Review by Eddo89

Reviewed: 03/26/08

Not such a force

I’m can hardly ever be accused of being a sympathetic person but there are times I really feel sorry for console owners. They fetch quite a bit of their monthly payday to fork enough money only for developers to turn away from that console, need I go over the list of these sorry consoles? I felt equally sad for Xbox owners when I read the claim that Forza is the most realistic….driving experience on Xbox. That is a sign of a very thin picking. However, if you discard the notion of realism, this is a solid racing game.

Diehard fans of Xbox (or enemies of Playstation2) hail the coming of Forza as if Saint himself came down to earth once more, dubbing it the “GT Killer” (referring to the highly successful Gran Turismo series), this is more like the “duding”. I like people who do their homework; MS Game Studios did really saw what the consistent shortcomings of their bitter rivals were. Basically, they did everything they didn’t do. And by everything, I mean everything.

So here is everything they did Polyphony Digital did not. So, GT have six cars? We add two cars and now we have eight. There is no Ferrari and Porsche? We got them! There is no damage in GT, we have it. An unsophisticated mode that allows the CPU to drive for you, here in Forza, they cut into winnings and have training done by the player, not what track you drive. So therefore, it is better (which it is). There is tons of visual modification here, both visual and physical. There is class system, which meant you never have to guess how good your car is. Sick and tired of starting in the back? If your car is the beast, it starts at the front. The slow car starts at the back, a simulated qualification. Beat that? We also don’t have the thoroughly annoying drivers test, we are making a game for playing, not examination.

Now, sounds like it lives up to the “GT Killer” right. Now read on for the various shortcomings that just eats this game up like rust. A slow erode that have no significant problems but consistent failings.

Graphically, whilst one is stunning one is the polar opposite. Ugly, pathetic I will call it. All right, in terms of graphical innovations, this game far exceeded most racing games of the Xbox console era, especially for a realism-based game. The execution of it is also terrific. While not a total customization in every part of the car exterior can be modified, you can make the car feel totally you. There is huge variation in decals available and different style of aero parts, stickers that is movable to your liking. Normally, such modifications are extremely restrictive, not here. I feel I have freedom but best of all, it doesn’t have any drawbacks such as shockingly slow loading times, slow down during gameplay, and there is none of that nonsense. A splendid job? You bet. Well, a third of the graphics department at least.

Now for the ugly. Now with all the unique things on the car, I actually want admire it. Now I thank god (or the pattern of evolution of my ancestor) because he granted me the power to blink, for if I look away a moment too late, perhaps I would be forever haunted. I admit this was a gross exaggeration. I will also admit, if I never seen the magnificent beauty of Gran Turismo 4, this will not be a totally bad effort but this is the standard. Is hard to actually pinpoint what is wrong with Forza’s cars but the cars certainly do not seem to radiate a sense of beauty, the cutting edge. The detail is missing, I can make out that this is a car of a specific model; I can see all modifications on it but it does not look remotely real.

It could be said of the tracks. They capture the literal surroundings of track well, the track look what they supposed to be. Not overly fancy and realistic, the way it should be. Nothing out of the ordinary goes for both the objects in the track and the graphic power of the game. It just does not capture the imagination. I see the legendary Laguna Seca and the Nurburgring but they seem plain and just do not draw out a feeling of “legend” so visible to the real world. As a simulation game, one of the basic aims is to simulate what is like to drive the car on a track. Sorry, I cannot think of myself to be in any other place other than on my couch, even if I try. I am more likely to check whether I am actual plugged in an Xbox, not a console that died five years ago.

I got real complains about the AI. All good saying they actually acknowledge the presence of the driver but do not mean much when they insist on crashing into you in a pinhead. And what absolutely infuriates more is the fact they just do not give room. I overtook a car in a corner but I am still side-by-side as we exit the corner. In the next corner, I got the inside, he got the outside. But the AI driver insists on turning into me as well as if I was not there. So we are literally side-by-side but because my car still got the better speed I move ahead, which means my back wheel connects to his front wheel. I spin out and he drives on laughing (well not literally, but that is the feeling). Most other games in this situation, the AI will just be forced out but Forza’s aggressive AI does not yield and we have a problem.

