Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Forza Motorsport 2

Riffling through some papers, CyberKnight finds an old, incomplete post started back in January. He blows the dust off the pages and decides to finish it.…

A friend of mine recently picked up Forza Motorsport 2, which has just been released as a Platinum Hit collection that includes all DLC for the budget price of $20 (and, interestingly enough, the DLC alone, still on Marketplace and still at its original price, totaling 2000 points, or $25, exceeds the retail cost of the game — but you don't need to hear me go through that again, right?); and in an effort to entice me to join him, he designed the car I've dubbed the "CyberKnight Industries Two-Thousand" that he wanted to "gift" to me. So I decided to pick it up.

I've played the Project Gotham series, and although I have an ok time with it, it's not something I spend hours of time with. I'm not exactly a car enthusiast, so really, racing one car isn't much different than racing any other to me. So, I have to say, in all honesty, Forza doesn't "excite" me. It's an enjoyable game, to be sure; just not something that I feel like I can fully appreciate as much as someone who could tell you the difference between a 2007 Porsche and a 2005 Ferrari, and what would happen if you put a Mitsubishi engine in each.

Which leads me to my next point. Project Gotham delivers a very "canned" experience — the cars in the game are the cars you get to race, as-is. However, in Forza, you can customize your car down to ridiculous details. Different engines are available, different drive shafts, injector systems, exhaust pipes, spoilers, suspension systems, tires, rims, parts I never even knew existed. For a race, you can adjust the downforce applied by the spoilers, adjust tire inflation pressures, gear transfer ratios, and so on. You can even paint your car, and although you're given a very basic set of tools and shapes, a competent painter with a lot of time on his hands can make very intricate patterns, designs, and pictures. What's more, cars can be traded, with all their upgrades and tunings and paint designs, in an online auction house.

In a race, too, you can get telemetry data on your car. Overlayed on the screen, you can see different data, such as the real-time friction vectors applied to each tire, the G-force sustained by the car, and other data.

On the leaderboards, you can download replays from other drivers, and during playback you can view the same telemetry data, and (if the driver allowed it) see what precise tuning data they used to drive their car.

The amount of customizability and information available is enough to impress a complete racing n00b such as myself.

Of course, there is still one annoyance that I can't seem to escape when it comes to racing games. If you're running against equivalent AI, you cannot make a single mistake. The next closest car will always be within a second behind you, and the first error you make in a turn (which, invariably, means you will spin out and end up facing backwards) will result in your opponent passing you, and you will never see him again. Forza 2 does have the option to turn down the AI's difficulty, which greatly reduces this frustration, thank goodness. (Even better, by the time I'm writing this, Forza Motorsport 3 has been released, and it includes a new feature — rewind — so when you make that mistake, you can actually "undo" it and not have one error completely destroy 20 laps of perfection.)

The UI is just a little clunky. It seems to take one too many button presses to have to get around to change cars or slip into the auction house to view your auction statuses. Going into a career race, if your current car isn't appropriate for the race but you have cars that are, the game is very helpful in showing you just the narrowed-down list of cars to pick from; however, that only seems to happen if your current car doesn't work. If your current car is fine, but you want to select a better one, you have to go all the way back out of career to your garage to see your full list of cars and find one yourself.

Niggling UI issues aside, I'd have to say the game sure impresses me. Not sure if that says a lot, considering I'm not a huge car or race fan, but there you go.

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