• How’s this to for a good start to a review… “I don’t tend to play simulation based racing games”… “I am generally rubbish at playing them” and… “I usually run in the opposite direction when one is released”… Keep that thought in mind and then smile somewhat using your imagination at a picture of my face when I was asked very, very nicely if I would review Forza Motorsport 2… can, you picture my expression of terror? That said I bit the bullet and I did agree to do the review with the feeling that at least I would be totally honest and tell you what I liked and stay honest with what drove me nuts (no pun intended).

    The Xbox platform has had its fair share of racers from the likes of the arcade based titles; Burnout, Ridge Racer through to the simulation based racers including the likes of the original Forza Motorsport, Project Gotham Racing and Toca to name a few. Racing games also tend to follow the trend of the sports games in that a newer release is only a year away and Forza is of no exception to this. The original platform had Forza with the Xbox 360 next generation platform receiving Forza Motorsport 2… so the question now begs in that; is FM2 simply a bit more of Forza with HD graphics, or is it a totally new game set to rock your driving world? And for my own benefit can FM2 convert me into a racing game fan?

    In the original Forza title you had around 230 cars to choose from which in itself is pretty mind blowing, but FM2 expands on the deal and gives you over 300 cars to tinker with, from 50 different car manufactures. This fact alone should interest and satisfy any car tech head. FM2 also has 13 racetracks with 65 track configurations meaning many of the tracks can be raced through in different ways. On top of that you then have abundance of game modes to play through including an arcade mode, career mode that would probably take you near to 40 hours to complete and also includes full split screen, system link and Xbox LIVE multiplayer support to boot. Finally, and… I will of course expand on this little note later, but to close out on this fact piece, this game carries the Forza brand and therefore does indeed carry on the tradition of allowing you to fully upgrade, tune and paint your car to the limits of your imagination/artistic ability.

    Forza Motorsport 2

    Career Mode is without doubt the meaty portion of the game and when you take your first steps into FM2 you will be asked to pick a skill level based on how good a driver you think you are ranging from a novice setting (that would be me then Ed) through to professional. That done you then need to choose from three regions to be affiliated with, making your choice between: North America, Europe or Asia. Choosing Europe of course does not mean you won’t get to mess around with Asian or North American cars… you will… your choice is only forming the relationship with your chosen destination based on your preferred region for cars and it starts your discount process that is worked into the game for buying parts and new cars later on. You will still be able to buy any car you like, but if Europe was your choice then cars there are going to be cheaper for you. Once you have decided on a region then you will be presented with a list of cars in order for you to buy your first racing beast… albeit right now it’s not really a beast and more like a factory spec… factory standard machine on wheels.

    Skill setting “check”, region “check”… car… “check”. These choices made of course means it’s now time to warm your tyres up on the track or if you are so inclined dive right into painting your car (more on that later). In FM2 you start your career with only one race type open to you, that being ‘Proving Grounds’ and you also start your career as a level one driver. Win races and you will increase that level as well as your bank account, and in turn eventually open up other race types including the likes of: Manufacturers Club, Amateur Club, Face Off, Semi Pro, Factory Spec to name a few. Each of these types also include a large number of races usually based over a certain type of car and based over three individual races per block set that can give you a gold medal for that set… hit all gold’s in the separate block sets in that type and you will in turn also unlock achievements for completing each type. Now while this may sound confusing – it’s not and would make more sense to you with the game in front of you and in action. My point here is there is a HUGE amount of races to complete in FM2 and thus my reasoning for probably taking close to 40 hours to complete your entire career.

    When you complete the separate race block sets and race types you will be rewarded with cash based on your difficulty setting, novice giving you the bear bones with harder settings rewarding you with more pocket money. You will also receive free cars throughout your career from complete donkeys through to hardcore racing machines… this is a neat touch and at least helps you out in the initial stages with not being able to buy an endless stream of cars. Finally, winning will also increase your driver level, which again will in turn unlock achievements as you progress through your career.

    Of course there is no point in accruing cash if you can’t do anything with it and in FM2 you can use it to purchase new cars externally and internally outside your region/within your region and you can also upgrade your cars with new parts. Wrench monkeys will love this piece to FM2 as the part list is pretty extreme with choice and the tuning options also seem to have covered every single possible aspect you would want. Now if you don’t want to mess with the tuning set up on your car, then by just installing upgrades the game will do the work for you leaving you free to whack on a new turbo, install new brake disks, new suspension, anti roll bars… without the worry of then configuring said new part.

