I hate simulation racing games. I hate them with a passion. When you race in a game you should leave the acceleration button firmly smashed into the controller and the developer shouldn’t even include a brake. The ideal track has gentle bends in it and has multiple jumps, speed boosts and, if possible, a point at which the track goes upside down. The last time I accidentally purchased a sim racer was Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec. That said; I love Forza Motorsport 2.
Somehow, between the time I played GT3 and now, I’ve developed a love of boring games. I enjoy fiddling with sliders in menus. I love laboring over color scheme decisions. I love comparing horsepower and torque curves.
There is a steep learning curve to surmount, there’s no question of that, but once you get past the initial difficulty the game becomes seriously addicting. Be forewarned: there are no “easy” gamerscores here, no headshots and no powerslides. What is here is one of the most sophisticated physics engines for driving simulation and deep customization and tuning options I’ve ever encountered in a console game.
The main reason I enjoy Forza while I abhor my prior experiences with GT3 is the suggested line. A semi-opaque line of arrows that tell the uninitiated how to drive a course with their car. This line can be disabled by hosts in online matches to ensure that everyone plays on a level playing field, but anyone who doesn’t run a track at least a couple of times with the suggested line must be a serious fanatic. It takes several runs of the same course to really get a feel for the speed and gear you have to enter a corner at, but the suggested line makes this a less painful task.
Two reasons I highly recommend that any 360 owner consider purchasing Forza2 are the fact that it doesn’t require any investment beyond the game and the level of car customization gives the online gameplay legs. I’m fully capable of controlling my car with precision with the analog sticks, a feat that many other games cannot achieve. The Microsoft racing wheel’s merits don’t seem to have been proven according the many racers online, but the controller is competent in this game a wheel purchase isn’t warranted. And then there is the car customization. There aren’t a lot of body kits for the higher end cars, but the level of detail you can achieve in the vinyl layers is almost unimaginable. 15 to 30 minutes of work in the menus and some excellent schemes can be churned out.
The only complaint I have with the game is the AI; which seems to rock violently between conservative and jack ass. At the tale end of a race the computer will make some desperate moves to get back into the lead. While this makes the AI seem more alive the consistency of this behavior makes it almost too predictable. I also found that the AI doesn’t like to be bumped, rub bumpers one too many times and all the competitors in a race seem to gun for you. The frustration sets in when the computer rarely seems phased by rough bumps while you usually spin wildly out of control.
The graphics leave me feeling lukewarm, the replays seem more polished than actual gameplay (the motion blur is removed to improve drive-ability). I’ll forgive a lack of graphical fidelity for physics fidelity. Another lukewarm aspect is the online racing. While the races are fun and the auction house should be a standard feature in modern racing games, the matches seem barely integrated into the game, as if they were an afterthought. Assuming you get a field of intelligent, sane people (occasionally a stretch on Xbox-Live) you can expect an hour or so of good, fun, competitive racing.