Now it’s easily been 2 years since I last played a real good racing simulator on my console. That in part is because my console is an Xbox. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some outstanding racing games on the Xbox, but even the closest thing to a simulator I’ve seen was wholly inadequate and unrealistically difficult. What the Xbox needed was something along the lines of a Gran Turismo game. Honestly, up until I heard about the forthcoming release of Forza Motorsport, I was ready to pick up a PS/2 just so I could play the latest in the Gran Turismo game. Now that I’ve played Forza for a couple days, I don’t see how I could go back.
From the start, Forza comes off as a professional racing simulator for the Xbox. The menus are very easy to navigate and offer nearly infinite possibilities for upgrade and modification to the vehicles. The graphics are crisp with minimal pixelation – nearly photorealistic, the audio seems a little off but perhaps that is because I’m used to someone doing it wrong. I just find it curious how a Mitsubushi Lancer has an audible supercharger whine but no blowoff-valve sound from the turbo. Overall, unless I am missing something, the usual “PSHHHHT” sound which is prominent in other racing games (even simulators, I’m not talking just Need for Speed Underground 2 here) is severely downplayed. The soundtrack is entirely instrumental, consisting of some recognizable tunes all in elevator mode. I find this a vast improvement over many racing games who will stuff a soundtrack with pop hits and catchy tunes which eventually become irritating to the point of distraction. With the instrumental tracks, its a lot easier to maintain focus on the task at hand…racing.
What is the racing like? The tracks have got to be the most challenging I have seen on a racing game yet. Thankfully the creators of this game included several features to make the game more acceptable to a ‘novice.’ One of them is the adaptive racing line which tells you where you should be on the track, when you should brake, and how hard you should brake. I hope to eventually turn it off, but as the handling of vehicles in this game seems even more difficult and realistic than anything I’ve experienced, it’s allowing me to get the handle of the game without totalling my car. That’s right, you can completely destroy your car in this game. For the most part I’ve been anti-damage in racing games, as there is nothing worse than being on the final stretch of the last lap, then eating a wall and blowing the race. Still, damage in this game was designed not-so much to hinder from what I have experienced, but moreso to give you a heads up as to where you need to improve. That idea is carried over to the end of each race where your credits are tallied and you will be penalized for damaging the car. Depending on how bad you trounce the car, you could spend anywhere from 50 to 1000+ credits to fix it.
Another interesting feature to this game is the “Driveatar.” Essentially it allows you to train a computer player in your own driving style so then you can race it and invariably improve your own driving prowess in the game. Loading the driveatar in a career mode race makes it all the more challenging as you are head to head against someone who knows (almost) all your tricks. I’ve yet to try this on Xbox live, I haven’t use the service at all yet despite the availability on most of my games. This may just be the game which gets me to plunk down a few more dollars and try it out though. Once online you can not only race other real people, but also buy and sell the cars which you have collected. Lastly, the selection of cars is outstanding. It isn’t the absurdly high number in GT4, but the selection good enough that you’re guaranteed to find a ride that suits you, as well as be able to customize it to the hilt, inside and out. Each series win rewards you with another car which you can either race or sell to modify or purchase other cars.
Overall, Forza Motorsport is the definitive racing simulator for the Xbox. As a friend of mine said the other night after driving an SRT-4 in Midnight Club 3 and then in Forza (Dude, what the HELL did you do to the controls? Um…It’s a simulator dude). This is not your average racing game, and finally the Xbox has something to keep all the Gran Turismo and real race-fans happy until the Xbox 360 comes out to wow us with even greater eyecandy. This game gets a 5 out of 5 from tothemetal.net, go buy it, NOW.