Forza 2: All Wheel Seduction

"Auto racing is boring except when a car is going at least 172 miles per hour upside down." - Dave Barry

IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/forza_tsuside.jpg)

Growing up, my older brother Ryan was good at two things; beating me senseless, and tinkering with cars. I had the greasy indents on my forehead to prove it. When I made the decision in high school to opt out of power mechanics in favor of home economics, I knew I was throwing away my last chance at being a Real Man™ in my brother's eyes. I had doomed myself to being another one of those hopeless losers who were afraid to change their own oil and took ten minutes to figure out how to work the gas pump.

My last ditch effort to veer off this unfortunate path was Polyphony's Gran Turismo on the Playstation. I could pump my own gas, I'd checked my oil once or twice, I was ready to press some buttons and make a car go. After a few hours spent driving into walls and trying to find the magic parts that would save me from destroying more hundred thousand dollar vehicles, I gave up and resigned myself to a quiet life of desperation and leering mechanics. That was until this week, when Forza 2 came along and gently eased me into a world of cams, shocks and turbo charged Volkswagens.

Unlike most sim racing games, Forza 2 doesn't assume I've spent my life learning about differentials and the best tire pressure for taking turns at 70 MPH. Rather than throw you in the deep end, they keep it nice and simple. When you start the game, you're given a choice of which style of car you'd like to pursue as a general rule. American muscle cars? Japanese Tuners? How about some European models? I went the Euro route, mostly because I have a 1995 Volkswagen Jetta GLX in my garage, but also because I think the Aston Martin is adorable.

Right from the start, the default difficulty level has all assists on with racing lines enabled. This means the game will help keep the car on the road despite your over-steering, and gives you a helpful line that changes from green to red to show if you're going to fast for an upcoming turn. It's a great way to settle in, especially since the first cars available in career mode are relatively tame "D Class" vehicles. After spending an hour with all the assists on and generally avoiding walls, I gradually turned off the helpers until I was driving comfortably with just brake lines and ABS enabled. When you turn various helpers off, your available credits for winning races will go up, giving you more options when buying upgrades and new cars. It's a nice carrot to lure a new player into the deeper aspects of racing.

After playing a few games online, I was informed by the guy who was always twelve seconds ahead of everyone else that manual shifting was the way to go. An hour of re-acquainting myself with the walls and thrashing a few transmissions later, I had to agree that the finer control really helped on turns and passing cars.

The other lesson I learned playing online was one I expected, but dreaded more than greasy after-school beatings from my brother. If I was going to compete against the A.I or online, I was going to have to hit the garage and get my hands dirty. This is where every racing game has failed me, the nuts and bolts that make cars tick are completely outside my comfort zone. Some of these parts have teeth. I imagine their gaping maws opening wide the moment I crack the hood of my Volkswagen Corrado, daring me to stick my tasty fingers into their metal workings.

Instead, a helpful rundown was made available for every selection my cursor landed on, letting me know what every part could do for my car at a glance without needing to dive into any sub-menus. Different parts also increased the point value on may car, giving me some idea of where I stood compared to other vehicles in a given race. If I wanted to keep my car in "D Class", which is where new blood like me belongs, I had to make sure I didn't throw a turbo charger in there that would catapult me into the 500's and "C Class". Instead, I could buy a lighter steering column, shocks, exhausts and other smaller items to stay within the threshold. Each part told me how many points my score would increase if I installed them, which meant I could tweak my car to high heaven, but I needed to choose between speed and handling at times if I want to stay in within my class.

At this point in my burgeoning racing career, I've managed to get gold medals in most of the initial rookie tracks with only brake lines and ABS to guide me. I've won some cars, bought a few and upgraded many of them to stay competitive. There are still more depths to explore, with detailed tuning almost completely untouched and "A Class" vehicles quaking on the lot for fear that I may settle into their leather seats and lay my sweaty grip on their wheels. And forget about painting cars, I tried to put an owl on my Corrado's hood and it looked too judgmental for my taste, especially after crumpling it against the rear bumper of a BMW.

