30 Games Of April – Day 25

Forza 2 Motorsport
Developed by:Turn 10 Studios
Published by:Microsoft Game Studios
Format played:Xbox 360

I love driving games, me. Never been any good at them mind but it hasn’t stopped me so far.

There is a danger though in drifting just a generation or two back. Head all the way back to the arcade – Chase HQ or Outrun say – or back to the Amiga era – Lotus 2 perhaps – and games seem very much of their time. Be it chunky graphics, electronic beats or iconic tracks, these games have a timeless quality to them that allows you to enjoy them for what they are, the hands of time kept very much in their pockets.

But step back just a step or two and things can be very different. As we found with Ridge Racer, the driving experience itself was still satisfying but it offered a limited challenge whilst graphically it was a blocky mess. Go back and play the original Gran Turismo and what once felt cutting edge now looks dated. Step out of the circuit and other games share this malaise, Tomb Raider and Resident Evil chief amongst them. All suffer from the ongoing development of graphical fidelity, rendering today’s hero very much yesterday’s forgotten man.

And so to Forza 2. I picked up an Xbox 360 as part of a phone contract many years ago but in truth I barely play it having always favoured the PS3. I bought Forza cheap just to have something different to play. Attempting to develop a full sense of it in this daily format is near impossible, this being a simulation that rewards repeat play and detail, but I found my brief experiences somewhat dissatisfying.

With time against me I jump into the arcade mode. Here I have a choice of vehicle classes to try but only one circuit, an oval speedway. How thrilling. I start at the bottom but my car is woefully under powered and I don’t seem to be able to pass the other cars, limping home in a pitiful 8th place. I start again, stepping up in power, and this time I manage to actually overtake someone. But what is this? I stray a few centimetres off the track, adjust my racing line and scrape the wall, only for some road hog to come steaming in from behind me and not only do I lose my place, I get penalty time added to my lap! Good grief, it’s like being at school.

To the career mode then we go. An evening in such a mode only allowed me to scratch the surface but I am instantly reminded of Gran Turismo. Perhaps this is a good time for a confession. I bought the original Gran Turismo when it first came out. I then bought both GT 2 and 3. And I hated them. All of them. I hated how I couldn’t get round a lap without spinning uncontrollably. I hated this thing I did where I would stop feeling like I was playing a racing game and instead felt like I was solving a rubik’s cube every time I approached a corner. I hated all the different parts you could buy to upgrade you car, having no idea what any of them did, only to discover it was financially more viable to simply wait and upgrade to a new car. I hated the relentless grind and the lack of damage. I hated it because it was no fun. Forza 2 is exactly like Gran Turismo.

You know what I loved? Burnout. And Outrun. And Lamborghini American Challenge. Games that let you just put your foot down and race. Games where braking is optional, where speed is rewarded. Games where my Daniel Ricciardo late breaking moves are rewarded with a satisfying smash into another driver that earns me a place rather than irreparable front wing damage and penalty time.

For simulation fans this offers a comprehensive package. There are all sorts of real life cars that I’ve never heard of and more options than a Starbucks latte. I just couldn’t be bothered with any of it.

Given that it is last gen, graphically it doesn’t suffer quite as badly as PS1-era games however you can still see the difference in console power. If I compare this to Race Driver: Grid on PC, released just a year later, the contrast is stark. Forza lacks the incidental detail of Grid, not to mention the gritty and tangible sense of danger as you chuck your car round corners. I felt like I was playing in a vacuum too. Grid includes a nice lady who provides a voice over during events, guiding you through your career mode and making you feel part of something. This felt empty by comparison.

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