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Xbox 360 Review: Forza Motorsport 2

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In the beginning, there was Gran Turismo, the “real driving simulator.” With its release came many similar racing games that simply cloned Gran Turismo‘s formula, and other already established franchises that sought to make themselves more like Gran Turismo was. However, Gran Turismo remained pretty much unchallenged as the best console racing game for quite some time.

When 2005 rolled around, things changed. Gran Turismo suddenly found itself with competition on the Xbox in the form of Forza Motorsport. It gave racing fans new features, such as the ability to customize paint jobs, and realistic damage, that Gran Turismo wasn’t providing.

Now, as more games like Gran Turismo and Project Gotham Racing try to create the best racing simulation experience, Turn 10’s Forza Motorsport 2 has arrived on the Xbox 360 and has once again raised the bar for what a simulation racing game should be.

Forza Motorsport 2 is pretty much more of the same, as many of the original’s features return. There are 300 cars this time around in 10 classes, 12 tracks with 47 configurations to race on, arcade and career modes, online racing, and the ability to paint cars. New to Forza 2 is the Auction House, allowing the sales of Forza cars online. The car-painting mode has gotten perhaps the biggest boost, with the ability to place up to 4,100 layers of graphics on the car. One search for Forza 2 cars online is enough to show off the beautiful works that can be created this time around. Point-to-point racing, however, has been completely removed.

When it comes to looks, Forza 2 is no slouch. There have been some complaints about the game lacking a sense of speed, but if you look closely, the game does seem to reflect how speed looks in real life (hint: things aren’t always a bur when you’re going 120 miles per hour). The cars look absolutely beautiful, and the damage detail — from the paint scratches to seeing the shards of glass fall as you knock out the back window — are impressive. The only real issue here is that some of the courses, namely the fictional ones, can be a bit barren in places, but that’s really just a minor detail.

One noticeable area of improvement is sound, specifically the game’s soundtrack. Instead of the forgettable soundtrack of the original Forza Motorsport, gamers are treated to a soundtrack comprised of not only more well known songs, but songs that better fit the game’s attitude. Turn 10 has also done a great job of re-creating the different engine sounds for each car that change as the car is upgraded with newer parts. However, in a few areas, sound could be greatly improved. The biggest glaring example of this comes in the spectators’ sound, which is the same clip recycled again and again. Come on Turn 10, it’s 2007, and using the same clip over and over again isn’t really acceptable anymore.

The game plays incredibly similar to the original Forza Motorsport, but it seems the development team has turned up the realism a bit, as Forza 2 is a bit less forgiving. Driving off onto the grass will slow you down, as well as add a penalty, and even brushing the wall can be enough to cause damage. Career mode is once again an affair all about beating cups and progressing up levels. It’s incredibly time consuming and deep, but it is also pretty fun and rewarding, especially when it comes to unlocking more cars and saving money on upgrades.

The controls layout is almost identical to that of Forza Motorsport, but when you’ve got a good thing going, why change it? The only new addition is in the function of the D-pad, which now brings up a telemetry menu to let you see in-depth data on tire wear, car damage, and more. It’s nice to have such data, but the fact that it takes up the entire screen and can make it harder to drive means you might only be using this when you’ve got a big lead and aren’t making a lot of turns. In addition to the Xbox 360 controller, the wireless wheel can be used for Forza 2.

Forza 2’s other major selling point besides the deep customization feature is being able to race on Xbox Live, as well as buy and sell cars through the Auction House feature. The online racing aspect has had a few bugs in it so far that are likely server-related, but when it works right, it’s an incredibly fun experience. As for the Auction House, it’s a great place for Forza artists to show off their work and sell it for change, but there is one problem: each time a bid is made within the final two minutes, the bid’s ending time is reset to two minutes left. This can be incredibly frustrating, and while it might reflect real-world bidding, this has so far caused some bidding headaches. However, even with this slight drawback, it’s still a great feature to have in the game.

Forza 2 is not a short game by any means. To unlock every car without using the Auction House, you’ll have to reach Level 50 in all three regions, an incredibly time-consuming ordeal. It’s also likely the only way you’ll be able to get through all of the in-game achievements; some will be unlocked very quickly, while others will take a lot of time and patience. However, with the customization and online racing features, there’s plenty to do outside of career mode that will keep racing fans coming back for more.

Forza Motorsport 2 has room for improvement, but as far as racing games go, it’s the best game you can currently get on the current generation of consoles. While Gran Turismo 5 and Project Gotham Racing 4 might one day overtake Forza 2, they are far off in the distance. Highly polished with an impressive variety of cars and tracks, the most in-depth customization in a racing game ever, and a challenging, yet rewarding career mode, Forza Motorsport 2 is an absolute blast and a great addition to any Xbox 360 owner’s library.

Forza Motorsport 2 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.

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About Brian Szabelski