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Xbox Preview - 'Forza Motorsport'

by Paul Reith on Jan. 25, 2005 @ 1:27 a.m. PST

Forza Motorsport gives Xbox gamers who are passionate about cars and racing the opportunity to own, customize, and race their favorite cars in a realistic driving simulation. From sport compacts to LeMans prototypes, players use earnings from hundreds of races to buy upgrades and aftermarket parts so they can transform real production cars into high-performance race cars.

Genre: Sports/Racing
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Microsoft
Release Date: May 3, 2005

Pre-order 'FORZA MOTORSPORT': Xbox

As May 3rd looks to be the true release date of Forza Motorsport, it is now time to take a serious look at what this highly publicized racing simulator has to offer. Over the past several months, we’ve been able to play Forza several times, and watch the game develop, albeit ever so slowly. Microsoft definitely has taken the philosophy of "If you’re going to do something, do it right" with Forza, but this left many of us wondering how long it would take to deliver the game to market. Indeed, it has been a seemingly eternal wait, but in the meantime, we’ve heard about everything Forza is going to do – so now is a great time to review the functionality.

Forza Motorsport will deliver a highly technical driving simulator to the Xbox platform. Offline, up to four gamers will be able to compete against each other, a reminder that although there is a great deal of hype about online play, we can all still get together and test out the age-old hypothesis of which gender truly is the better driver. Male bravado may just prove to be a fault in this case, as this is not an arcade game. Forzareflects reality, and if drivers aren’t careful, it is realistically easy to heat up the tires early in a race with no traction left for you to win.

With EDTV 480p support, Forza is also trying to promise that it will be very pretty, too. Indeed, the 480p does provide a great vantage, provided that you have both and Xbox and a display to support 480p that is large enough to keep you from squinting. Forza is also boasting top notch audio programming, letting those too-expensive back channel speakers finally do something. Now that you can see the field in high resolution, and can hear the tailgaters riding your rear, all you need is the perfect wheel to do the driving. Believe us when we say that no one really ever wants to try a racing simulator with a control pad. Dead zones are deadly when driving, leaving you with the control of a rack-and-pinion like Grandpa Glen’s 1916 Model T. At 160 miles per hour, even you wouldn’t be that crazy, right? Why don’t I believe you?

If you survive your little controller crusade, you just might get the chance to take your car online and compete for prizes to gain valuable credits to upgrade your car(s). With online scoreboards, class competitions, and many other competitive ideas, Microsoft plans to draw you into the world of Forza Motorsport and make it so much fun that you will never let go – playing until you get blisters from gripping that steering wheel for hours on end without relief. The wheel coming out with Forza's release, built by Endor (No, Ewoks are not building driving wheels for Bill Gates – they worked for George Lucas, remember?) promises the newest feature in driving wheels, a force-feedback mechanism to increase your sensation. The new wheel even comes with four programmable positions, so when Mom gets back from borrowing your car while hers is in the shop, push a button and everything is right back to normal. Oh, by the way, did you notice she beat your best lap on Laguna Seca while she was out? How embarrassing …

Now that you can see what Forza Motorsport is predicted to do, we can get into how Microsoft is doing it. Think back to some of the biggest games you’ve heard of, and take a guess at how many people were working on development. Fifty? Seventy-five? Could you even imagine 75 people working on one game? Microsoft has blown the bar away – at one preview event, they boasted having nearly 125 people working on the project! What would they all do? For starters, they photographed every square foot of the tracks in the game. No kidding. This is where the track gets its realistic markings.

As the guys were out at the track mounting cameras on golf carts to get the job done, work began on the cars. Microsoft licensed over 230 vehicles from 40 manufacturers to build out the field in Forza Motorsport. That’s right, play a different car every day, and you just might make it through them all in under eight months. The cars are modeled, the tires are modeled, and every conceivable upgrade combination you might think of is already calculated. If you are still not satisfied, make some custom decals for your car to be sure no one confuses you with your girlfriend’s Power Puff-inspired Porsche 911.

As if all the standard turbos, engines and tires in the world were not enough, Microsoft brought on over 150 aftermarket manufacturers to provide their customized goods to driving enthusiasts everywhere. Remember that custom exhaust you couldn’t afford? Now you can buy it for your Forza car and feel a little bit better about spending all your cash on games.

So, why is Microsoft going through all this work for just one game? They have a misson: to be the closest simulated experience to driving a real car in a video game. That’s a tall order, especially by including PC games. How will Forza stand up to the competition? We aren’t sure right now, but we’re starting to get excited about some head-to-head comparisons. After all, If Forza is the best simulator ever made, it will blow everyone away, right?

To top off the simulation, Forza has yet another trick up the sleeve. Link multiple Xbox consoles together, and you can have “side mirrors.” At CES, these were mistakenly called side mirrors, but truly they were just an expansion of the main Forza view to either side. With 125 humans working on the project, we’re not totally sure how they missed the fact that side mirrors reflect to the rear, but it has truly been the greatest mistake of the team thus far – a strange but eventually acceptable offense. With that in mind, Forza is looking to shape up to what Microsoft hoped it would be, but GTR on the PC should give it a run for its money. GTR is hard to argue with, but it lacks the passion of the Forza team.

Forza has the potential to be the most expensive Xbox game to date. Just listening to the testers makes you cringe. With a $149 driving wheel (unless you buy it with the chair, then it’s only $400 total), multiple Xboxes, multiple 480p monitors, and a great surround system to back it up, Forza has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, not all of us are going to spend upwards of $1000 on a proper simulator, so we hope Microsoft will allow a decent experience beyond the currently negotiated limits. Soon, it will all be here, and we will be looking for the next car to overtake.

Look forward to May 3, 2005 – the rubber will be flying everywhere!

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