At the wheel...
Things definitely start to look up when you get behind the wheel though, and I do mean wheel, not controller. If ever there was a game that benefited from a steering wheel, it’s Forza 2
, and lucky for Microsoft, its wireless steering wheel is one of the best around. It’s only when you’re using a steering wheel that you realise just how much effort Turn 10 has put into the handling of each car.
Jump into a vehicle that you’re familiar with and it should behave almost exactly as you’d expect. Get into a powerful front wheel drive beast and floor the throttle off the line and the wheel will twitch and tug in your hand as the front wheels fight with the torque being directed through them.
The cornering manners are spot on too, with your average FWD ride exhibiting a nasty habit of understeering if you try to carry too much speed through a bend, although as long as you break hard in a straight line before turn in, and nail the throttle as you hit the apex, you’ll be amazed how much speed you can carry through even the most twisty tracks.
Likewise, if you’re driving a car with copious amounts of power going through the rear wheels, you can expect similarly copious amounts of oversteer if you overcook things through the bends. But once again, using the steering wheel really does convey just the right amount of feedback – lift off mid corner and you can feel the back going light as it loses traction and starts to slide, fight the oversteer with a handful of opposite lock and nail the throttle to drift the car round the bend. Powersliding may not be the fastest way around the track, but just like in the real world, it’s incredible fun and also looks awesome in the replays!
I can’t stress enough how much better Microsoft’s wireless steering wheel makes Forza 2
, and if you’re seriously into driving, swallow the cost and buy both together, you really won’t be sorry. The problem is that without a steering wheel the driving dynamics in Forza 2
are pretty average at best, and anyone possessing even modest skill with a controller will have no problem at all lapping any track at ridiculous speeds.
And that’s my biggest problem with Forza 2
, if you use the controller it’s just too damn easy. No matter how fast your car, no matter how unruly its handling may be in the real World, no matter how challenging the track, once you get the hang of flicking the left analogue stick at the right times, you’re pretty much sorted. Basically all the brilliant handling that Forza
treats you with when using a steering wheel is completely lost when using the standard controller.
Unless you’re an unconvincing actor in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, you’ll be well aware that sliding a car round a sweeping bend is not easy. A tidy power slide requires pin point throttle adjustment and divine steering balance, something that is conveyed brilliantly when using a steering wheel with Forza 2
. However, if you’re using the controller sliding, say, a Ferrari F430 around a bend is as simple as stabbing at the throttle and flicking the analogue stick in the opposite direction as soon as the back end starts to go. All sense of realism and challenge goes out the window, and pretty much any track in the game is no problem to navigate at high speed.
The control issue isn’t the only sign that Turn 10 has worked hard to make Forza 2
more accessible to the casual gamer though; the skill level of the computer controlled drivers also leaves a lot to be desired. First up, the AI is appalling, but to be fair to Forza 2
, I’ve never played a driving game where the AI hasn’t been fatally flawed. Unfortunately, much like every other racer out there, the computer controlled opponents will follow the optimum racing line around the track, no matter what may be in the way.
This means that if you’re trying to cut inside an opponent on a bend, they won’t brake to avoid hitting you, they’ll just turn in and follow the racing line, regardless of the fact that your car is in the way. This leaves you often making contact with opponents when trying to overtake on bends, something that would rarely happen in the real world. OK, I accept that BTCC racing involves a bit of contact, but most drivers will avoid hitting another car if possible, due to the detrimental aerodynamic effect that damaged bodywork will have on their race.