Is it as good as Project Gotham 2? It's hard to say. It's like having an argument on the internet about whether The Enterprise could beat the Millennium Falcon. They're from different eras, for God's sake! Gotham 2 was arcade-racing perfection, which was exactly what Xbox - and Xbox Live - needed at the time. We still play it online and so should you. But these days, race games need to be more than just a car going around some tracks. They need options, customisations, menus, mods, funny sticker-things for the windscreen and at least 127 kinds of exhaust pipe to not bother buying. Forza Motorsport delivers all that and thousands more tweaks besides.
But we're happy to point out that the new-found fascination with car-modding doesn't get in the way of the racing here. Yes, Forza has seventy gazillion (we counted) options for tuning minute aspects of every one of the 300-odd cars in the game, but, should you wish, it's possible to ignore all of it and just hammer away with the driving.
The only five options you really need bother yourself with are the driver aids - your standard anti-lock, no-spin, easy-drive stuff that dumbs down the handling a little. The most innovative is the racing line display, a guide that simplifies the entire driving experience to just you, your car, and a big green line pointing in the right way and telling you when to brake. This is great, you might think. And
it is. For a while anyway.
The green line is a very intelligent line, adapting to your speed. If you're going too fast to make it around the next corner, it turns to red. So you brake a bit. It makes it easy. Too easy. Turn the racing line guide off and you start losing, as you struggle to find the apexes of bends and braking points, and career off into nasty gravel traps, as
you do in normal driving games. No, to play Forza requires a bit of willpower. Be a man and turn off the racing line guide as soon as you start.
You may as well ditch the other driver aids too, seeing as you get more money for winning races without using them. The ABS you can do without simply by being more careful and braking before corners instead of when you're already halfway round and going sideways into a wall, while the traction control and stability options, frankly, don't have any effect that careful driving can't replicate.
In fact, for a car game that's selling itself off its simulation and accuracy points, Forza is remarkably easy to play - and very nice to you when you make a mistake. Other cars can be used as mobile cushions, with enemy vehicles making handy crash barriers to help you get around corners. You occasionally get spun around and end up facing
the wrong way, but these leg-punching moments
of monster-rage are rare - and always your fault, thanks to fair opponents and open tracks with wide run-off areas to collect yourself in after an incident.
Forza is much more fun than we've been led
to believe. The sim aspects are mostly cosmetic - turn off the driver aids and you're left with a game that's pretty much Gotham 2 only with the option
to stick on a bigger turbo charger if your favourite car just won't crash into the barriers quickly enough. We're not moaning. It's great! You're also left to mod as much or as little as you like, with the game's steady drip-feeding of newer, more powerful cars perfectly paced to take you gradually through the packed Arcade and Career sections.
Problem is, though, the game's events are broken up into mini-tournaments and race meets. Certain events are only open to certain cars, so there's a lot of hopping about, switching vehicles and flipping through menus to find the race you weren't allowed to enter with your last car.