Forza Motorsport 2 [*****]

When it comes to gaming, I don’t fool around. I need a challenge. I need realistic physics. I need as much of a simulation as possible. Prior to these types of games, I thought that Need For Speed, Test Drive, and Night Driver were the peak of racing in a game sense.

Then I met Gran Turismo, I played the first 3 before I traded up to the Xbox and met the definitive racing simulation of our generation – Forza Motorsport. Now I beat the first 3 Grand Turismo’s, I beat Forza Motorsport, and I’ve also gone through my share of ‘arcade’ type racers. They’ve all been relegated to the back of the pile because today I plunked down a stack of trades, $30, and landed my very own copy (one of the last in stock) of Forza Motorsport 2.

Now Turn10 could have simply spruced up the cars, spruced up the tracks, made everything 1080i compatible and left it alone. I would have been satisfied. Then again, we’re working with the Xbox 360 here. More memory, more power, more capability – I’d have to say that the folks at Turn10 dug deep, explored every edge of the envelope then shoved it so hard it created a red ring ‘o death on their test systems.

I’ve only played the game for 4 hours so far, running a few of the original tracks and some new test-track based maps in my mildly customized 1992 VW GTI MKII… and I’m in love. The graphics have reached a level that makes me believe this is the closest anyone has come to photorealism on the 360. Sound, all the engines sound great – tires screeching – collisions – everything. They covered every base as far as the audio/visual experience and took it further with the controls which only improve upon that of the original FM. Turning, braking, drifting, all the controls are sharp and well defined allowing a level of control previously unseen in the genre.

Customization is improved as well, not only can the player customize the paint, body panels, vinyls, rims, and windows… Even more granular levels of customization are available to perfect the power and handling of the vehicle – including multiple plug and play powertrain packages each with their own details to explore and refine. One of the things I recall from the last version is that I couldn’t quite determine what modifications would push me out of my current class and into the next class of cars. Power to weight ratio and handling modifications can easily bump any car from a standard D up into C class and beyond. I like to ride at the top of my class before I try a different car in another. FM2 offers a point scale per class which makes it extremely easy to figure out just what mods eek out the best performance for any car in any class.

Now with everything so perfect in the single player experience – there has to be a mistake, something to improve on last time. While I’m sure fans of the series all recall the popular elevator music soundtrack of the original FM… The music in FM2 had me running for my own personal collection faster than the MK2 as I sheared the paint off some turd in an SRT-4.

I plan to spend many hours racing through the various tracks and giving my digital cohorts no end of hell. Heck, I may just pick up an Xbox Live Gold account once I get back in the racing groove… If you loved FM, are a racing simulator fan, and happen to own an Xbox 360 – it is a crime not to have this in your collection. Go pick it up. NOW. 🙂

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