By on October 23, 2008

One day, we’ll look back fondly on the rivalry between Xbox and Playstation. Inevitably, we’ll discuss the competing pairs of game that these consoles offered, genre by genre, sequel by sequel. We’ll debate Final Fantasy vs. Oblivion, Halo vs. Resistance, and ,of course, Gran Turismo (“GT”) vs. Forza Motorsport. And everyone will pick the Playstation(s)’s GT series. That said, Xbox owners need not lament as the Xbox’s own flagship racer is a solid game indeed and one of the most intuitive, purest racing games available today.

Forza Motorsport 2 offers several modes, the most interesting of which is the career mode. Don’t look for any story here; this game is all about racing. Period. There are no drug package deliveries, no free roam, and certainly no police chases. The entire concept of career mode is to finish a series of races to unlock a harder series of races where better cars can be used.

Starting out as a grassroots racer, you’ll take your track toy to humble, simple tracks to hone your skills. Forza offers all manner of driving aids for the beginner: automatic transmission, ABS, traction control and stability management. Minor point of irritation: all driving aids are available to all cars, even cars that have no business having them. You can now recreate the legendary Ferrari 312P / Ford GT40 face-off, only with traction control.

The best driving aid, of course, is the famous Forza guiding line. Not only does it provide an approximation of the best driving line, it glows red and green to prompt you towards the optimal speed along this line. It’s such a good teacher (or I’m such a bad driver), that I found my lap times dropping drastically on other driving games after playing this one. Of course, to achieve the “elite” times you see on Xbox live, you’ll have to learn to do things on your own. The guiding line doesn’t cut chicanes where possible. Worse yet, the automatic transmission shifts a wee bit before the redline, depriving you of that last ounce of the engine’s power.

As your driving improves, you’ll find it natural to step into better and better cars, on better and better tracks. Each step along the way is well-nuanced; a feat that sets Forza apart from other racers. Early on, the lo-po FWD compacts are forgiving and easy. Midway through, the Ferrari F430 or Corvette Z06 makes you honest about being smooth on the buttons, lest you lock-up going into a bend or spin out coming out of one. Near the end, the Le Mans LMP1 cars will truly test your testicular fortitude.

It’s evident the developers focused on car behavior. Each car, even compared to cars in the same class, has a unique personality. The Ferrari Enzo isn’t shy about singing the family tune through its exhaust. There’s a weight penalty as your AWD Lancer Evo hits the end of a long straight. The Corvette’s ridiculous grip and snap oversteer are present. And so on. There’s no doubt about it, Forza is one of the most faithful reproduction of the driving experience available in videogames today.

The driving dynamics’ gain, though, came at the expense of almost every other aspect of the game. None are major gripes, but taken as a whole, they leave Forza feeling somewhat unfinished.

Being a nice guy, I’ll call the graphics and re-used crowd representations “understated”. Customization is disappointing, especially on higher-end cars. Some of the Le Mans cars can’t even be tuned at all.

Then there are the tracks. Forza 2 offers less tracks than the game before it. The stalwarts are back, but it’s infuriating to buy the game and then pay to download a track as inane as a plain oval on Xbox live. At least the tracks that are included are faithfully represented. You’ll see just how annoying Laguna Seca’s corkscrew can be, or how challenging it is to apex through the carousel on the Nordschleife.

Unfortunately, the interiors come right out of the GM playbook. Every single car has the same interior. The cockpit of your Porsche 914 and my Ferrari P333: identical. Considering many games published a year before this one had distinct interiors, it’s as forgivable as the Corvette and the Aura sharing a steering wheel. Ahem.

My biggest gripe, though, is the number of cars per race: Eight. MAX. In that formation, you’ll find yourself all alone for huge stretches on the game’s bigger tracks – sometimes for entire laps! No one signed up for time attacks, Microsoft.

For Forza 2’s designers, game play was job one – and it’s apparent in every aspect of the game. This game’s realism and driving experience are unmatched.

Bottom line: **** Far from perfect, but you will never stop to ponder the game’s flaws as you hear your tires thumping along Sebring raceway.

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21 Comments on “Product Review: Forza Motorsport 2 for Xbox360...”

  • avatar

    Great review.

    Forza was the MAIN reason I bought the original Xbox & I still enjoy it to this day (career mode is terribly difficult).

