Driving Simulation games have always managed to procure a checkered presentation. With almost no exception to the rule these sims are either spot on, controlling with perfect response and a stunningly beautiful presentation, or they miss the mark entirely. Forza 2 is yet another follower of this rule by providing superb visuals and vice-like controls. The plethora of real life cars and robust online features bolster Forza’s already rewarding experience. While minor drawbacks of predictable damage modeling and sometimes disappointing sound ensnare a perfect showing, Forza manages to knock all other competition aside while claiming the top seat in this genre.
Forza’s graphics are second to no racing game. Most major cars from the last 10 years have been made selectable, fully upgradeable, and look exactly like their real life counter-parts. Every single course in the game has been painstakingly copied from those residing in the real world, some of which now share a home in the Playstation's showings of Gran Tourismo. Every detail of the real-life tracks, down to the bumps on the pavement, has been translated over. Forza makes great effort to not only create carbon copies of each physical track, but the landscape around each track as well. Buildings are no longer simply structures that are blurred with perceived speed; reflections of surrounds appear on the crisply detailed backgrounds.
Each car acquired can be painted any color, or have vast amounts of decals transformed and applied to it. Several thousand layers of decals all allowed, making any image possible. What makes this feature all the more interesting is the online Auction house included in the game. Cars are sold there with a variety of designs on them, from fully modified Volkswagen Beatles detailed to look exactly like those driven by the Geek Squad to cars sporting the movie poster from 300.
While impressive graphically, there are several glitches that are easily noted during play in the highest racing tiers, or after extended play. While the game boasts “realistic damage models,” what it delivers is almost uniform damage of all cars “breaking” the same way. There are also instances of environmental pop-up from time to time.
When first starting a new Forza game it is possible to play in almost an arcade like driving experience. Then it is possible to tune any of the features through several difficulties, from arcade like (easy) to simulation (hard). Forza “punishes” you for using the easy controls by taking a percentage of the winnings from all races, but it then will “reward” you the more each feature is turned towards simulation by granting a bonus percentage on top of any winnings from a race.
All cars, besides the top series of R1 classed racing cars, procured can be modified and tuned. From the smallest upgrade of adding a better air filter, to fully adjusting the way that the engine is geared, Forza attempts to allow any modification that can be done in real life to be made to any of the in-game cars. The advantage to this is that it is possible to make the fastest minivan ever dreamed of; but many cars will also handle exactly like a 450 horse powered minivan would act, near uncontrollable. All parts purchased in the game have real life counterparts and work with the vehicle they are used on, this can be rather disconcerting in the matter of minivans.
Forza backs the entire ideal of simulation with a responsive and intuitive control system allowing each tuning upgrade, or downgrade, to handle and feel different while driving. Every car in the game handles differently as well, minivans are top heavy and narrower tend to slide on sharp turns while shorter wider cars tend to grip better during these sections. Forza controls so tightly that all blame is always found in the car chosen to upgrade rather than in the controller, even during the most difficult races.
Possibly the most interesting features of the game are the crashes. While racing at top speed, it is entirely possible to miss a turn and crash headlong into a divider in the course, destroying the car. Damage done to cars range from race ending to cosmetic, all of which affect the total amount of prize money won at the end of the race due to repairs. This becomes even more interesting when played online, as more novice players sometimes end up in difficult races causing massive crashes that can easily take out every racer. Although annoying to watch they quickly become signature moments for the game.
The game offers a lush amount of depth for audio quality. Cars sound different when damaged or upgraded, and most classes of engines sound different than others. The game also allows the player to create custom sound tracks, which is good, because they become required before long. The music that ships with the game is interesting, but mainly generic and at worst annoying.
Forza boasts an interesting feature; the game never needs to be played alone. Most of the content of the game can only be reached after hours of play through a single player career mode, all restriction are lifted when played online. All rewards from racing online are transferred to single player, meaning all new levels reached are still unlocked.
It should be warned that the core of Forza is a rather cut and dry simulation game. While there are more arcade like modes and setting that the game can be experienced through, the majority of the game is buy and tuning specific cars in certain ways for only a handful of races. While rich and enjoyable this may be too much for the less experienced racing gamer. But for those interested in the depths, or those with a solid racing background Forza offers more than the sticker price.
Racing Simulation games have been done before, but they have never been done this well. With an active and growing community that constantly supports and plays online, tight controls, and amazing graphics it is easy to see why Forza is an easy choice for the 360. Even with its short comings and occasional faults it is a hard game not to recommend to any racing fan.