Forza Motorsport for the original Xbox was the first racing game on that system to challenge the dynasty set in place by Gran Turismo on the Playstation 2. Its sequel, Forza Motorsport 2 for the Xbox 360, arrives at a time when it will remain unrivaled for at least a year. But Turn 10 Studios, the developers of Forza 2, didn’t rest on their laurels when creating this much-improved sequel.
The total number of cars in the game now exceeds 300, culled from over 50 real-world manufacturers. From the location of certain logos to the type of wheels the car has, each car is meticulously detailed. The selection of cars ranges from the Honda Civic to exotics like the Ferrari Enzo. The game encourages you to upgrade your car’s parts to create a scenario where the Civic might be faster than the Enzo. The modification system is easy enough that one doesn’t have to be a car junkie to create a fast car, yet is deep enough to allow for the extensive tuning of anything from the gear ratios to the air pressure in the tires.
There are 45 tracks to race on, many of which are also taken from real-life locations. During a race, Forza 2 allows you to learn the intricacies of the tracks by placing a guideline on the road suggesting where to apply the brakes, and what angle to take the turns in. This mode can be turned off at anytime.
If you take a turn too hard, or run into another racer, the cars get damaged and may perform differently depending on the severity of the accident. This can also be turned off if it becomes a problem for beginners.
Forza 2 allows for races to be held on the internet over Xbox Live, with up to eight people competing in a race. While there is the occasional person online that just wants to crash into everyone, it shouldn’t deter you from trying out a race or two.
Although the arcade mode is great for a quick race, the career mode is where most people will spend time with the game. You start out with a slow car, win races and earn money to either upgrade it or purchase a faster one. Winning a race gives you experience points that build up your reputation as a racer. When your reputation gets to a certain level, you are given discounts on upgrades, and certain companies send you free cars.
The races in career mode force you to get a feel for all the different types of cars. Some restrict you to a certain horsepower level, while others require cars from a certain country.
Another key aspect of Forza 2 is the amount of customization that can be done to the cars. You can paint the car any color you want, change the wheels to any type and install a new body kit to make your car stand out. The game even features an extensive decal system that can be layered to produce some amazing results. This customization is taken to its limits when you visit the auction house online where you can use game credits to purchase some amazing designs. Do you want the car from the “Dukes of Hazzard”? Check. Do you want a car with a “Scarface” theme? Got that too. Someone even designed a car with the Pringles chips logo on it. If you have the time and patience for it, the possibilities seem endless.
There are only a few noteworthy flaws I’ve found with the game. The game has really good music that you hear in the menus and loading screens, but when it comes time to race, the only sounds you hear are the engine and tires squealing. Also, the auction system seems a bit broken. Rather than use an eBay style where you put the maximum amount you want to pay, Forza forces you to bid on the exact amount that the car is going for at the time, and if anyone else wants to bid, then you are automatically outbid. So pretty much the only way to win an auction is to constantly monitor the auction as it nears completion and hope that you are the last one to place a bid on it as you go back and forth.
Despite these shortcomings, Forza 2 manages to appeal to both casual and hardcore racing fans alike. Though it leans more toward a simulation than an arcade racer, it is one of the best racing games available for the next generation systems, and probably has the guys designing the next Gran Turismo scratching their heads trying to figure out how to top it.
On a scale of one to ten, I give this game an 8.5.