Forza 2: It's Here! Huge Launch Feature
It's a screaming orgasm of a racing game that gives us everything we want in one stunning product. We chat with producers & give detailed impressions of the final game!
By Adam Doree
Let me be honest, we've neglected Forza Motorsport 2 a little. We saw it unveiled at E3 last year, then real gameplay at a private meeting during TGS, then we checked it out again at GDC with the multi-screen set-up. We've left things a bit late for this feature, since the game's out today in the US, and on June 8 in the UK. And last week we really felt quite bad, because the final game turned up and frankly blew us away.
So it's time we rounded up all this stuff for a bit of a Forza blowout, with the game's product manager Chris Lee and community manager Che Chou. We're sorry, Forza, please forgive us. We didn't realise how hot you were going to be...
Back to the Sixties
Firstly, we'd like to salute the people at Turn 10 Studios, because the finished version of Forza 2 runs at sixty frames per second in-game. It's about time, Microsoft Game Studios. This is all the more impressive when we consider that builds from just a few months back chugged along at an unattractive sub-30 frame rate, sans motion blur. The cool thing is that in replays, it's 30fps, but with excellent second-generation motion blur. So it's a dynamic, thoughtful visual system truly offering the 'best of both worlds' that other racing developers should take note of. No matter how fast the action or how crazily you pan the camera around with the right thumbstick, the framerate is solid. There are brief, split-second drops triggered by major physics collisions being calculated, though the realtime collisions look and feel so awesome that it's just not a noticeable issue.
Absolutely everything in the game is sharp and crisp; we have a slightly more clinical look in Forza 2 than the run down organic beauty of, say, Colin McRae: DIRT from Codemasters, which we've also been playing the final build of this week. But the Codies title also settles for 30fps as a result. Microsoft has made the right decisions here. The sharp precision lines and emphasis on minute detail in Forza simply requires silky 60fps motion. (For the record, we won't settle for 30fps in PGR4 - Forza has struck a very reasonable balance here, and Bizarre should follow. We mean it, guys!). Additionally, draw distance here seems infinite - and is particularly noticeable at parts of the Nürburgring track.
We're glad to see the New York circuit based on Times Square has returned (and hated that this part of Manhattan was omitted from PGR3) but this time, it looks sensational - the most impressive Times Square we've seen in a racing game. The stunning neon branding is highly animated and, like the game visuals, moves around at a senses-pounding 60fps. I love Times Square and it looks freaking hot in Forza 2 - now I can't wait to see what's on offer in PGR4's version. If they include it.
A nice selection of courses are included overall, in fact, with a mix of the fresh and the familiar: Laguna Seca, Suzuka, Mugello, Mazda, Tsukuba, Nissan Speedway and the like, and everything is available in Free Run and Multiplayer modes right from the off, so you can jump straight into to the game's delights. "The cars are the hero of the game, but we really wanted to make sure the tracks came alive as well," explains Chris Lee. "Every track has had the royal treatment; we're trying to be as authentic as possible There's a new US track in the game called Sebring, which is notorious for rough and varied road surfaces - tarmac, asphalt, and rough transitions between."
Microsoft's Che Chou agrees: "Well, one of the reasons I love [Sebring] is that it is made out of an old airstrip. So this track has all these pieces of tarmac and concrete that are very poorly matched together. Whenever they do 24-hour races here, it beats the hell out of the cars and the drivers. So, I was really excited about this because I love our simulation engine. Having a track like this allows you to really experience the sim in all its glory."
We'd love to see a bit more city action in Forza though. Even though it's not strictly what the game's about, it clearly does everything well, judging by the New York circuit. We guess that's PGR's selling point though, and PGR4 will be something to learn more about later this year.
Calling All Cars
Three hundred cars is a lot of cars, but in Forza 2, it's not just a case of choosing one and that's that. Cars are extremely customisable, they have classes that you can level up and down to - and you can even auction or gift your creations away, or show them off in Photo Mode over the community site.
It's a significant number of cars, but what's more impressive is the range. "It's not all one type," says Lee. "We have the Ferraris, Porches, the McLaren F1 and Lamborghinis that we know consumers love to drive, but we also have European Performance Sedans, American muscle cars, American sports cars, and a good range of Japanese and Asian sports and performance vehicles. An AI system in the game will decide if it should be go into a new class level of vehicle because of the improvements from changes you've. You can take your car up several levels - but you can also just buy a car for a different class as well."
|Che Chou, Community Manager for Forza Motorsport 2|
And the cars look stunning, too. Looking at headlights in detail, we can see that they not only have a layer of glass over them but also the right reflective properties within the headlights themselves. Every last detail is constructed of 3D geometry and not just cheaply textured on. "That really is a testament to the development team, and the shared passion for cars and the automobile lifestyle and culture," says Lee. "We have people that are physics engineers, people who are former professional drivers and instructors, and they rally their car on the weekend. It's a diverse team but we all have one thing in common - we all love cars, and that's what comes through in the game."
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Forza Motorsport 2
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Forza Motorsport 2
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