|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Turn 10||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 15, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Justin Conte
June 14, 2007 - I'll admit before I even begin: I have never had even a passing interest in driving simulations. I love F-Zero, have a ton of fun with Mario Kart, and have enjoyed a round of Burnout on occasion, but when I gave a game like Gran Turismo a try, the learning curve just didn't seem worth the pay-off. It felt like the game would truly take a lifetime to get the hang of. After hearing all the great things friends were saying about Microsoft's steering wheel combined with Forza 2, I felt it was my responsibility as a gaming enthusiast to give the title a shot. It was a $200 gamble that has paid off better than I could ever have hoped.
The first thing I noticed upon booting the title up was the way it seemed to welcome players, rather than try to intimidate them. Instead of being forced to go through licensing tests and trying to figure out what exactly any of these menus mean, I was able to jump right into the meat of the game, the career mode, and within minutes I had chosen my home turf, purchased a car, and was off to the races. In keeping with this beginner friendly theme, the game offers you the option to tailor the difficulty in almost every imaginable way. With everything from anti-lock braking systems to the availability of a driving line you can place on the track, showing you the best route through a given course, and even exactly where you should break to get around as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Don't think this means the game doesn't offer a huge amount of depth though, as the game offers a huge array of customization and tweaking for players who want to get every ounce of power from their cars. You can do everything from huge overhauls where you swap an entirely new engine into your car to the smallest tweaks in the air pressure of a set of tires. The HUD available during races will even allow you to see anything from how much damage each area of the car has taken to how much friction is present on specific tires. The game allows you to have as deep an experience as you want, but players who don't want to take it quite so seriously can still have a good time. The game has found the perfect blend between casual and hardcore driving fans.
All this depth wouldn't mean much without a good selection of cars to work with, and Forza 2 has that covered. Featuring over 300 cars from over 50 manufacturers, there's plenty to choose from, and each and ever car feels like a new experience. These aren't just cosmetic changes, as every car's physics are different from the one you drove before it. Though the damage modeling now available is welcome, things will seem a bit odd when you hit a wall head-on at 120 m.p.h. and leave with a few dents and a broken windshield. It's a step in the right direction, but not quite what I was hoping for. The actual effects of the damage, however, are quite noticeable, and you'll find that if you collide too much your car may begin pulling to one side, refusing to shift, or even flat out unable to finish a race.
The game offers 3 main modes of play including Arcade, Career, and Multiplayer. Arcade Mode includes Exhibition where you race on specific tracks with the cars available, and unlock new cars as you progress. Time trial has you attempting to beat specific times on a certain track with a specific car. Doing so unlocks more cars for use in other modes. Free run allows you to use any cars you have unlocked or purchased on any track and to practice as much as you'd like. You'll be spending the majority of your time with the Career and Multiplayer modes though, as those are the meat of the game.
In career mode you begin with a small amount of cash and then have to choose a home region from North America, Europe, and Asia. This determines which cars are initially available as well as what kind of discounts you unlock as you progress through your career. From then on, you race in career events which allow only certain cars, with restrictions ranging from a specific horsepower range, to only 4-wheel drive cars, and even endurance races that are much longer than other races, and during which you will need to watch your fuel gauge and tire wear in addition to the normal factors present. You start out racing in events with modest rewards, but as you progress you earn larger and larger sums of credits for use in purchasing upgrades and new cars. Your cars and driver level will increase as well, providing you with various discounts on both upgrades and new cars, another incentive to keep you at it. The variety in career mode manages to keep you interested, even with the somewhat limited number of tracks available. With 12 environments in all, things will occasionally get a bit stale, but along will come a new restriction to keep things interesting.
Within the Career mode you'll also have the ability to customize the look of your car. You can simple paint various parts of the car to your liking, or take advantage of the layers system which allows you to stack over 1000 layers, each with a single vinyl or decal. Though my best efforts have produces little more than a few starts strewn about my car's hood, other users have managed to create incredible likenesses of things from Halo, Katamari Damacy, Duck Hunt, and just about anything else you could think of. The versatility of this feature astounds me, and for many will provide reason enough to purchase the title. The only thing between you and creative nirvana it seems is the time your willing to invest.