Review by d0x

Reviewed: 04/30/05

The pinncale of racing games

Forza Motorsport is the pinnacle of Xbox racing games, no…strike that comment from the record and let me start again. Forza Motorsport is the pinnacle of racing games period. This review is going to be full of GT4 comparisons and rightly so, the Gran Turismo series has been the benchmark of racing games for years. I’ve been a huge fan of Gran Turismo since its inception, but I’ve also been waiting for a game to dethrone it and take over as King of Racers, Forza is that game.

Graphics

The graphics in Forza are truly top notch. The tracks are incredibly real to life with almost every detail from the real location, it truly is a wonder. Even when moving at 150+ MPH you can see everything and you’re never left with the feeling that the game world is empty, it’s really something you need to see for yourself.

The car models are richly detailed with just the right amount of shine, they didn’t overuse this technique like they do in a lot of racing games these days. The lines on the cars are identical to their real life counterparts, more so then in any other racing game before, I was very impressed with how life like they look. The first car that struck me with this fact was the Mazda RX-8, I see this car every day of my life as someone I work with owns one and if I didn’t know it was a game I would think I was looking at the real deal. Realtime reflections are handled well too but not quite as good as Project Gotham 2, every detail is reflected but it’s just not as smooth as it could be. The damage modeling is also well done, the cars get pretty banged up if you smash them into walls or other cars, pieces hang off, you leave paint on walls and scratches look nice as well. The only thing I would change is I would make pieces fall off altogether like In Rallisport Challenge 2. To be honest this is a small grip, but a valid one.

The game moves along as a brisk pace and really gives you a sense of speed, I’ve yet to notice any slowdown and I doubt I will, this is a polished engine and a lot of time and care went into it.

The GT4 factor

When compared to the graphics of GT4 you really can’t just look at the surface. Tracks look a lot better in Forza, the GT4 tracks are more colorful but in Forza they are more like their real world counterparts which is what I want, colors are great and fun but I'm looking for real and Forza brings that to the table.

Now for the cars, it’s a tough call. The cars in Gran Turismo are incredibly shiny, so much so they don’t fit into their environment, sure they look good but the don’t really look real when your racing with them. The cars in Forza are slightly more detailed but it’s the lighting/reflection engine that gives them the overall edge here. GT4 looks damn good, honestly it looks amazing but Forza edges it out because of its overall more realistic look.

Sound

The sound in Forza is great, all the music is original so it doesn’t contain any vocals, I’m glad they didn’t go the licensed track route here because most of the time I end up liking only two songs and they all get repetitive really quick. The original songs are good, they never get in the way of the game and they go along with the action on screen very nicely. The best part if custom soundtracks, this way you can pick what real music you want and when it starts to wear on you, you can replace it with something else.

The engine noises are good here too, the best I’ve heard in a racing game. Almost every car has its own sound, and when you upgrade you can here the difference from the engine itself to the whine of a turbo and blow off valves, its great and I couldn’t really ask for anything more. Other then that you have you standard tire squealing fare and the crunch of metal on metal, all very well done.

The GT4 factor

Forza wins here hands down without any question, not only is the music better, but with custom soundtracks the options are limitless. The engines sounds are more lifelike here as well with the sounds changing when you upgrade parts, this doesn’t happen in GT4. The Dolby mix in Forza gives it another edge.

Control

I don’t need to say anything other then impressive, but I don’t want you to feel cheated so here we go. Forza controls like an absolute dream. The cars handle exactly as they do in real life, once again I’m comparing the game to the RX-8, I could barely notice a difference in response and cornering from the real car and the game car, and it’s just that good. The physics model in this game is top notch which leads to the best of the best controls. When playing with the new force feedback wheel it gets even better. It's as real as a video game has ever been and probably will be until Forza 2 hits Xbox 2.

For those who have always been afraid of Sims there is race line indicators which will help you learn how to properly use your car. It shows where you should drive, when you should let off the gas and break, and when to hit the gas again, it’s good to use when you’re learning a track and can be shut off when you’re comfortable with your skills.

The GT4 factor

Once again Forza takes the crown, with its incredible physics system there is no question which game controls better and with more realism. Polyphony needs to go back to the drawing board, their simple updates will no longer suffice.

