One area where I really didn’t expect a game like this to come up short is attention to detail in the licensing department, but unfortunately Forza 2 has done just that. There’s one certainty with a racing simulation – any car nut who loads it up for the first time will try to find the car they own among the plethora of vehicles on offer and that’s exactly what I did. Unfortunately I couldn’t find my car, and at first thought that it hadn’t been included in the line up. Eventually however I realised that the licensing department at Microsoft Game Studios had made a rather glaring error!
When you first start the career mode in Forza 2 you can choose one of three geographical locations – Europe, America or Asia – naturally I chose Europe, one because I live there and two because the best cars in the world hail from that territory (cue abuse from around the globe). I was therefore quite disappointed when I found that I couldn’t choose a bright orange Ford Focus ST as my starting vehicle, nor was it even available to buy in the European region. Eventually I found my car lurking in the American region, with the game clearly stating that the origin of the Focus ST was North America. That’s quite an impressive mistake considering that the Focus ST isn’t even on sale in the US!
Now, before any of my eagle eyed US readers inform me that Ford does sell the Focus ST in America, I’m aware that there’s a car with that name over there, but it’s by no means the same vehicle. The US Focus ST is a dull four-door saloon with a disappointing naturally aspirated, four cylinder engine pumping out only 151bhp, whereas the European Focus ST is a rally derived hatchback sporting a turbocharged five cylinder engine putting out 222bhp, and it’s the latter car that is actually in the game!
There are slip ups elsewhere too, like the Lotus Elise 111S, which actually has the specification of the newer and more expensive 111R, with a 197bhp Toyota engine, as opposed to the 160bhp Rover lump that the 111S actually hides under its bonnet. OK, so I’m probably nit-picking, but with a game that lives and dies by its realism and car licenses, this is the type of mistake that will annoy much of the target audience.
Things definitely start to look up when you get behind the wheel though, and I do mean wheel, not controller. If ever there was a game that benefited from a steering wheel, it’s Forza 2, and lucky for Microsoft, its wireless steering wheel is one of the best around. It’s only when you’re using a steering wheel that you realise just how much effort Turn 10 has put into the handling of each car. Jump into a vehicle that you’re familiar with and it should behave almost exactly as you’d expect. Get into a powerful front wheel drive beast and floor the throttle off the line and the wheel will twitch and tug in your hand as the front wheels fight with the torque being directed through them.
The cornering manners are spot on too, with your average FWD ride exhibiting a nasty habit of understeering if you try to carry too much speed through a bend, although as long as you break hard in a straight line before turn in, and nail the throttle as you hit the apex, you’ll be amazed how much speed you can carry through even the most twisty tracks.
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