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Forza Motorsport (Xbox) artwork

Forza Motorsport (Xbox) review

"Those that dismiss Forza Motorsport as just another racing game have entirely missed the point. Granted, the backbone of this title lies in its circuits, keeping your car on course and ahead of the pack around beautiful, picturesque venues in places like Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Tokyo, Japan. And yes, having the fastest, best-handling vehicle is the key to success in this title; you wonít advance very far without taking your fair share of checkered flags and victory laps. Youíre still g..."

Those that dismiss Forza Motorsport as just another racing game have entirely missed the point. Granted, the backbone of this title lies in its circuits, keeping your car on course and ahead of the pack around beautiful, picturesque venues in places like Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Tokyo, Japan. And yes, having the fastest, best-handling vehicle is the key to success in this title; you wonít advance very far without taking your fair share of checkered flags and victory laps. Youíre still going to want to gracefully glide through turns and barrel down straight-aways at speeds that would make any officer of the lawís head spin, and, just like any game in the genre, youíre going to want to prove your driving mettle by downright outracing an opponent through the final turn for a fist-pumping win.

But Forza is not just about racing; itís about car appreciation.

Itís about knowing whether you can just ease off the gas as you guide your 2004 Bentley Continental GT through a sweeper turn or whether you need to tap the brake to zoom through at maximum efficiency. Itís about considering whether itís worth the credits to trick out your 2000 Honda Aerogear Integra Type-R -- professional suspension, racing slicks, a professional supercharger, the works -- or whether the car wonít be able to compete in its upgraded class despite the additions. Itís about not just Mercedes and Ferrari, but all makes and models of cars: Volkswagen, Aston Martin, Saab, Buick, Nissan and virtually every other you could possibly name. Itís about racing roadsters and hatchbacks and American muscle cars, and tuning each to the appropriate settings necessary to ensure your victory every time out.

In short, Forza Motorsport is about knowing the ins-and-outs, the intricacies, the limitations and the power of each and every of the machines in your garage, no matter how many you own (Iím currently up to forty-one, with rides as disparate as a 1993 Jaguar XJ220 and a 1968 Ford Shelby Mustang GT-500KR).

If everything I just said sounds Greek to you, donít worry. You donít need to be a gearhead to ďgetĒ Forza. I went into this title not knowing the difference between a turbocharger and a supercharger, let alone knowing the true definition of a chicane, and it took mere minutes for me to get into this title. Though buying upgrades is often times crucial to having the best car out there, the game tells us exactly how everything we buy will affect the ratings of our car, either improving speed, handling, braking or simply increasing your carís rarity (and the rarer the car, the more moolah youíll collect for each victory). Nothing is kept hidden that only true diehards will know to utilize; Forza doesnít just aim to please the hardcore crowd with its bountiful options, but it aims to teach those unfamiliar with all things automotive, even if they donít realize theyíre getting a lesson. Put simply, you donít need to be a greasemonkey to get the most out of this title.

You donít even need to be adept at driving! By default, a suggested line follows the entire length of each course, letting you know just how you should approach every turn. And as you approach the turn, this normally green line will turn to yellow and then red, alerting you that you had better step on that brake unless you want to go skidding into a wall or tire barrier. Sure, you can look at this option and say it makes a mockery of the sport since no skill is required in learning how to tame the tracks, but remember this is a suggested line; following it to the letter still does not guarantee the fastest lap time, and for true pros, guarantees just the opposite. Think of it more as a tool to familiarize you with the cars and tracks, allowing you to just flat-out race rather than waste time running practice laps so you know when each turn is about to come up.

And the flat-out racing can get heated! Granted, in many cases, you may have a car that will absolutely smoke the field, finishing more than a few seconds ahead of the second place man, but in the cases you donít and have to start in the middle of the field, get ready to swap some paint. Ride right up on an opponentís back bumper in the opening turn and immediately spin him out of your way. Risk losing control of your car by flying through a kink in the road while others break, sideswiping two vehicles in the process. Just one car remains in front now Ů cut him off as he steers through a hairpin turn, and utilize the camera to see behind you so he canít slip ahead as you roar down the straightaway. One final turn approaches Ů finally a chance to breathe a sigh of relief.

Until the man you sideswiped gets right on your tail, nudging you into a spin as he and others fly past to the finish line. Computer controlled drivers are just as unfeeling and desperate as you are, willing to take chances and drive dirty should it be necessary Ė although even they donít come close to the sort of competition youíll find on Forzaís Xbox Live service, which allows you to not only test your skills but buy, showoff and swap vehicles with other users..

But hey, at least youíll have another opportunity to take in the absolutely gorgeous settings of Forza if youíre riding towards the back of the pack! Maple Valley is a charming track with the look and feel of a brisk Autumn day in upstate New York, the leaves of overhanging trees fading to a dandelion yellow as the sun sets on the horizon. The distant, snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains highlight Alpine Ring, a scene so beautiful as you drift past wooden ski lodges it could take your breath away mid-race. Rio de Janeiroís circuit is in the very heart of the city, towering office and apartment buildings blurring along the edges of the course, while you wonít find a structure in sight as you travel at insane speeds around Nurburgring, an absolutely ferocious thirteen mile course in the midst of the European countryside. The selections here are diverse yet all stunning, showcasing the true versatility Forza brings to the driving scene Ė youíll pick favorites, but itís hard to hate any of them.

One final note: Forza makes use of the Xboxís custom soundtrack feature, but unfortunately, whether I selected normal order or random, it always played the tracks in a random order. Being able to blare your favorite artists sure beats the otherwise forgettable music on the disc, but this glitch got on my nerves more than a few times as I played.

Forza Motorsport is not as fast and raucous as titles like Wipeout! and Project Gotham Racing, nor is it as charming and endearing as a Mario Kart: Double Dash! -- but only because it doesnít want to be. Forza is a pure driving simulation at its heart, and not for a second does it forget this fact; with every single turn you have to slam on the brakes through, every time you wildly spin out of control, and every time your vehicle is simply outclassed by the competition youíll be hit with the unforgiving reminder. But persevere and youíll steadily build up a truly awesome, rewarding garage, complete with every type of car imaginable, and with the option to apply colorful paint jobs and custom decals to nearly every one.

Gran Turismo finally has its Xbox equivalent; if that series doesnít get it in gear, donít be surprised if Forza Motorsport gives it a nudge and cruises past, just like its cutthroat drivers would.

drella's avatar
Community review by drella (September 12, 2007)

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