    The second portion to the customisation comes in the form of being able to paint your car and apply vinyl designs through to manufacturer logos. This is where the artistic gamers will show their talent. This method of customisation existed in the original version of Forza but FM2 has gone mental with improving on its original sibling now offering the ability to lay shapes on top of each other to your hearts content, only stopping you with a mere sum maximum of 4,100 layers in total on one car (yes I was gob-smacked too Ed). This is a phenomenal figure and will certainly allow for maximum creativity, and there are some superb designs floating around already on the internet given that gamers in Japan and North America have had the game for a while now. The colour pallet for painting your car is also very extensive offering a tonne of shades against each colour and the ability to choose between normal and metallic paint. Once you have done with your creation you then have the ability to take a picture of your car from any angle of your choosing and when you save the photo you will be asked if you would like this uploaded to the Forza website. This again is very neat and if you access http://forzamotorsport.net you can sign into this site the same way you would on Xbox.com with your .net passport details and view your photos ready to present, show off and gloat to your friends and check out your racing stats at the same time… neat? Yes indeed!!! I have spent a lot of time here and well I am pretty darn proud of my Pac-Man Clio Sport.

    In terms of gameplay FM2 performs very well. You have 4 view choices to suit your driving style, with 2 external views and 2 internal views but a dashboard view is not present and I know this has already caused some miserable faces for driving game fans. My preference has always been on an external view, as I like to see the entire car so I can gauge what is happening… I made my point on my lack of driving game skills so for me it is essential that I can see I am pushing the car too hard into a corner to save my embarrassment. For beginners FM2 also has the ability to have a driving line present so you can start to understand where you need to be at certain points on the track and this line will move from green through to amber and red status telling you to either slow down or with red that you need to brake… this again has become essential for me and is at least allowing me to win every race I have taken part in. The cars in FM2 also behave as you would expect and certainly don’t feel like they are sliding across ice some-what like Toca did and apart from most engine blocks sounding the same do come across as the real deal.

    Looks wise FM2 is certainly all about the cars and they look absolutely superb, your race tracks in the game also look very neatly done and the only let down is that the background pieces all look a bit fuzzy, but… as your concentration should be on the road only leaves me to shrug my shoulders and mention the game looks great with the feast for the eyes certainly centred on the cars themselves. FM2 also has fairly accurate damage modelling and if you constantly smash your car into other cars or objects then pieces will fly off and if you have tweaked your difficulty to simulate damage accurately you could also be left with a car that becomes undriveable. This is a nice touch and one that should be implemented across all racing games. Audio presentation ticks the boxes and FM2 comes complete with a set of funky driving tracks including tracks from artists like: The Crystal Method, Chemical Brothers and then strange tracks from the likes of Natasha Bedingfield… that said this is music to bop to and nice to have in the background as you rip round a race track. Engine sounds as previously mentioned are very neatly done albeit slightly samey after a while, but brakes screeching as you go into a slide and collision noises are very well done. All in all this game not only looks the business but it sounds it too.

    Once you have torn yourself away from the career mode then you also have a fully, fledged arcade mode to play through with set races and also a time-trial mode to really test your skills beating a set track time with a car you are made to drive. And if all that was not enough then as mentioned in my opening pieces FM2 supports split screen, system link and Xbox LIVE multiplayer support for the gamer too.

    Xbox LIVE Multiplayer support is where the majority of players will get their FM2 jollies. Multiplayer includes the usual flavour including Ranked Matches allowing options to be tweaked left, right and centre but LIVE also offers online career matches which allow you to take cash from winning events just like you can by playing offline. Microsoft is also hosting weekly FM2 tournaments based over various car classes and even numpty drivers like me can try and have a go – “ahem yeah right”. Microsoft’s mission statement for the ‘community spirit’ is there in FM2 and you can choose to auction your cars online seeing if a bidder will pay your price and buy cars yourself via the auctions. You also have the option to lock down your artistic talents and make sure your design stays with your car when sold. Finally sticking with the community spirit you can also choose to gift a car to another player… so if you are feeling generous FM2 allows you to be that kind, hearted person too.

    Closing out FM2 has actually surprised me and I had found myself actually wanting to play the game – which has to be said is a bloody miracle for a racing game to do that to me. This game caters for the driving game fans but it also caters for the wanabe fans like myself. There is a huge amount of content to chew through and a very reasonable amount of achievements to aim for too. I have a large portion of races under my belt across the race types but realise I have a ways to go if I am to start grabbing the achievements in this game… yet I actually feel like I can attain them, and fully intend to keep playing this game. I have certainly had a lot of fun painting and tweaking my cars but equally I have also enjoyed ripping my car around a track and managing to win every race. There is not an awful lot wrong with the game, and apart from the jaggy background pieces this is a racing game and it does exactly what it says on the tin. This is a job well done and a title you would be proud to own.

    Score: 9/10

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