wishing to simply get stuck into the racing rather than mess around under the bonnet. It has to be noted that in this respect gamers can choose not to upgrade their cars but in my experience this just seems like self torture as some of the AI vehicles are pretty hard to beat (although this is largely dependant on the car you drive and the difficulty you choose).
Talking of difficulty the same options from Forza make a welcome return. It’s kind of like risk and reward where the player determines what risk they are going to gamble over the relative reward gained from taking the risk. So things like road markers to help you follow the best racing line and when to accelerate or decelerate are available however having this option on will mean your winnings are less than if you had it switched off. The same applies for other tweaks such as having ABS or traction control on or off. The biggest risk when racing is turning the damage on to simulation which is a new aspect for the series. Whereas Forza presented cosmetic damage, Forza 2 takes it further by introducing real time damage to steering, bodywork, engine, suspension which greatly can reduce a cars’ performance. In the early races this isn’t such a problem but later on in the game and especially if you have a powerful but lightweight car; a nudge from an opponent at the wrong time or a skid off the track into the barriers at high speed can in fact total your car grinding it to a snails pace. Being nudged off the track and having your engine damaged basically means a restart as opponent cars can’t be beaten easily let alone caught up after you’ve crashed out and recomposed yourself.
Looking at the AI and once again there is an aggressive element thrown in (usually reserved for the last lap of the race). Most of the time cars will try and work around you but on occasion, heck many occasions; AI cars are going for the jugular and will nudge or simply smash into your rear end. Sometimes you might survive such an impact but for the most part what is more than likely to happen is your car gets spun out. This is a highly frustrating moment especially when you see the offending car zip away into the sunset. That’s not to say you can’t get revenge as sometimes it can be very satisfying to hit an opponent car and cause them to spin out or better still, sustain race threatening damage (indicated by a smoking car). The AI isn’t perfect and tends to follow the racing line to a tee rather then be tactical; such as drafting you off the racing line on a straight (especially if you have the lead).
Going back to the racing events themselves and it’s clear that there is enough here to keep most racing fans happy. The restrictions on many races means you have to branch out and buy a number of cars rather than sticking to just a few. Luckily for those wanting to spend as little on new car purchases early on in the game can use cars won by completing events to compete in other races the cars are compatible with.
The tuning aspect of the game offers a rating for every modification done to the cars and as mentioned earlier gamers can race in souped up vehicles for an easy win. I’m not sure how well the game would hold up if AI cars would match the upgrades players place on their vehicles. It would certainly feel like a different game and in some respects might take the fun out of it? Either way it’s a shame that an optional mode isn’t featured and that the only thing close to this is racing in events which have strict tuning restrictions on them. That said in most cases it’s never an even playing field and what is an obvious omission from a game that is a simulation is the fact that gamers can’t race laps to determine their position on the starting grid.
Forza 2 has a lot of content that was present in the original game such as cars and tracks and so with the power of the Xbox 360 being utilized we are seeing the same stuff only better and in High Def. Forza wasn’t an ugly game on Xbox and the same can be said about Forza 2. However with games such a PGR 3 (a launch title no doubt) providing in some cases better graphics it’s clear that as players we have to look beneath the surface of this next generation title.
It’s obvious that the game has advanced physics calculations going on – perhaps stuff that the average gamer isn’t going to notice immediately or at all; yet processing power is used for this. The game play feels very smooth and there are no stutters in game play or graphics bar the odd bit of texture detail drawing in at the start of a race. The car models are of a high standard although the jagged edges are very noticeable at times and if you are picky then this might annoy you.
Another feature that isn’t present and perhaps what gamers expect is the option to toggle weather effects on or off and even things like time of day to race. Whilst these might appear as cosmetic effects the reality is that for a simulation game it’s not always going to be dry and sunny as the game suggests. It’s a shame that these options aren’t included especially as other games have managed to incorporate these features but I guess Turn 10 have their reasons.
What has to be commended are the real time damage effects which adds another level to the game’s graphics especially as it does affect game play now. The track detail is reasonable however there just feels like a lack of ambience about the tracks despite having fully 3D spectator models.
The in game sound is of the highest standard here and I can’t really fault it in anyway. As well as the ambient sounds of other cars and noises around the tracks there’s some beefy engine sounds on offer. There’s a real attention to detail with the sound with things like hearing a different tone to your engine when you use the look back when in bumper camera viewpoint. I think the most startling aspect of the sound is when tinkering with upgrades as you can now really hear the differences when adding things like Turbos and exhausts.
The music is pretty cool for menu based rhythms yet there is no in race music or the option to turn the feature on or off. For some people this might take away the atmosphere of the game however in most cases it’s good to hear the engine working like mad as you floor it on a straight. When using manual gears, players really have to be in tune with the cars’ sound as this is paramount in knowing when to change gear and to get the best performance. For players who do like to pump beats when they race then as always custom soundtracks are your friends.
Forza 2 is one of those games that will take a fair amount of time and effort to accomplish all of the goals laid before you. There’s the quick play Arcade mode to mess around with exhibition and time trial races and then of course the main career mode. The latter having so much to do that there’s hours upon hours of entertainment; then you can do it all again with different cars if you wish. When you couple this with a comprehensive online multiplayer as well as the obvious custom painters’ options and you are left with a whole heap of features to mess around with. I’ve not really touched on the whole custom vinyl’s editor but will say that there’s more default shapes and a lot more scope when it comes to making images from the shapes provided. This in itself can take hours of your time being creative, which again adds to the overall experience.
Forza 2 isn’t a great leap from its predecessor and essentially offers more of the same albeit with high definition visuals and of course some added features such as the crash damage to vehicles affecting game play. Now I’m sure there’s a lot more going on in the background such as advanced physics calculations to make the game feel more realistic as possible but considering how well Forza provided similar experiences I question how much gamers will notice these refinements if at all?
As a dabble into the more realistic arts of racing then Forza 2 on Xbox 360 is well worth the purchase as there really isn’t any other Xbox 360 game that offers the same level of depth at this point in time. It’s a fun and enjoyable game and one I suspect most people won’t get bored of in a hurry. Sure as with most racing games there is a level of frustration present, but I think in a way this adds to the tense nature of professional competitive racing the game clearly mimics.
For beginners Forza 2 is fairly accessible and after spending time with the game it’s pretty easy to understand the process for success. For advanced players then there’s a lot to mess around with and in this respect should keep most gamers happy until the next Forza game is released.
Forza 2 isn’t a flawless game by any means but does remain unparallelled as there is simply no other game that can offer the same level of depth and unprecedented attention to detail. When it comes to letting the likes of all of us home based racers loose in the garages and on the tracks the game does deliver where it counts. If you like racing then Forza 2 is a must buy.