Forza Motorsport revs into retail

Microsoft's answer to Gran Turismo finally accelerates onto the Xbox; racing sim features 230-plus rides, damage modeling, and extensive customization.

One game type that the Xbox has been missing since its inception in 2001 is a robust realistic racing simulator. There are plenty of arcade-style racers for the console, such as Burnout 3: Takedown, Need for Speed Underground 2, and the Xbox-exclusive Project Gotham Racing 2, but no real answer for Sony PlayStation 2's Gran Turismo series.

Today, however, Microsoft may have found its resounding answer in the form of Forza Motorsport, the long-delayed and highly anticipated "ultrarealistic" racer from Microsoft Game Studios. The road to retail has been rocky for the racer. Originally slated for release during the 2004 holiday season, Forza saw multiple delays push the game's release all the way back to today.

The game was among three AAA racing titles all jockeying for pole position. Sony's Gran Turismo 4 and Rockstar's Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition were also delayed well past their release targets of the fourth quarter of 2004. Gran Turismo 4 finally crossed the line in February, and Midnight Club 3 grabbed its checkered flag in April.

With Forza Motorsport, the Xbox finally has a racing simulator aimed at hardcore racing fans. The game features more than 230 cars from more than 60 of the world's leading manufacturers, including Ford, Porsche, and Honda. The racer is also the first realistic console racing simulator to feature real-time damage modeling on licensed cars. Damage not only will affect the car cosmetically, but will change the car's performance, as well as litter the track with fenders and other debris.

While not quite at the microscopically detailed level of GT4, Forza does offer an extensive amount of tuning--makeshift mechanics can tweak the car's engine, install different suspensions, and add spoilers and other parts. Forza does offer some of the greatest customization of cars with the hood closed. Using the game's customization tools, gamers can change the aesthetics of their rides to stand out from the crowd. Rims, decals, and custom paint jobs give each user a chance to make their car unique.

The game features robust online and offline modes. The single-player mode will see gamers racing for credits to spend on upgrades and customization of cars, or downright purchasing a new one. The online mode supports up to eight racers and has a matchmaking feature that pairs gamers up with others of similar skill. Gamers can also try to sell their lemons for some credits in an online buy-and-sell mode.

Forza Motorsport is rated E for Everyone and has a sticker price of $49.99. For more information on the game, read GameSpot's full review.

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