Turn 10
The only way to make it to the winner's circle in 'Forza Motorsport 2' is to constantly tinker with your car.
msnbc.com contributor
updated 6/26/2007 8:23:13 PM ET 2007-06-27T00:23:13

“Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports...all others are games.”  
— Ernest Hemingway

Until bull fighting and mountain climbing come to the console, we gamers are going to have to make do with racing our hearts out with “Forza Motorsport 2.” As far as consolations go, it’s a good one. This new racing simulator by Turn 10 is by far the most in-depth and rich road experience Xbox 360 owners are going to find, period.

“Forza Motorsport 2” (rated E) never stops delivering — be it the sensation of rushing over sloped curves or the thrill of flawlessly passing your rivals. The laws of physics apply, so don’t expect wild, hairpin turns or wicked jumps in slow motion. Turn too fast and you’ll skid off the road, possibly ruining your ride.

And that would be a shame because there are more than 300 gorgeous automobiles here for the driving. Burn rubber in a 1954 Mercedes Gullwing Coupe. Muscle your way down the road in a 1969 Dodge Charger (the General Lee from the “The Dukes of Hazzard”). There’s always that slick Aston Martin V12 Vanquish calling your name. Or you can finally climb behind the wheel of a 2006 Maserati GranSpot.

The goal in single-player mode is to either win or make a pre-race goal. Win and you’ll net not only prize money, but the chance to add a new car to your collection. Be ready to practice: You will lose and lose big early on as you experiment to find that ideal car for a certain race. Your opponents won’t hesitate to box you out, push you off the road and bolt ahead to an insurmountable lead. When you start raking in the prize money, you’ll spend your winnings to upgrade the cars you’ve won so you can keep up with the competition in future races.

The amount of tinkering you can do to your cars is mind-boggling. Auto-racing enthusiasts are going to feel like it’s Christmas every time they play. Most of what can be done to a real car can be done here, from painting from a palate of millions of colors and decal options to tweaking out the tires, suspension, engines and everything else that makes a car go.

It might not sound glamorous, but the only way you’re going to return to the winner’s circle is to constantly tinker with the hardware. Do not be surprised if the key to victory comes down to how you balanced your tires are or the quality of your brakes.

Once you make your fortune and get your car tricked out, take your race to Xbox Live. Expect merciless, hardcore racing every inch of the way—assuming you find a match. More than a few times, I found myself locked out at the last second, or that the other racers had decided to go from one type of race to another.

Thankfully, the races (both online and off) load quickly, so you can try again right away. For the meek, single-player mode also keeps track (via online) of other all Forza players racing times automatically, so you never need to get online to test your mettle against others.

If you do opt to skip the game’s online aspect, you’ll miss out on several excellent community elements. Forza Motorsport TV gives players the chance to watch the game’s best racers take each other on. If you don’t want to enter a match, you can also drop in and be a spectator on just about any race at any time.

Online mode also contains the auction house, which is filled with unique art cars and racers created by other players. Bid for that special ride or put up one of your cars to rake in some extra cash. Keeping on eye on the bids in this automobile eBay can be as addictive as racing itself.

Casual racers (myself included) should know that there’s little hand-holding in this simulator. But those who invest the time will be rewarded with countless hours of intense racing — offline and on. And running at 60 frames-per-second, “Forza Motorsport 2” is also one of the most visually stunning titles for the Xbox 360 since “Gears of War.”

Short of strapping yourself into a high-performance roadster or getting your hands oil-stained in a garage, “Forza Motorsport 2” is the closest you are going to get to the hardcore racing experience. It’s also the nearest most of us will get to a million-dollar, Italian-forged dream machine. Considering the costs, “Forza Motorsport 2” is worth every penny.

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