Preview: Forza Motorsport (XB)

Publisher: Microsoft / Developer: Microsoft / Genre: Driving / Release Date: 2005

There are few things in gaming that I think I know very little about. Since I’ve been gaming for over fifteen years I feel qualified to make such a statement. However when I DO come across something I, admittedly, know little about my interest immediately goes up to it’s highest levels. Forza Motorsport is a game that at first glance I was like, “What?” You’ll have to forgive me, but when it comes to the genre of racing simulation games I am as unknowledgeable as it gets. My experience with racing games tends to be either with handheld versions of the so-called “real” racers like Ridge Racer games or Nintendo franchise racers such as Mario Kart, or Diddy Kong Racing. So when I was assigned Forza Motorsport to preview I was very curious to see what was in store for me. After finding alot about what Microsoft has in store for this first party title I think it it’ll become one of the Xbox’s premier racers for 2005, and perhaps one of the better racing titles overall regardless of the console it appears on.

Forza Motorsport is a racing simulation, and while the Xbox is chock full of racers, this falls into a category all by itself since it is uniquely different from most out there. This seems geared towards the diehard racer fan out there and as we get further into this you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. The term ‘racing sim’ isn’t something Microsoft is throwing around lightly just to raise some eyebrows. From all indications they are hell-bent on providing one of the most in-depth racers ever.

But before we get to the nitty gritty details let’s take a broader look at Forza Motorsport. Graphically the game looks amazing. Obviously Xbox is a powerful console capable of quite a lot, but even I was a bit taken aback when I checked out the game’s graphics. The level of detail put into Forza Motorsport’ cars is obvious to anyone. The fact that even with a fleet of over two hundred vehicles they still retained this level of high detail is really quite amazing. What struck me as even better were the little graphical touches. The weather, track conditions, environments, and just about everything else (think the tiniest details on a car) have been well taken care of and have their own special charm and detail put into them. With plenty of camera angles to go with all of this, the diehard racer fan will be in a paradise since they’ll be able to take in everything displayed as they strive for the most realistic experience possible.

The sound, like the graphics, so far isn’t lost in the shuffle during the developer’s drive for total customization. Expect to hear tunes that fit the mood of the track. However the option to customize the soundtrack is there allowing you to import your own music to listen to as you play. The real heart of the audio/music to this game comes in the sound effects, though. Graphical detail really is nice, but how many games go the extra mile to even incorporate the sound effects into how you play the game? The cars have been made to sound as realistic as possible and in order to fine tune your machine as much as possible you’ll need to listen carefully. By picking up on certain sounds you can get a sense for many things about your car including its internal performance and its handling.

Now then let’s get down to the customization. First, in addition to those two hundred cars you have sixty tracks to race upon. Each one presents its own unique challenge playing to different strengths and weaknesses. From here you’ll be asked to select one of five modes within the game: career, arcade, multiplayer, free run, and time trials. Arcade is just what you would expect. Play any available track with any car you have at your disposal just for practice. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the cars and tracks. Free run and time trials aren’t much different as their sole purpose is also for practice with a goal of getting better times for your own personal bragging rights. The heart of this game comes in the career mode. Once you select career, you then make a profile. Seems a bit odd, but it makes sense when you realize your profile sets you up for the area you’ll race in. You can choose from North America, Asia, and Europe. This choice is not to be made lightly though. Obviously certain areas will only have access to certain cars and tracks. Makes sense when you think about it, so once you get a feel for some of the tracks and cars in other modes you’ll be ready to make a choice.

Once you get started the objective is to earn cash for customizing your car, which is what will bring in the hardcore fans. I want you to think of something you can do to a car. Anything at all, doesn’t really matter what it is. Now I’ll all but guarantee that you can do it in this game. Every aspect of the car, from the exterior to the interior to under the hood is customizable. And I’m not just talking about “parts”. I’m talking about taking the time to fine tune your car, making sure things work correctly at different settings. Under the hood you will find over forty ways to change your set-up around, and that’s only in one aspect of the game. This does the racing simulation genre proud. To excel at this game you need to think you’re working on a real car in real situations. Anything less and you won’t get the performance out of your vehicle that you know you can get. It sounds complicated, right? Well it is and it isn’t. While this game is geared towards more diehard fans, that does not mean that you won’t be able to latch on and eventually excel. This is due to the easy to use interface, which seems to be one of the parts of Forza Motorsport that will stand out in regards to customization options. Microsoft has broken it down into three distinct categories: engine and power, aerodynamics and exterior appearance, and chassis and drive train. Within each of those categories you will find a plentiful amount of options available to make your car is as sleek and powerful as possible.

Multi-player mode also incorporates online play. From early reports you should be able to play against other gamers and also post scores on many, many leader boards that will be set-up. There will also be offline, split-screen multi-player options for those of us who aren’t hooked up with Xbox Live yet.

Finally we have the control, which ultimately is what really matters in any racer. However once again we have to come back to the customization features in Forza Motorsport. You’re AI and your opponents AI will be influenced by how you customize your car and how you race on the tracks. So controlling your car comes down to how good you are in the garage. The better you are there the easier it will be out on the tracks to take the prize and therefore afford even more parts for your vehicle.

Set for an early 2005 release Forza Motorsport promises to be one of the Xbox’s premier racers for the year, and certainly one of its best first party titles. For any more information on Forza Motorsport stay with us here at Inside Pulse.