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Forza Motorsport

01 May 2005

The GT Killer?When Microsoft first admitted their intentions with Forza Motorsport, they may as well have said, “We’re going to invent a time machine.” Translated, Microsoft have put Forza in direct competition with the absolute giant of console racing games, Gran Turismo. There is no bigger target. GT is PlayStation’s biggest game, the fourth version of which came out in March, and with aspirations at this level, the pressure on Forza is absolutely immense.

However - despite Forza being a car racing simulator like GT, they have managed to incorporate several distinguishing features that pull it away from their competitor. First up, Forza delivers with all the expected aspects of a car simulator from the expertly modelled physics to the mouth-watering graphics that the XBox can produce giving it a slight edge over other racing titles. The Microsoft Game Studios team have already said that it wants Forza to make you a better driver through its unquenchable thirst for realism and have incorporated wind speed and track temperature that affect players’ lap times.

Due to its realistic slant, Forza is a challenging game. Real life, as we’re all aware, is unforgiving. Never more so when you’re trying to not kill yourself in a little Mini Cooper S as it whizzed through European streets with excellent handling. Over time, getting to know the performance of each car and the tracks back to front - you really get a sense of satisfaction as you can dramatically see your lap times improving. The AI is annoyingly realistic and the cars appear to behave as though you’re racing online, mimicking irate teenagers slamming into the back of you as you lead and drifting in your path as you chase. It’s thrilling, frustrating and compulsive.

Despite the View - Try to Watch the RoadThe tree-lined tracks are fantastic. The Japanese point-to-point race, set on the Fujimi Calco downhill course, settles into a barely contained charge through packed, hillside woodland, sparks flying and tempers most definitely high. This is less than an hour into the game, should you choose to follow this direction with your career and for such a realistic racer to thrill like this so early on is a treat. Each track is beautifully, painstakingly modelled, with every stripe of paint, every bump, every misjudged camber, every heartstopping corner.

The cars range from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Spain, Sweden, Britain and the US with the amount of vehicles in the game totalling over 200. The amount of different racing events appears to be equally huge, perhaps running into hundreds. The beauty of Forza is that it’s addictive from the outset - you don’t start by traipsing around F1 courses in a shopping trolley. You’re instantly driving powerful cars in full-on races and you can see there’s so much more to come. You want to play it. It’s exactly what you’d expect it to be in terms of structure, and that handling - and the promise of plenty of surprises en route - is more than enough to will you through to the final races. Vehicle upgrades are plentiful and with earnings that you gain from each successful race, you can tweak your baby with the detail you can expect from a true car simulator - transforming actual production cars into high-performance racing models.

Plus - with comprehensive XBox Live features, it has a distinct online play advantage over the GT series. Besides the standard versus-play options for up to eight players, you’ll also be able to join or create your own car clubs or trade cars, and you can check your standings across a whopping 1,700 leader-boards. If you’re a racing fan who’s been longing for a meatier racing experience, Forza’s what you’ve been looking for. The wealth of cars in the game and their customization options make for an engaging experience, and once you factor in the game’s multiplayer and online functionality, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more fully loaded racer for the Xbox.