Being the only simulation racing game on the Xbox 360 and the closest thing to GT4 since 2004 it is going to be difficult to compare this game to anything currently played. Because of this I will compare it to the game it is quite obviously trying to steal fans from. Forza 2 is unique from any other racing game currently on the 360 simply because it is well executed. It has most of the features of GT4 and none of the problems that franchise had.
The actual racing is very simplistic in its approach. Making the car drive how you want it to is not, especially at the higher levels. At the beginning you can win without tuning the car hardly at all. Go and drive fast and you'll most likely win...on the standard difficulty setting. The difficulty setting unlike the driving is fairly complex and adds another dimension to the game. One is able to toggle on and off the traction control, ABS system and active stability management. Difficulty of the opponents is adjustable three ways. Also available is a suggested driving line which tells when to brake, let off the brake or hit the accelerator. This is adjustable as well. I really like this feature because it really eases you into the racing instead of making you take those ridiculous license tests from GT. Everyone remembers these; they are frustrating and time consuming. What prevents you from getting to the higher level races in Forza is your driver level which you level up by winning the purses from the races.
The graphics in Forza 2 are average at best. The cars look very dimensionally correct but everything just has that game feel to it. Not once would you confuse this for reality. In fact I'd say it is only about one step up from GT4 in graphics. With the capability of these 7th generation systems you should be able to create a real sense of awe. What most likely happened is spending so much time making sure the dimensions of the car were incredibly detailed they ran out of time to really enhance the visual aspects of the metal and the backgrounds. It is almost like the lines are too sharp to make it seem real. This is quite a dissapointment for a game that took five years to create. I can only say that racing simulation games have to be the most time consuming expensive type of game to produce. What other type of game do you have to purchase the rights of 300 different products, numerous tracks and make them mesh together. For true gamers that are concerned with the essence of the game, the graphics will be an afterthought. I have to admit, I wouldn't mind having an HD version of Forza 2 in the future.
Cars in Forza 2 are literally the crowning achievement of the game. You will have a difficult time finding two cars that drive the same. Much like real life this is true. I, myself have not driven anywhere near the caliber or number of cars on this game. However common sense says: the 1969 Camaro is going to have a considerable amount of over-steer, the AWD vehicles have amazing grip, the Elise handles like a go-cart and the Lamborghinis as always are faster than the speed of light. You would expect this type of behavior in most racing sim games, but in Forza 2 every single car has a signature driving style, engine sound, braking ability and overall feel. In fact mechanical and aerodynamic engineers were hired to make sure the physics were correct to real life.
A big step that Forza 2 took was having real damage on the vehicles. This can be adjusted for the level of damage you want. Cosmetic-gives only cosmetic damage and no mechanical or electrical parts can be damaged. Partial Damage-body and suspension can be damaged and the car may pull to one side as well as reduced braking performance. Simulation-full blown damage as close to real life as it gets. Here you can damage the body, suspension parts and even lose power in the engine and transmission. However, if needed you can go to the pit area and all the damage except cosmetic can be fixed. This step of realism really adds another dimension to the game. Bravo.
Customization is a very large part of the experience in Forza 2. My favorite feature is the fact that you don't have to pay to change the color and there are about 150 regular colors, 150 metallic colors and probably 50 special iridescent colors. You are able to add hundred of vinyl shapes in any color and any size. Body kits and spoilers which actually improve the cars ability are able to be purchased and even adjusted. Mechanical parts on the car that can be upgraded are: brakes, all suspension components, plugs, intake, super or turbochargers, complete engine swaps, tires, wheels, engine, ignition, transmission and a few other things. You get the point. All the things that really were annoying with GT4 were remedied. Also upgrade parts can be resold back for half price.
Another amazing aspect of the game is the sheer amount of information available. I really enjoy this because while not being quite as technical in scope as GT4 it doesn't inundate you a lot of esoteric specs. I say available because you are not forced into viewing all of it all the time, but it can be accessed. A really nice feature is the "benchmark" which gives you various datum on the car you are currently in before you drive it. This includes 0-60 times, 60-0 times, skid pad, top speed etc. When purchasing a car you can find out horsepower, torque, weight etc. Detailed information on the car more so that this can be found as well. While racing you are able to view advanced telemetry such as lateral and vertical g's, tire heat, vehicle damage, engine and transmission running characteristics, shock damping amounts as well as a few other things. Later on in the game this technical information will really help out in determining how to tune your car. Tuning in Forza 2 is very close to GT4 in that the same things can be adjusted here. The difference here is when parts are adjusted it is much more noticeable, especially when combining multiple parts to be tuned. For example, when two or three parts are adjusted you get a synergistic effect. There isn't really much else to say about the tuning - a necessary part of a racing sim.
Understandably the game is not perfect. First off the load times are amazingly long for a system that has four processors-probably 30 seconds on average. Along with that is the time it take just to get to a race from starting up the Xbox. It is at the very least 60 seconds if you have the car you are going to drive ready. I'd say you'd be closer to two full minutes just to get into a race. Once you reach the upper levels of the game you notice one serious downside - the tracks. What I mean is the selection of tracks really goes down from fifteen or twenty to basically five. You have Mugello, Laguna Seca, Silverstone, Suzuka and The Nurburgring. These are all really interesting and real circuits. However, when you've raced them literally 30-40 times previously it ruins the experience. The game becomes monotonous. There are fake/synthetic tracks if you will that I find to be pretty exciting to drive including the King Cobra. The King Cobra is an amalgamation of hairpin turns, zig-zags and just downright malicious driving conditions. There must be four times the number of turns in this track as in any other track other than the Nurburgring. My belated point is for some reason the Forza programmers felt these fake tracks unfit for the professional races. Bad idea in my opinion. The only other real problem I had with the game is that there were not any F1 or open wheel cars in the game. I cannot fault them too heavily however because I imagine the rights to the other 300 vehicles were expensive enough to get. The driving conditions also never change. These faults are fairly easy to overlook if you really love racing sims however.
Difficulty 5/10 (on default settings)
Music 5/10 just a bunch of rave music
Replay Value 7/10