Reviewed by Cameron Bourne
June 7th 2005

Introduction:The Gran Turismo series has been a staple in the racing genre for years, leading the way in intensely realistic racing and graphics. Now Microsoft is trying to answer back with a sim-racer all of its own. The question every Xbox owner is asking though is can it really beat the king?

The Game:Forza is a full on realistic racer. It's the type of game that will make you want to feel what it's like to actually race at the high speeds the game lets you reach, a game that will make you want to spend all the money you have saved up on engine tuning or a turbo charger. Game developers are always talking about immersion in their games and Forza definitely accomplishes that, and so much more.

When you first start off in the game it will give you a choice between a few start up cars such as Acura Integra's or Honda Civics, from here you will soon jump up to Porsches, Ferraris, then even to F1 racers. The amount of variety in Forza is just astounding, over 230 cars, a career mode that will take you probably 30 or so hours to complete, and tons of customization for both the outside of the car and more importantly the inside. When I first saw my Acura RSX as just a plain car that I could find on the street I didn't think it would be able to stack up to the competition at all. After my first race I saw that I was wrong, I was really just racing against other cars of the same category, some Civics and other low-speed cars like that.

My first race was a real battle, fighting on every corner to stay ahead but I did and I won the race, and won some money. Then it was just to decide what to do with that money, I of course dumped it into some engine work and watched as the speed of my car jumped considerably after only a few modifications. The next race was a totally different story; I was in the lead of the race the whole time and won by about 5 seconds as apposed to just under 1. More money, more upgrades, more speed, I won the 3 rd and final race on the circuit easily and with it I won a new car. With that new car I could then race in even more races, win more money, more cars, and get more races. A vicious cycle that will keep you sucked in for a long time. As you hit new levels you unlock new races, new buyable and free cars, and more challenging classes. So after racing in amateur, you will open up professional and a whole new difficulty and even more challenge and addiction. It's great to unlock and experience new tracks to race your cars on because the tracks are expertly designed off of real life tracks and have a great feel.

So the cars and the tracks are totally realistic but how is the racing itself? Well to put it into one work; perfection. This is the best sim racing game I've ever played. The driving and game physics are totally realistic and unbelievably fun. Each corner feels like a corner should; a challenge. You'll have to slow down hard for each turn and make sure that you nail it or you will end up bouncing off the walls and in last place. The speeds are fast, but only what you would expect from the real cars if fully upgraded, and although the game only runs at 30 frames per second it feels just as fast as any other game that you will play. That is after all the goal of a racing game; to give you a true sense of speed and Forza accomplishes that with style.

Thankfully the controls of the game hold up quite nicely, your fingertips and triggers actually do begin to feel like a foot and a pedal, and even the smallest press of the trigger can make all the difference. Another realistic aspect to the game is damage, seems like a no brainer, but many of these games don't even include physical damage to the vehicles, let alone to the same effect that Forza has it. When your car is damaged you will feel the effect, maybe your handling will be off or your speed reduced. Thankfully the game will give you a little map of your car showing the damage so you can decide whether or not it is a good idea to take a risky corner or go easy around it. To back up all of this realism is an AI that will push you to the limits. They are smart, but can make mistakes, and they are a real challenge at many points of the game. Without good competition what good would a racing game be?

Speaking of competition if you really want to show off how good you are you can go into the very competitive world of Xbox Live. Whether you want to race online or just compare scores with other racers thanks to a fully fleshed out stat tracking, Xbox Live will help give you even more playability in an already large game. You're able to choose the race types from single player such as point-to-point races or normal circuit races to race on, and they are just as fun as expected with tight races and heart pounding moments. However the most interesting part of Forza's online mode is the online career. That's right you will be able to race a career mode online against other racers of the same skill level, based off of their stats. So whether you want to take one of your very own cars onto the tracks of online or try to get farther into your career Forza's online component will have what you're looking for.

Graphics & Sound:Forza is a beautiful looking game. It's plain and simple, the game looks stunning, the tacks are masterfully recreated and have a true authentic look, and the cars are as detailed and realistic as ever. It's great to see your very own customized car looking just so great, because you did do a ton of work to it after all. So both the cars and tracks look as good as you would expect but the environments in the game are probably the best part. From races where you will have mountains in the background and browning trees, to where city lights are glowing down off of your vehicle, Forza's graphics can only be considered beautiful. The only problem you may have with Forza's graphics are the boring lifeless crowds, but then again what racing game does have good crowd effects?