    Customization: I’d love to see less customization, actually. My BIGGEST gripe in forza 1 was the pretty-much-mandatory tuning you have to do at the higher levels or control is all over the place. Even worse is that you have to move sliders around, ARGH. It takes away from the racing fun of the game (I usually play career mode by myself as my wife doesn’t play) when you have to tune, test, tune test, for an hour+ and then try to race. I’d love it if that was removed completely or made optional.

    Overall this sounds like a great game. The lines sound similar to Forza on xbox….I can take the lines, modify them slightly to cut chicanes & get better times than my friends who drive the line directly.

    Perhaps this will be my reason for buying the 360…although I have a ps3 I ordered for my birthday on it’s way :)

  • avatar

    A pretty honest review. I’ve been playing this game for about 8 months now and I keep coming back to it. The tuning options for me are the most engaging part, yeah you can spend a LOT of time tuning but there are plenty of tutorials on the forums as well as automatic spreadsheets to help you get started.

    And then there’s the paint shop. I’m no artist but I’ve done some pretty slick paint jobs and some of the artists on the forums are da Vinci compared to me. Using only primitive shapes, some of their paintings look like photo uploads which is something you absolutely cannot do in Forza. Don’t take my word for it, just browse the main Forza forum where they go to show off, market and sell their cars, which you can buy through Forza’s auction house.

    You can also get the extra tracks for free nowadays when you buy the Platinum Hits Forza 2 (The Complete Collection, only $20!) which also includes all of the extra car packs putting the car total to about 350. Yeah, the game can be boring but if you just fancy a drive, then FM2 is probably the best racing sim out there and I HIGHLY recommend the Microsoft Wireless Racing Wheel, Forza 2 was pretty much programmed to use it. Great game now available for an awesome price!

  • avatar

    It’s a good game (I’ve only played it a few times mind you, and at a friend’s house because I haven’t booted up my Xbox in months; kids and all) but it seemed like they could have benefitted from lifting Project Gotham’s polish.

    Truthfully, though, I was a PGR fan, so I’m biased.

  • avatar

    This is probably the best overall racing game I’ve ever played (none of the GTs compare, though I haven’t played the most recent on PS3). The graphics aren’t amazing, but the gameplay easily makes up for it. The physics are very accurate. My only complaint is how difficult it is to have a manual on this versus the GT series. The triggers are much better brakes and throttles compared to the PS controller, though.

  • avatar

    Triggers for brake and throttle automatically make this way better than every GT game before the PS3. The PS3 now has pseudo-triggers, which should help GT5. I played the GT HD demo endlessly, and that only had 1 track and less than a dozen cars. Currently deciding whether or not to splurge on Prologue instead of waiting for the real game..

    If you’re a graphics junkie, GT wins over all, but for controls and physics, Forza was the best. Except for the TOCA Race Driver series. Shame they killed that.

  • avatar

    Quentin :
    My only complaint is how difficult it is to have a manual on this versus the GT series.

    Wait what?
    Just turn the manual on in the difficulty options and gain 5 or 10 % of your winnings back.

  • avatar

    You should do a head to head with GT5 Prologue. I have it on my PS3 along with a top-shelf Logitech G25 wheel setup (with three pedals and a gated six speed). It’s fantastic for hardcore sim junkies like me, especially when you can learn to heel-toe and shift smoothly (IN A GAME) rather than rely on the complete lack of feel or intuition you get with the standard controller. I kid you not, you can feel the front end grip through the steering. It’s amazing. Unfortunately GT P is lacking in content because its a glorified demo, and it also lacks some of the pure fun-factor of more arcadey race games.

  • avatar

    DrBrian : Wait what?
    Just turn the manual on in the difficulty options and gain 5 or 10 % of your winnings back.

    I’m talking about having the buttons where it is intuitive to hit them. It is clearly very easy to turn the option on.

    In GT, they used the triggers to upshift and downshift, which were much like a real car’s paddles. With Forza, you are pressing one of the front 4 buttons. I just never got comfortable with it is all.

  • avatar

    I just spent some quality time with this and PGR4. Not much, because I was pressed (there’s only so much gaming you can do with when your better halves are glaring at you) but I got a bit.

    The latter is definitely the better game, but Forza seems more “true”, in the sense that the cars and physics are real. If I was a car simulation nut, it’d be my choice; I’m not, and PGR seems to allow more theatre at the expense of realism, which I prefer.

