Platform: Xbox 360
Few would argue that when it comes to console based driving epics, Polyphony’s Gran Turismo series sits head and shoulders above the competition. In fact, Gran Turismo was always such a triumph of accurate racing dynamics and beautifully rendered automotive pornography, that it wasn’t until after Gran Turismo 4 had launched that anything resembling a worthy opponent appeared. That game was Forza Motorsport, and it finally gave Xbox owners a retort, when their PS2 owning mates threw GT4 in their face.
Of course anyone claiming that Forza Motorsport was better than Gran Turismo 4 was skating on thin ice, because good as it undoubtedly was, it didn’t have quite the depth, realism or attention to detail as Polyphony’s masterpiece. But what Forza did have in its favour was a more accessible model. Gone was the need to drive a VW Lupo for hours on end before you could afford a decent car. Absent were the arbitrary challenges necessary to claim your racing license. Forza just got you behind the wheel of the good stuff long before GT, and despite the fact that many Gran Turismo purists will see that as a weakness, the less hardcore PS2 owners would probably whisper, when they knew no one could hear or criticise them, that they quite liked the idea of not having to work so hard in order to have fun!
Forza also added two key elements that were disappointingly absent from Gran Turismo 4 – car damage and online play. The former added significantly to the realism of the gameplay and made you think twice before attempting to squeeze through that impossibly small gap, mid corner. While the second allowed you to pit your driving skills against real life opponents from around the World, rather than the ever dubious in-game AI that seems to plague every racing game in existence.
It was therefore unsurprising that the vast majority of Xbox 360 owners have been waiting with baited breath for the launch of Forza Motorsport 2, with the promise of next generation graphics and physics engines leaving many racing fans weak at the knees. Now that the wait is over, the big question is whether Forza 2 lives up to expectation, but that’s not quite as simple a question as you might think. On many levels Forza Motorsport 2 is a triumph, but on an equal number of levels it falls sadly short of the mark.