Forza 2 Xbox 360 Review - 03/07/2007

After initially revving up the demo for a test drive last month, we kick the tyres and light the fires with the full game. Will it storm through the chequered flag, leaving the competition in its tracks, or will it crash and burn on the first lap?

Ok, first off, for those of you who visit TGSN often, we have a little rule that I just violated called ‘pun overload’. Under normal circumstances I would steer well clear of filling up an intro with lazy gaming rhetoric, but these are not normal circumstances. This is Forza, and if any racing game deserved a smothering wave of car-related puns, then it’s this sporty number.

So whats changed from the first game, originally featured on the Xbox? Well, not much. However, this isn’t the type of game that requires a substantial overhaul, rather, a delicate tweak under the bonnet (pun regrettably intended). There are now loads more tracks and online options, and the cars all handle with their real-life counterparts in mind (or so I’m told, I haven’t been able to get my hands on any real-life Dodge Vipers yet).

Despite resembling a sort of ‘Forza 1.5’ in many respects, the game still manages to feel next-gen, and this is mainly down to the wealth of options and variables available. Each mode (Quick Race, Career, Online) contains a veritable smorgasbord of options, and evidence of a racing game tweaked to almost breaking point lies within.

I’ll start with the career mode, which kind of resembles Pro Evo’s RPG-style ‘Master League’ mixed with Burnout: Takedown’s constant reward system. I call it: ‘The constant reward system league’, but others may choose to stick with ‘career mode’. No matter what moniker you subscribe to, due to the way you can ‘level up’ as it were, in terms of car class by constant engine, tyre and body modifications, as well as the regular slew of new cars donated to you if you win races, this is where the real meat n’ metal of the game can be found.

Starting out, the game asks you to choose between Asia, Europe and North America as a starting region. What region you choose determines the discounts you receive on cars from that location, as well as the races that are available to you from the off. For instance, upon deciding to set up camp in the burger-chomping US of A, only tracks set in superficially named destinations such as ‘rattlesnake canyon’ are open. The more races you place top in, the more cars are bestowed upon you, and thus the more races you can take part in. Cars are almost the ‘keys’ of the game, with the right metallic beast allowing you to wade in with arms outstretched in each tournament shouting ‘oi, look at my metallic beast, I BELONG here’.

If you aren’t much cop when it comes to actually sitting behind the wheel, sit even further behind it back at the garage and win the race through engine modifications rather than sharp driving skills. If you have enough know-how in this department, you may not even need to win new cars, instead, install new engine and tire parts and increase its effectiveness under the bonnet. Entry to races often depends on car class rather than model. However, there are more than enough model-specific competitions to give you a repetitious rush of ‘wait, there are 5 Mini Coopers in this race?’- style deja vu.

Customisation is a big part of Forza, both inside and outside your ride. If you haven’t already noticed the almighty brew-ha-ha concerning the recent flood of custom paint jobs that Forza users have uploaded onto various sites, then you either don’t care, or you are busy attempting to pimp out your very own masterpiece. ‘Pimp’ AND’ masterpiece’? I never thought I’d use both words in the same sentence. In this case though, it’s very fitting. You see, with the sheer wealth of vinyls, paint jobs and body kits, if you see it, you can literally paint it. I’ve already seen pictures of Bruce Lee adorned on the hood on one car, and even a pretty spiffing ‘South Park’- themed car. This mode works through the layering up of shapes and decals to achieve an effect. Layering up a seemingly innocent looking square a couple of hundred times for instance can create the logo of your favourite game, a slogan, or even a face. Well, you may need a circle for the face unless you want a few corners. With official sponsor logos, tacky flame or fingerprint effects, and even the ability to tint your cars windows, this mode is as shallow or as deep as you wish to make it.

If you get tired of beating soppy AI opponents in the career mode, beat soppy opponents in one of the most complete online modes found in any racer. With an already pretty strong community, along with racing for cash that can be spent in the offline career mode, the added ability to take photos of your cars and upload them on the official website, the ‘car auction’ feature where you can bid for and sell cars to other online users in a kind of diesel-powered Ebay, and a Microsoft sponsored tournament section, if offline doesn’t thrill you, online may just do the trick.

Although there were a few crash-happy fellows who thought it better to race backwards round the track, (it was funny the first time guys!) and the lag which was at times suspect, online holds up nicely in comparison to Project Gotham’s, and even Halo 2’s rigid and well-thought-out online system.

Microsoft's official 'not-so-wireless' racing wheel plays superbly with the game, with each car handling distinctly differently, and the force feedback really rattling your bones as you plough headlong into a barrier. It works much better if you have a desk rather than a pair of chubby legs to rest the wheel on, but it's still great fun and worth the purchase.

With over 300 official cars to be collected, and a seemingly endless list of car adjustments and variations, Forza is of almost freighting depth. However, unlike most simulations, the developers have stressed that the game doesn’t require in-depth knowledge of the number of black pigments in motor oil or the number of treads that can be found on a Bridgestone tyre. And unlike most developers who spout off endless dribble in the vain hopes of peddling their latest title on you, (Hour of ‘this-is-not-a run-of-the-mill-war-game’ Victory take a bow) I believe them, as I know NOTHING of cars, and yet I thoroughly recommend this racer to both car newbie’s and fanatics alike.

- Ben Griffin



Turn 10 Studios
Xbox 360