The greatest motorsport experience for the Xbox 360 has finally landed after several months' delay, just in time for the cold days. Forza Motorsport 2 is the sequel to the much acclaimed Forza Motorsport released on the original Xbox. Expectations were huge for the sequel and after a release delay the sceptics grew in their numbers. However, now that it is here, the Forza community can be relieved - this game absolutely blows our minds. Turn 10 have reworked the driving and physics model to improve on the original, sounds have been rerecorded and everything has had an overhaul. By all means the game isn’t actually perfect, but it's such an enthralling experience that the little things that do pop up are far less important.
The Turn 10 developers have managed to pack a colossal 300+ cars into the game, from your run off the mill VW or BMW Mini to high performance Ferraris, Porsches, McLarens, or even your tricked out Nissan Skyline. There is definitely something here for everyone’s tastes. Going into the technical side of things, Forza 2 runs at a solid 60 frames-per-second, with 8 cars on track regardless of the action on screen, with 2x anti-aliasing and high-dynamic range lighting in 720p. What does this mean? Forza 2 is an impressively smooth game. It’s not the most amazing game out there in the graphics department (à la Gears of War), but sacrifices had to be made to have physics like Forza 2. This results in some jagged edges, especially in the course backgrounds.
The sky is definitely one of the uglier skies we have seen, and some tracks also just seem bland. Forza 2 lacks weather effects and races are always during the day. A plus side are the impressive lighting effects and real-time reflections on the body of the car. The draw-distance is also massive with cars being visible at the end of very long straights. The reworked physics are running at 360Hz which means that every undulation in the track or twitch of the car is calculated instantly. With the MS Wireless Racing Wheel these bumps can be felt vividly through the force feedback.
There are 12 different environments in Forza 2, making it one of the sparsest racers in this respect. They are called environments because each has several courses (called “ribbons”) giving Forza 2 over 60 in total, although this gives the feeling of being offered the same lunch in a different lunch-box. This is a small amount, no doubt, but with the likes of Laguna Seca, Sebring and Mugello making an appearance it is forgivable. They are recreated to a level of detail which is unprecedented in today’s racing genre on console. Most impressive is the reincarnation of Nürburgring which is a gruelling course over 20km in length and takes an impressive length of time to get around, but is all the more rewarding once you have negotiated your way through it in Forza 2.
When you boot up Forza 2 you are greeted by a highly polished user interface where everything is easy to find. As soon as you begin a race you’ll notice the cars have a real sense of weight to them and feel as you would expect, which makes it easier for people new to a racing genre to pick up and play. The aim for the developers was to turn car enthusiasts into gamers and gamers into car enthusiasts and it seems to have worked. By making the game accessible, you won’t be banging your head against the wall out of frustration when you don’t know what a slip-differential does (I know I don’t). The game uses a number of assists and difficulty settings to scale the game to whatever difficulty you want. There are racing lines and braking lines (which change colour depending on your speed), traction control, ABS, automatic gears, damage settings, fuel and tyre wear and stability control.
There are also several AI settings to make the game truly competitive for even the racers. The AI “drivatars”, as they are known, are your virtual opponents with whom, believe it or not, you will build rivalries. They are aggressive and fast, and one Italian who goes by the name of M. Rossi is particularily fast and dominates the leader-boards throughout with his aggressive manoeuvres and fiery Italian personality. In general, though, if you race respectfully the AI will be mindful of you and not ram you off the road, although it does happen. By including these settings the game will teach you the art of racing and as you progress and improve throughout your career as a pro racer you can scale back on these depending on your level of confidence.