It’s traditional for the uninformed PC player to assume that the platform with the largest concentration of complex games is, of course, the platform he’s so familiar with. This assumption is partially correct; still, for some reason most people refuse to acknowledge that this is starting to change. We won’t see a Baldur’s Gate type game on the consoles any time soon, but in all fairness we won’t see it on the PC for a while yet, given the trend of the market in the last few years.
The point is that modern consoles are capable of supporting more than just a beat-em-up type game, and the audiences, together with the developers are starting to realize it. One of the titles supporting this idea is Forza Motorsport 2. The game has made its debut on the original Xbox, where, although the power of the respective console wasn’t exactly impressive, the degree of realism present in the game was quite high. Forza 2 doesn’t offer anything totally new and revolutionary compared with the original, choosing instead the less risky way of improving through details. Forza 2 is realistic enough that it can easily be compared with the GTR series. The only driving sim I’ve played in the recent years which offered a more “real life” experience was the incredible Richard Burns Rally.
Still, regardless of realism, a large number of driving assists are present. Rewards are offered if none of them are used: for example, if everyone is set to “off”, and the AI difficulty is set to “hard”, each race’s earnings will increase by 50%. Each of these helpers is worth a certain amount of money in the grand total of the race, depending of their importance to the car’s handling physics. Thus, a hardcore experience can be obtained, with everything set to off, or a more “diluted” style is also achievable, while the way the car handles is still heavily anchored in “real life car standards”.
The core of the game revolves around these driving assists, either in Career mode, or Multiplayer mode. There’s also the customization and upgrade segment of the game, which offers incredible variety, and doesn’t take into account what happens to the car if the player exaggerates with the components. A bit like the MechWarrior games of old, where my robot blew up after the first salvo of heavy lasers was shot, due to the reactor overheating. Here, you can use the “frame” of a normal car, pump it up to 850Bhp and observe it’s almost impossible to control, regardless of the amount of tuning you put into it. A Golf is still a Golf.
Activating a number of driving assists does help in these situations (like traction control). The insane amount of power is kept in check somewhat, but on the long run a balanced car, with a proper “power –handling” ratio is likely to win more races than a hydrogen bomb fueled one. There are certain exceptions to this rule; for example, one of the best cars in the game is the Mitsubishi Evo 8 Sparco, which is receive as a reward, it’s already tuned, and you can’t do anything to modify it further. This car is so powerful it’s almost funny, especially online, where the second people see the Evo they start bitching over the headsets, and with good reason. The variety between car models (already tuned or not) is extreme, which makes a huge difference as far as gameplay is concerned.
The single-player Career mode consists in predefined sets of competitions with a certain “twist”. There are classical races, where the amount of power the engine generates is restricted, there are races where it’s forbidden to race anything but “vanilla” untouched cars, endurance racing, where you need to go around in circles for 1 hour and 30 minutes, with refueling after 50 laps or so, and the required strategies needed for such a maneuver, and so on. The player’s level increases as the number of races increase, to a maximum of 50. Certain bonuses are received when leveling up, like discounts to car parts, or even cars, specially tuned cars can be won, and overall, it allows you to participate in more advanced races, as each one has a level requirement. Your level determines your progress through the game, not the car. It’s not uncommon to already own a Ferrari F430 or 612 Scaglieti after only 5 or 6 hours of gameplay, for example, but that’s not saying you have already reached the top of the ladder. It’s quite possible that 3 races later you’ll need an “ancient” Porsche 944 for a retro race, or a Toyota Supra for a Japanese styled race, and so on.
There are a huge number of cars available: over 300, varying from the old Ford Focus, the new Ford Focus, any conceivable Ferrari or Lamborghini model, every possible Japanese car, classic 60’s American muscle cars, or custom made insane cars for endurance races. Each of these cars handles differently, which is quite remarkable when you start counting the actual number of cars present. The huge number of options does have a disadvantage though: there is no proper in-car view. There’s just a “bumper view” camera, and that’s pretty much it.