Preview: Forza Motorsports (XB) Updated Hands-On

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

I’m not a big fan of racing games, but then I’m not a big fan of driving in real life. The last racing game I can say had fun with was the Need For Speed where you could unlock a T-Rex or a School Bus and drive them off a mountain, plummeting to their door. I can still hear the teeny children’s cries to God to save them, but instead they met their digitized doom.

That being said, I had an amazing amount of fun with the preview build of Forza Motorsport. Sure I absolutely sucked at the game and hit a lot of walls and enjoy smashing into other cars, but still, I had a big smile of my face for all the hours I played.

There are several modes to this game. The first of which is Arcade Mode. This is a cut and dry “do a few laps and see who wins” mode that we’ve seen in video games as far back as Activision’s Grand Prix of my beloved Pole Position. The next is Career Mode, where you compete against computer players and other people via Xbox Live to win races and so that you can get money to customize your current vehicle and buy new ones. The great thing about using Xbox Live for this, is the game automatically matches you up with players at your current skill level. So there will be no hustling via the internet here.

There’s a straight up Multiplayer mode, where you can either play against a friend via split screen, or through Xbox Live. You can connect up to 8 Xboxs via a LAN connection for one giant race. Of course, I wasn’t able to test this as I’ve only got the one preview build.

There’s also Time Trials, which is just a single player mode where you’re just trying to set the best time on a specific course or track. There can be “ghost cars” of previous drivers on the track, so there’s still some competition for you besides honing your own skills.

Finally you’ve got Free Run where you take any car you want onto any unlocked track and in here there are a few different options to play with.

All in all there’s a lot of great modes, and with the ability to hook up 8 different Xboxs, Forza Motorsport has the potential of being one hell of an addictive game for a large group of friends for an evening’s video gaming.

There’s 6 different types of cars, with 3-4 subclasses each. Crazy! I was open mouthed at the sheer number of cars in this game. Things have come so far from two generations of gaming ago when a dozen cars was mind numbing. I was so happy to see my New Beetle Turbo in the game, even though it doesn’t do very well. I customized the game one to look as close to my Pikamobile (Yes, I have Pika VW. Does this really surprise any of you at all?) and was giggling like a maniac watching it go 130 miles an hour on race track and occasionally smashing another car so that I could have a little less competition in a big race. Pika Pika!

The best way to get all the new cards and tracks is by placing in the top three positions in races within your current level for tracks or in the top two for the cars.

Career Mode is pretty intense, and again, I was amazed how deep Forza Motorsport was. When you start Career Mode, you need to pick a home region, as this decides the cost, rarity, and how available cars are to buy and compete against. It actually adds a depth of strategy. You’re more likely to see American Cars on an American track and so on. Once you choose your region you are stuck there FOREVER with your profile, so choose carefully.

There’s so many ways to customize your car in this came, it gets intense. There’s not only decals and paint jobs, but you have to tune your car, deal with different engines and drivetrains and other things that make career mode a serious investment of your time. Also of note, make friends with certain manufacturers as it ends up helping you in the long run.

Forza Motorsport really has a lot of focus on the Xbox Live aspects of the game, where you and your online buddies can even make a “Car Club.” A Car Club is a group of drivers who join together as a racing team. Your stats are tracked together and it basically acts as a shared friends list.

The graphics of the game are excellent in terms of the cars. Each one looks like the real thing and are beautiful to behold. I’m not a car person myself, but I loved looking at all the different designs and had fun with it all. The backgrounds and audience aren’t that well defined and are often blurry blobs of pixels, but it’s understandable considering you’re supposedly going 130+ miles an hour.

The music is wonderful. Not only can you make your own custom soundtracks, but the music already built into the game is great as well. I was surprised to hear a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” when the game started up for me. Well done and a nice treat for the ears.

The downsides to the game are the very long loading times for everything and also the stalling/slowdown when your car collides with something. The controls are also very VERY sensitive when you use the Analog stick over the D pad. You’ll notice this just in menu selection.

The physics engine seems spot on, especially when I try to take a hairpin curve at over 100 miles an hour can go slamming into 2-3 other cars and my car ends up looking like a crumpled Geo. Lots of fun.

I’m horrible at racing games. Very horrible in fact. And usually I dislike them because of that. I mean, who wants to play a genre they are crap at? I just want my car to go really fast and go smashie into things. That usually doesn’t win you points in a racing game. Demolition Derby game yes, but not here.

Overall I had a lot of fun with Forza even though it’s certainly not my genre of choice. It comes out May 3rd with a price tag of $49.99, which at first I thought was a bit steep, but then remembered how many cars they licensed for the game. If you preorder it, you get a free Xbox Live Arcade DVD. No idea what’s on it though.