The sound on the other hand is both awesome and average. The sound of the races is absolutely incredible, the cars themselves sound realistic and powerful, and when you're going around a corner too hot you're going to hear it. For Forza you may want to have the sound turned way up to hear the awesome sound of the cars and to get the real feel of racing, well as long as you have the soundtrack turned off. It's pretty much just boring all instrument remakes of older songs, and it most likely won't do anything for you. This is however an Xbox game remember so feel free to plug your own C.D. in the game and you will never have to worry about the soundtrack again.

Innovation:Although Forza is obviously inspired by Gran Turismo it is also able to innovate on it and outdo it. Multiplayer for one thing is something that every racing game should include because it is just so fun, and with Forza you get the most fleshed out multiplayer for a racing game ever with the online career and normal modes. The drivatar is probably the most innovative feature of Forza though. The drivatar is pretty much a trainer, it copies the way you drive to a great extent. First off you train your drivatar by driving a couple of training tracks so that the drivatar can see and copy how you drive and then you are able to put the drivatar into the races in place of you so that you can see how you take each corner and maybe improve on it the next time you race the track.

Mojo:If you love cars Forza's mojo is going to be off the wall for you. Tons of cars and tons of customization will make any car enthusiast feel completely satisfied. For those of you who are more interested in the driving itself Forza clearly delivers mojo here to, and will give you an awesome, intense and realistic recreation of how real competitive driving feels, with a nice touch of video game put into the mix. It's also really, really fast and that is a bonus in any game.

Lowdown:Forza is the type of driving game that will suck you in no matter who you are and it won't let go for a long, long time. A fully fleshed out multiplayer, realistic and fun driving, tons of variety, and an interesting drivatar feature Forza has everything you could have asked for in a racing game and is bound to please anyone who was looking forward to it, or anyone who likes driving games at all.

Gameplay: 10, Graphics/Sound: 9, Innovation: 8, Mojo: 10. Final: 9.5

  • Make every car yours. Collect more than 200 models from over 40 top manufacturers such as Mazda, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Chevrolet, Ferrari, Porsche, Tommy Kiara and Mine's. Trick out sports compacts with real-world body kits, rims, spoilers, decals, side skirts, fender flares and hood scoops, or add motorsport decals and team paint schemes to supercars, GT racers and exotics. Transform production cars into racetrack monsters.
  • Tune it up. Take your car to the garage and install alternative engines, suspension kits, bolt-on superchargers, brakes, rims, racing slicks and more. Fine-tune gear ratios, fuel-mapping, forced induction pressure, tire temperature and pressure, and ignition timing for the ultimate setup.
  • Experience the most technically advanced driving simulation on Xbox. Top automotive engineers teamed with experienced programmers to create an advanced physics engine for Forza Motorsport that simulates authentic car performance. Cars incur damage and wear, which affects performance. Advanced tire and suspension models respond to heat and pressure changes as well as weight transfer and aerodynamic load.
  • Take online racing to the next level. From intense multiplayer, wheel-to-wheel racing with up to eight gamers simultaneously to challenging individual bests and beyond, "Forza Motorsport" gameplay on Xbox Live will deliver innovations that reinvent the online racing experience.
  • Learn and earn with "career mode." The debut of an online and offline "career mode" features traditional competition with artificial intelligence (AI) to accumulate career earnings as well as the ability to earn money to "tune up" your ride by competing with human opponents over Xbox Live.
  • Build online car clubs and communities. Beyond head-to-head racing, gamers can build car clubs of up to 100 Xbox Live gamers for worldwide car communities and team competition.
  • Drive in gorgeous track environments. From the famously challenging Nurburgring Nordschleife to the spectator-lined streets of Rio de Janeiro, race on meticulously designed tracks with an incredible sense of speed and realism.
  • Develop an AI revolution: Drivatar technology. Train your own AI "Drivatars" to use the same racing techniques you do so they can race for you in competitions or train new drivers on your team. DrivatarTM technology is the foundation of the humanlike AI in "Forza Motorsport."
  • Experience a graphical showcase on the most powerful console. Well-balanced reflections, lighting and shadows tie together highly detailed cars and smooth-edged environments. Camera effects such as blooming, lens flare, heat shimmer, light rays, depth of field and haze create TV-quality presentation. Unique road textures, surface irregularities, persistent oil and skid marks, and scraped walls deliver an incredible sense of speed.


May 2005