  • avatar

    You should do a head to head with GT5 Prologue. I have it on my PS3 along with a top-shelf Logitech G25 wheel setup

    Had I thought of this earlier I would have done a simultaneous Forza with Wheel and GT5 with Wheel comparo. In any case, GT5P is going to be an eventual review, I’ve played it extensively as well. (Along with Dirt, Test Drive Unlimited, Need For Speed -all of’em-, Burnout Paradise, Project Gotham Racing, Grid and so on)

  • avatar

    The best part of Forza 2 to me is the online mode.
    I always tire at some point (the endurance races anyone?) of career mode as it takes too much of a time investment.
    You never know who you’ll end up playing against or where they are from online and it’s amazing how punishing human opponents can be. Make a tiny mistake and you’re done.

  • avatar

    Kurt B :
    October 24th, 2008 at 12:57 am
    Make a tiny mistake and you’re done.

    Yes well, on the game’s hardest settings, the same applies for the car driven by a computer-controlled Olivier Beretta.

    I hated online racing because it was obvious to me a lot of the racers’ styles were heavily influenced by NASCAR. If you catch my drift.

  • avatar

    Darn, I guess Farago didn’t like my four-word (should have been a four-letter word) review of “Toyota Yaris” on the Xbox Live Arcade.

    I bought this used several months ago, and I’m disappointed I can’t get the free downloads. When I compare this to the Gran Turismo series, I think Forza comes out slightly ahead in how it reproduces the driving dynamics of various individual cars, but graphics are a tad shallow and I miss the whole gearhead ethos the GT series immerses you in.

    And the Forza soundtrack takes a distant second place, even to the limited but cool soundtrack to GT 2, released almost nine years ago.

  • avatar

    Nice to see a review of this game on the site. I’ve bought it when it was released and sprung for the wheel as well. I couldn’t imagine enjoying a driving simluation nearly as much without using a wheel. It’s mandatory equipment in order to turn off all the assists, put the realism on max, and let it rip.

    I appreciate that Forza 2 focused the Xbox360 horsepower on physics performance and a steady frame rate over graphical flash. Not that it’s shabby-looking at all, quite the opposite.

    The upcoming Gran Turismo game may have all of those things but until they implement some kind of damage modeling, it still seems incomplete: sliding around a guardrail at 120mph with no penalty isn’t all that realistic. Hopefully the full version of GT5 will address that somehow.

  • avatar

    Forza has always felt more realistic than the GT games, so i prefer Forza. As for soundtrack, it’s just background music for the menus to me. And online racing is not enjoyable for the most part, too many halfwits confusing Forza with Destruction Derby. Twerp-seeking missiles would be a nice addition.

  • avatar
    Michael Ayoub

    I’m lucky enough to have both Forza 2 and GT5 Prologue. I heartily recommend them both equally.

  • avatar

    options>control>Alt 5

    then you can have the bumpers as the gearbox controls and the quick onset of RSI.

  • avatar

    One year later and I’m still working on Forza 2’s career mode. A game has to be especially good for me to keep coming back. This review is spot on, except for the gripe about manual… just switch to manual if that’s what you want. The wheel is a must for this game. I hate playing it without it. You’re right about the tracks. They are capital B Boring. But they are as realistic as possible, so that’s what keeps me coming back. I actually like the corkscrew even.

    As a good comparison game there’s PGR4. I still play this one almost a year later as well. A little more arcadey than Forza, but the tracks are so much better. And it’s not totally unrealistic, just a bit more forgiving than Forza. Still handles fairly realistically. I really love the weather effects. The rain and snow are awesome and when you hydroplane and lose traction it really feels right. I hope Forza 3 adds weather, that would really push it over the top.

  • avatar

    I have GT5P and have played Forza2, and each does somethings better than the other IMO. Forza has more cars, cars I care about (E30, E36, 240SX) and more tuning. Also I feel its easier to learn about the cars limits and dynamics in a lot of ways in Forza2. I have not liked any car in GT5P much so far. Forza2 can be boring also, but Its still worthwhile sometimes to learn about how a car will handle, even If I do not enjoy playing the game.

  • avatar

    It is so nice to see comments that do not sound like flaming fanboys. Maybe the site moderators have been cutting them out, but video games review sites I have seen were filled with the dumbest and very obvious fanboy comments. It is great to see driving game reviews that does not feel like it was written by a fanboy and to see comments that do not feel like they were written by little kids.

  • avatar

    Insider note: I once got to drive the actual Viper GTS that was recorded for the sound track. The car was subsequently lost to the forces of excess momentum on a track day at SeaTac, and has been reincarnated on the European dragracing circuit.

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