Greetings, greetings, one and all: it's time for yet another official Destructoid review. Today's game of choice is the new 360 racer Forza Motorsport 2, which looks to marry realistic racing gameplay with some truly insane car customization options.
Worth buying? Renting? Ignoring altogether? Dtoid editors Nex and Hushgush have the straight scoop after the jump.
Insert your own overused variation of the "start your engines" cliche here.
Earnest "Nex" Cavalli:
When I was approached to write a review of Forza Motorsport 2, my initial reaction was to puff out my neck frill and spray poison into the eyes of my assailant. After I realized that I was not a Dilophosaurus, and that Mr. Linde wasn't after my clutch of eggs, however, I sunk into a deep depression; I know almost nothing about cars, and everything I do know about them I garnered from back issues of Heavy Metal in which the vehicles were mostly backdrops for the naked, vampire, serpent chicks. Thankfully, unlike that similar Sony title, Forza does an excellent job of walking you through the learning curve. It's not that the game isn't incredibly detailed (it is), but the initial experience with the game is just so smooth, even for people who would never consider a piece of metal with an engine to be a suitable representation for their reproductive apparatus.
As I said, the game is superficially complex. You have over 300 cars, 40+ tracks, and thanks to the robust customization system, enough ride pimpin' options to choke Xzibit. Add to that the ability to tune almost every aspect of the handling, ride and acceleration within these vehicles and the game is suddenly porn for the oil pan set.
One of the main draws of the game is the ludicrously comprehensive customization options. As per usual, you can buy upgrades for the engine, fancy tires or completely unnecessary spoilers, but, in addition to the standard accoutrements, you can also spend hours engrossed in the game's paint system. One note, though, when I say "hours", I literally mean "hours". It can take forever to get the paint scheme just right if you're doing anything more complex than painting the whole thing black, but with enough patience, your car can alert the entire world to your unhealthy fixation with Tuxedo Mask.
Once you've affixed enough Olde English lettering to your whip to misspell 'Cabron', you can toss it on the online auction house system and pray that someone, somewhere, shares your same Andy-Warhol-meets-Diego-Rivera design aesthetic, and forks out the wad of cash to make you the wealthiest 'Kabron' in the whole cul-de-sac.
The graphics are lovely. The cars realistically reflect the road, background scenery and anything else that doesn't happen to be a dracula. I wouldn't go so far as to say that they represent the newest plateau in video game rendering technology, but I would not hesitate to compare them to a woman whom I would have no qualms about sleeping with repeatedly. Admittedly, I'm saving my heart for something prettier, but sometimes you want someone to be there when you wake up crying in the darkness!
I also must point out that the damage modelling, while an effective deterrent to driving like Ray Charles, doesn't accurately depict the visual component of slamming a car into a wall at 120MPH. Whereas in reality your lifeless body would be sliced in twain by the seatbelt and your bloody torso would be launched from the driver's seat into the wall beyond, in Forza your hood dents a bit, and your car suddenly doesn't run as well as it used to. Perhaps I'm just being petulant, but when I try to kill myself in the virtual world, I want to see horrific decapitations and bowel evacuations, not just monetary and ambulatory penalties.
The only thing this game seems to have completely missed the mark on is the inclusion of inclement weather. The backgrounds are pretty, as I said before, but you will never encounter puddles, snowfall or families of ducks crossing the road en route to a nearby pond. It's been said that the only way to maintain the almost-constant 60 frames per second during the races was to remove the inclement weather, and, personally, I'm happier they kept the ultra-smooth graphics sans snowmen.
Forza is not the end-all, be-all of the racing genre, but it does best the previous iterations in the Gran Turismo saga. While I'm sure this will lead to an escalated arms race between Sony and Microsoft, the release of Forza proves definitively that Microsoft can stand toe-to-toe with Hirohito's boys. If you have any interest whatsoever in horseless carriages (which I originally typed as "whoreless carriages"), you'll dig Forza. If not, buy Earth Defense Force 2017. Verdict: Buy It!
Topher "Hushgush" Cantler:
I'm going to start by reminding everyone that Forza 2 is a racing simulator and not an arcade-style driving game. This title has been getting a lot of shit for its lack of a nitrous button or a magic lightning bolt or some other means of sneaking your way to the podium if you suck. There are no secret shortcuts. There are no extra-wide courses to forgive sloppy driving. No rocket launchers. Ignroring the brake button may have won you the gold cup at Rainbow Road, but guess what kids? Real race cars have awesome brakes and they use them. Power minus control equals failure, and standing on the A button all day isn't going to get you anywhere in Forza 2. I love a good arcade racer once in a while, but this isn't that kind of game. The sooner you understand that, the sooner you can begin to appreciate and enjoy it.
One thing that sets this title apart from its competitors is just how accessible it is in terms of racing sims. Forza features a dynamic red line to show you when and where you should be braking in order to follow the fastest path around every course, and if you really don't know what you're doing, you can also turn on an additional green one to represent the suggested line for acceleration. If you haven't spent a lot of time with this kind of game, the red lines will show you how it's done; or if you're like me and it's been a couple of years since you played a good racing simulator, leaving it on for the first few events will get you right back into your groove pretty quickly. Indeed, run a few races with this guide in place and Forza can even teach you to be a better driver.
There are plenty of reasons to praise this game. Its driving physics are as solid as anything I've ever played, and the vehicle damage system is quick to punish you for your mistakes. Opponent AI is very decent for the most part, and at times even seems to be racing dirty. The sense of speed is pretty nice if you play long enough to unlock the full-size tracks and higher class vehicles, the cars look gorgeous, and the paint editor is so fun and extensive it's almost like having a whole other game to play in itself. If you look at Forza 2 for what it is, I'd almost venture to say it's the best racing sim on the shelf at the moment. It hasn't left my 360 since the day I put it in the disc tray, and it gets better and better the more I play it. However, as magnificent as it may seem, the game is by no means perfect.
Some have pointed out that the environments are dull and boring, and I'm going to have to lean their way on that. Considering the rampant abuse of lighting and particle effects in most 360 games, I should be seeing some more sunshine. More dust. If I get pushed off the course onto the infield, goddammit, the grass should be torn up in my wake. Why am I hearing the same canned applause sound clip every time I pass a group of spectators? I don't know if I'd go so far as to call it "last-gen," but these are certainly details that should not have been so terribly overlooked.
That doesn't mean that Forza 2 isn't an incredibly great game -- in fact, it triumphs in all the places that matter most. My point is that there's no valid reason for these things not to be more polished than they are, especially when the release date has been pushed back repeatedly. It's another case of developers cutting corners on stuff they think no one will notice and I'd just like to say for the record: We see what you did there. (Insert lolcat.) Try a little harder before you release Forza 3 and maybe you'll get a higher score. Overall, If you're willing to take on the competition without dragging turtle shells and banana peels into the mix, (also without in-race music, though I would argue that the exhaust note of a 2004 Impreza right around 2600 RPM is music enough for me,) you'd be hard pressed to find a better racing sim right now.
Verdict: Buy it!
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