For the first time in my life, I think I might actually be able to talk to my brother about cars with more than grunts and timely nods. I drive down the street with a new appreciation for the muscle cars zipping past me in traffic and parking at an angle to keep other drivers from scratching their precious paint jobs. I even feel a twinge of sadness that I may have to settle for a 4 cylinder bucket on wheels when I buy a new car this Fall. It's a manly twinge now at least, and that counts for something.


IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/JustBarely.thumbnail.jpg)
IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/forza2handler-4.thumbnail.jpg) IMAGE(http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/files/images/c2.thumbnail.jpg)
Thanks to the GWJ Racing Crew for the shots!

Comments

Nice write up Shawn. I think I might pick this up now. I would love to build a BMW 325xi like the one I have now but with twin turbo's!

You just described to a T the experience I had with Forza 1, and up until now I had wondered if it was a unique one. Now I'm a bit more confident that the guys at Turn 10 really just know how to make a car sim that works. (And adding in the exquisite steering wheel that Microsoft has put together for the 360 has made my love for the game expand tenfold. Really, pick up the wheel and spend a couple hours adjusting to it and you will never look back at the controller, except perhaps in disdain.)

Also, I'm thrilled to see my photo of my Tsunami Lancer EVO 8 MR up on the main page. I only wish I could claim to have made the design myself -- that credit goes to a talented artist by the name of "chipgau."

Ack! If I'd have known you were going to post pictures of cars with designs I would have sent you a picture of my Loco Roco car.

Wow, looking at these pictures made me want this game. I'm not a fan of racing games (mainly cause I'm not that good at them and I don't own any next gen consoles) but seeing those pictures made some primal urge rise up in me and made me think "hrm... I wonder if I could afford a 360 and this game right now..."

Nice perspective, but I still share the opinion of the quoted Dave Barry.

The only race games I ever liked (and was reasonably good at) were Destruction Derby and Flatout.

You made me want to buy a 360 and Forza. Bastard.

dejanzie wrote:

You made me want to buy a 360 and Forza. Bastard. :-)

I say go for it. As an aside, the Forza 2 demo really did nothing for me, in fact I preferred the DiRT demo. Which is the same situation I believe a few others found themselves in. However, I pulled the trigger with a couple of trade-ins to lessen the financial blow and I am very pleased that I did.

Wow, that is absolutely gorgeous. I suppose I can tack this, along with materials to build a seat rig that folds nicely on my 'to-buy' list. I figure two games with more to come makes a 360 worth it.

Incredibly sweet visuals. But I didn't see guns on any of the cars...

The ease of tweaking is what makes this game look wayy better than Gran Turismo in my eyes. I can still remember playing GT3, not understanding the tuning garage at all, even going to gamefaqs to try to get a better understanding and STILL not getting it.
I'm with those who say that this title is one of the few that sparks an interest in the 360 for me. Still need an HDTV first....

I broke down and bought this one on my way in to work this morning. Even though I told myself I wouldn't since none of my three (yes, 3) racing wheels work on the 360. I swore I'd never play another racing sim with a controller.

The end of the day can't come fast enough.

Great article Certis. My experience with GT was much like yours, except with more laughing from my friends. I find myself actually learning a lot from the little text references they have in the garage. Still, I can't get my S class Shelby Mustang to stay on the ground long enough to turn... maybe I'll give that manual shift thing a shot.

I'm pretty sure that saying things like, "The Aston Martin is adorable!" will elevate you to alpha male status with your brother. Especially if you add a little squeal at the end and clasp your hands under your chin.

I think Forza 2 lives up to the statement:

These cars are completely unremarkable.
They don't have booster rockets.
They won't take a hair pin... at 400mph.
They not indestructible...
...nothing remarkable about that.

They not different than any real car.
Which is what makes them"… so remarkable.

This is one of those games that make it very difficult to work from home because it's too easy to take a break and "just do one race"...