Gameplay

Forza starts off simple enough, you buy your car based on which region you choose and you start racing. You can do point to point races not unlike those found in NFSU or you can do lap based races like in Gran Turismo on a variety of tracks, some are small with few laps and some are of the endurance variety which can take a lot of time to complete, in this case when you pit if of great importance. A good feature for the endurance races is the Drivatar. Drivatar is basicly your AI counterpart. You train it in multiple races and it will drive for you when you just want to watch or cant handle such a long race. Its incredibly accurate and you will swear you were playing. Every mistake you might make will be made by the Drivatar, this is an innovative feature that will be copied by many racing games for years to come.

Each win earns you money, how much you win depends on what difficulty options you have set, and how much damage you take during a race. If you take a lot of damage not only will you car look and perform badly but your going to lose a chunk of your winnings to repair it.

After each race you’re presented with a menu that will let you move back to the main menu or watch your replay complete with full telemetry data that will show you every stat you could ever dream of in real-time. You can learn how much pressure was on each tire during a corner or acceleration and breaking, you can see how far you turned the wheel or pressed the gas, how much body roll you have, I could go on but trust me when I say every stat you could ever want is here and waiting to be seen. Learning all the aspects of your telemetry data will help you drive better and win more races.

The credits you win from each race can be used to buy performance or aerodynamic parts for your car. Every time you upgrade the car you will notice a difference in performance or handling. Aerodynamic parts are things like new bumpers, side skirts, spoilers, hoods etc. Not only do these allow you to make your car look unique and very cool, they also effect how your car performs. You could buy a spoiler for more grip on the road but the tradeoff is less speed because of more drag on your car. On top of that almost every part you buy can be tweaked which allows you to customize your car to your needs, no two cars in Forza will ever be exactly the same.

Further adding to the customization of cars is the paint/decal system. Paint is free and there are many colors to choose from, but the real fun comes from the decals. There are no pre-fabs here, you’re given the tools to make your very own decals based on some set options. You have 100 layers per section of the car and the car is divided into a few sections. From here you pick your vinyl pieces and start creating, since you’re not limited to a couple pieces per section you can make something truly special that will stand out and be nothing like any other car you ever see. More choices in the vinyl selection would be nice but there is always download content to give us what we crave.

The racing itself is amazing, and is exactly what I’ve been looking for. The AI is dynamic, it knows where you are on the track and will adjust accordingly to pass you or another NPC. They also make mistakes all on their own, you will see them crash and often times it will be a multi car pileup that you need to avoid to gain those precious seconds. Another great aspect is how the physics come into play. You wont bounce off walls or other cars, hit a wall and pay the price, not only will you lose precious seconds but your car will be damaged, hit the wall too hard and your going to break something that further affects performance. The best part is car to car collisions. No more bouncy physics, if you hit someone the cars will perform as they would in real life. Want to spin someone out? No problem. Want to grind someone into a wall? No problem. If it can be done on a real track it can and will be done here the same way, not only does this add another layer of realism but it’s just damn fun.

The GT4 Factor

Forza once again takes the crown, the car customization would have been enough but with Forza’s superior AI and the non bounce physics system the game just feels a lot better. The career system is similar to GT4 but you don’t feel like your stuck with a crappy car, and you win more cars faster here too. Polyphony needs to do a lot of work in this dept to catch up, they have been using the same physics since Gran Turismo 2 and it shows. Forza walks all over GT4 here and it does it with some big boots. Did I mention damage that affects not only look but also performance?

Overall

This is the racing game to own, whether you’re a fan of Sims or not you really need to pick this one up because it offers something for everyone. NFSU fans will love the custom cars and GT4 fans will love how much more there is to tweak as well as the far superior AI and physics. If you’re afraid of Sims because they are too hard that’s easy to fix with the highly customizable difficulty and damage settings.

Microsoft did the impossible, not only did they put out a superior game on their first spin around the track they did it in a big way that will force every other racer hoping to compete to evolve in more ways then one. Every aspect of Forza is done well and I really can’t find much to complain about.

You will notice I left Xbox Live out of the main review, and I did so for a reason. Ill touch lightly on it now and update the review later as need.

Forza integrates Xbox Live in a way no other game before has, the offline experience is effected but XBL in ways of a scoreboard that will cause many players to want to improve their performance’s but its done in a way that doesn’t hinder game play or speed of menu switching. The online racing is a dream, perfectly smooth and deeply fun. It’s the racing game we have always wanted and the total package can only get better via downloads. Buy this game NOW!

Graphics 9/10
Sound 9/10
Control 10/10
Gameplay 10/10

Overall (not an average) 10/10

Rating: 10

Would you recommend this Review? Yes No

Got Your Own Opinion?

Submit a review and let your voice be heard.