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Game Over Online ~ Forza Motorsport (c) Microsoft Game Studios

Forza Motorsport (c) Microsoft Game Studios

Published: Wednesday, April 27th, 2005 at 04:53 PM
Written By: Jeff 'Linkphreak' Haynes

Ever since the Xbox hit shelves, it’s been packed with a number of titles designed to fulfill a gamer’s need for speed. Whether its arcade-style titles like Crazy Taxi or technically accurate racers like RalliSport Challenge, Microsoft’s console has burned plenty of rubber in households around the country. But with a lot of the recent attention towards Sony’s oft-delayed GT4 dying down, driving enthusiasts have been looking forward to the next best racing game. Fortunately, Microsoft has been developing its own “Gran Turismo” killer to wow the speedster in all of us. Get ready to start your engines, because we’re going for a spin with Forza Motorsport.

Forza features more than 230 cars from 45 different manufacturers such as Mercedes Benz, Lexus and Honda. Obviously, gaining all of these cars is one of the overall goals of the game, but acquiring them is handled much differently than any other racer on the market. The main thrust of the game is directed to career mode, where players specify a region that their racer will hail from: North America, Europe or Japan. While picking a certain region doesn’t exclude you from acquiring the other cars, it does determine how available other vehicles are and how much you would have to pay for them. For instance, if you decide to make a driver from North America, you’ll have an easier time getting a Ford or Dodge in your garage at a cheaper price than that shiny Ferrari or Skyline you’ve had your eyes on.

Granted, a certain amount of your success will be determined by the machine you drive. Every car is rated in one of six car classes, ranging from standard production makes and models to the top of the line racecar. You’re not limited to stock models of these cars though; you can purchase and install a number of different upgrades, including engines, suspension kits and performance tires to give you an additional edge on the track. Each part can be upgraded three times, and novice gearheads won’t have to worry about downgrading their vehicle, since each kit is guaranteed to boost the car.

Forza also provides a unique spin to the “tedium” of long circuits or multiple lap courses. Introducing the Drivatar, the newest and perhaps the most innovative racing feature included in a driving game. By running over a couple of training courses, you can teach the game exactly how you like to race. The game then effectively takes that profile and uses the artificial intelligence in the game to drive the car for you on certain courses. While you’ll have to pay for the privilege to have a “surrogate” driver, you’ll also be able to use the Drivatar training sessions to get accustomed to the kinds of race tracks you’ll face in the game. In effect, it’s a great tutorial for drivers to get accustomed to tight chicanes, dual apex turns and hairpin curves in a number of situations.

Graphically, Forza is one of the most impressive racing titles to date on any console, with an incredibly accurate physics engine that simulates car weight, handling and, more importantly, driving mistakes. It’s possible to completely lose control of your car at speed and engage in a massive spinout, particularly on gravel or grass. Not only will you see these beautifully modeled cars take damage that would pain an enthusiast, you’ll take on some of the most well known tracks from around the world, such as Nurburgring, the Silverstone Circuit and the Tsukuba Circuit.

Oh, and did I forget to mention Xbox Live play? Yes, unlike Gran Turismo 4, Forza Motorsport allows you to compete with up to 8 players in a race, with successes online equating to unlockable rewards in the offline career mode. You can also build car clubs and track your progress online using the more than 1400 leaderboards that will track everything from time trials to the most successful driver (Yes, I said 1400!) Although we’ve just started to scratch the surface of this title, we expect Forza to take the checkered flag in stores when it’s released next week. Check back soon for a full review!

Questions or comments about the upcoming release of Forza Motorsport for the Xbox? Talk to us!

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