The arcade mode lets you get straight into the action, and you thankfully have a wide selection of cars at your disposal from the off. You will also win new rides as you dispatch each arcade race – most of which are run on tracks that will be very familiar to motorsport fans. If you’ve got a steering wheel there’s a lot, and I mean a lot of fun to be had racing in arcade mode, but the real challenge is the career mode.
Turn 10 has tried very hard to make the career mode compelling, but ultimately fails. Cutting each race series into a number of different events, with multiple races in each makes sense. It’s also very clever to have strict guidelines on what type of vehicle can race in each event, since this forces you to diversify your garage, rather than just sticking with the type of car you like. Unfortunately though, this format ultimately gets dull, and you start to look at each event as just 15 or 20 minutes of your time, since that’s likely to be how long it will take to win that prize car that’s up for grabs.
Of course things get more challenging as you progress, with more laps to complete and faster cars to compete against, but it’s just too easy for you to upgrade your own vehicles way beyond the ability of your computer controlled opponents. If you are finding it really easy, you can of course bump the difficulty level up, but in reality the Normal level should at least offer some challenge as you progress.
So perhaps the real challenge is with online play? Not exactly. The first time I tried to play online I spent 45 minutes trying to connect to games and then getting thrown out just as I was about to race. When I did eventually manage to get into some Xbox Live sessions, the result wasn’t really worth the wait. Compared to PGR 3, Forza 2 feels like a step backwards when it comes to online races. Network lag seems to be a major problem, with your opponents’ cars randomly vanishing and then reappearing a few hundred yards down the track. There’s also no point playing online with a steering wheel, since the chances are that all the other players will be using controllers, leaving you at a distinct disadvantage – although you’ll get the more rewarding experience!
Whereas the original Forza Motorsport took the Gran Turismo model and tried to open it up to a wider audience, Forza 2 seems to be trying too hard to attract the casual gamer, thus losing the driving enthusiast along the way. The slightly disappointing visuals could easily have been forgiven if the driving dynamics and AI were first rate, but unfortunately they’re not.
But Forza 2’s saving grace is its performance when using Microsoft’s wireless steering wheel, and ultimately that’s what keeps a respectable score at the top of the page. When you’re playing this game with a steering wheel, with a manual gearbox selected, it truly is an absolute joy. So, if you’ve been waiting to add Forza Motorsport 2 to your Xbox 360 collection, you better factor in the cost of a steering wheel too.