Their AI’s lack of braking judgment is also a hair graying experience. They are all right in most corners but when you go to a sharp 90 degree corner after a straight that the cars can reach 250km/h and you are ahead of a car, be afraid, be terrified in fact. Let us just say you got large repair bills for your rear end. This is not a major issue but it is recurring problems in specific tracks for higher end cars in terms of performance. Another major problem is the significant clumping in some specific corners that you would not expect to occur such as relatively high speed S-curves. For the inattentive, this will leave some nasty crashes.

But, bottom line is, the AI is competitive. They lack lateral vision or do not show too much love the front ends of their car much; they do hate your rear end and love to see you in their back mirrors. These guys are not here to hone their skill in the art of following a pre-determined route, they are aggressive. While you are not looking at world class racing driver skills, they are going to veer off to get some space to get past you. However, as with most aspect of this game, I am unhappy with something. This time is the hard difficulty. All right, I accept AI will drive faster but I do not accept this: I am 10 seconds behind the pack because I spun. I made up that margin within two laps. Now I built a healthy 10 seconds lead in the same race. My car is clearly faster, more powerful. My lead stops getting larger. It shrinks despite my lap time still relatively the same. Moderation. Personally, one of the most unaccepted practices in game development. It is for this reason that I do not play the game on such difficulty. If I worked hard for the lead, I want to be cruising to the finish line, not fend my way through because the game deemed the margin is too large. Some will enjoy the challenge but personally fast, aggressive AI is good enough, no need for cheap shots.

Now for the part that really gets the slam. If realism is created by simply forcing you to brake to take a corner then I might as well start making games. The mechanics of the driving mimic real life (note the choice of word); it is realistic in that sense. That is where the failure begins. The cars do not feel different, they feel the same. I don’t mean it where every one has the same handling capabilities but is driving capabilities the only way to differentiate a car in the ‘60s to one made in the ‘90s? From the few classics car I drive, the developers give it the same driving characteristic. Weak in S-curves due to lack of momentum countering, easy to slide. While high-end cars are gripes well, responses well. I sit in this Ferrari and I won’t know if I’m driving a Corvette. RPM, engine characteristics are too similar, braking characteristics, acceleration in different gears, cornering characteristics, it is almost as if each specific group of cars is preset with one these settings. So despite an immense car choice, I can’t say I’m actually very excited about them past the 4th hour of gameplay.

Tracks choices are quite nice. It got you a few nice famous tracks but not anything, that really jumps at you in being new and original. Except the point-to-point race, they are exceptional especially one that goes up (or down) a hill. They are a quite refreshing as these tracks is not quite as mundane as normal racetrack where is generally flat and predictable. Not here, bumpy hill road amazingly slanted high-speed corners, blind S curves, it have the whole lot. Apart from that, I’m not a bit interested. To enjoy a magnificent racetrack like Laguna Seca, it needs to look good and the cars need to drive well. Forza is much better off creating innovative racetracks rather than fail to recreate a legend.

As for the modes of racing, pretty much followed the GT trend of racing games. Earn credits, buy cars. Get upgrades to win. Progresses as you win races and earnings. When earned enough, you get to a new “level” and more races available to you as well as discounts. Then there is the traditional unlock as you win arcade mode, which already have a good selection of cars. It will last for ages, even discounting the endurance races. If you end up enjoying this game, possibly your Xbox’s disc tray won’t move for months.

To sum it up, ugly game. Handling is more than a step off from realism. A.I. will infuriate you but the bottom line. It is a genuine racing game and probably this is what most people will appreciate it. Good but lacks the grace and attention to detail that Forza’s main competitor has.

Gameplay: 7/10
Graphics: 5/10
Sound: 9/10
Game length: 10/10
Final Rating: 7/10

Rating: 7

Product Release: Forza Motorsport (JP, 05/12/05)

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