Nice article. Although I have raced about every racing game, I alway's seem to be a blank slate when I start a new one. So reading about how you progressed up reinforces and show's me the way to do it again. I play with taking difficulties on and off and need to just stick with them mostly off. I usually use ABS and Stability, and when I get too confused, go back to automatic *Chuckle*. But this article makes me more inclined to get thru my confusion and stick with manual, for it does make a difference (besides being so much cooler:>) And still a bit unsure how to 'properly' progress thru the different modes: Arcade and Career. I guess one just goes back and forth. Arcade unlocks cars more it seem's, whereas Career gives you the bucks. But I must obviously be doing something wrong, for I really am not making money enough to buy more then one car...my little D Class Mazda Roadster. But you are so right about the ease of upgrading cars with all the help the game offers. It even warns you if you really want to upgrade a car that will put it in another class. Very nice. Can't wait to race some more with GWJ'ers...at least I get to see them all at the start;>) (oh, and here's a hint I got off the forum boards: You really don't need the racing lines. Just watch for the break marks appearing at corners and you'll know when to start feathering your breaks. It may take you a couple attempts to realize how much breaking you'll need on some harder corner's, but it will come to you in short order).

Chumpy_McChump wrote:

I'm pretty sure that saying things like, "The Aston Martin is adorable!" will elevate you to alpha male status with your brother. Especially if you add a little squeal at the end and clasp your hands under your chin. ;)

I was thinking the same thing.

Man, now I want this game.

..well, at least the Kirby car. That's friggin' sweet, and just the thought of me wanting to try a racing game is a miracle in itself. You want to know the only racing games I've ever bought? Mario Karts and Burnout 3.

Vrikk wrote:

Man, now I want this game.

..well, at least the Kirby car. That's friggin' sweet, and just the thought of me wanting to try a racing game is a miracle in itself. You want to know the only racing games I've ever bought? Mario Karts and Burnout 3.

I tell you what, if you buy the game, I will give you my Kirby car (a replica, not my exact car).

Fedaykin98 wrote:
Chumpy_McChump wrote:

I'm pretty sure that saying things like, "The Aston Martin is adorable!" will elevate you to alpha male status with your brother. Especially if you add a little squeal at the end and clasp your hands under your chin. ;)

I was thinking the same thing.

There is no upgrade that adds tassles to your rearviews. But, you can make the car pink.

lunabean wrote:
Vrikk wrote:

Man, now I want this game.

..well, at least the Kirby car. That's friggin' sweet, and just the thought of me wanting to try a racing game is a miracle in itself. You want to know the only racing games I've ever bought? Mario Karts and Burnout 3.

I tell you what, if you buy the game, I will give you my Kirby car (a replica, not my exact car).

SOLD! Now I just need to find an Earthbound car and I'll be in nerd heaven.

Vrikk wrote:

SOLD! Now I just need to find an Earthbound car and I'll be in nerd heaven.

Find? Pssh. Making an Earthbound car shouldn't be too hard.

zeroKFE wrote:
Vrikk wrote:

SOLD! Now I just need to find an Earthbound car and I'll be in nerd heaven.

Find? Pssh. Making an Earthbound car shouldn't be too hard.

Earthbound, eh? Yeah, ok, I'll try to make one.

Just bought this and the wheel
Awesome

And I don't like racing games.

I think I just committed to something that I was not ready for..

Just bought this and the wheel
Awesome

And I don't like racing games.

I'm *this* close to getting the wheel. It's either that, or a new vid card and honestly the decision is extremely difficult. I mean, Parallax has a Radeon 1950 just SITTING there waiting for my monies.

Get the wheel. It will take a little bit of time to adjust to, but it just makes the game feel right. Also, you don't really need a crazy setup. You can use an ottoman or something to keep the pedals from slipping, and the wheel itself sits very comfortably in your lap (although it does come with a clamp that you can use to attach it to a desk or whatever).

Ive been using it in my lap and using both feet so far.

dejanzie wrote:

You made me want to buy a 360 and Forza. Bastard. :-)

Same here. This just may be the first racing game after NFS 2 SE that I'd actually play for more than 3 minutes.

1UP Yours was saying that the wheel did not seem well suited for the game. They also claim that most people they've played with hate the wheel, and that the controller is well suited for this game.