Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Forza Motorsport

Screaming down a twisty road with your hands on the wheel of a sleek, well-tuned 400-horsepower supercar, your hair on fire, and your ass hanging over the edge should be a lot of fun. Thing is, if you're not rich as David Letterman or talented as Danica Patrick, you'll need video games to do it. And if you're the type of intense, intelligent car nerd who says "at the limits of mechanical adhesion and suspension travel" instead of "hair on fire and ass hanging over the edge," what you want is a realistic, adjustable, and challenging driving simulator. And the problem with that is that driving simulators have traditionally emphasized achievement over enjoyment, forcing you to shave those critical two-tenths of a lap off your time in order to advance to the next class or get the Pro-Am license or earn yet another Nissan Skyline. In short, what should be a lot of fun quickly turns into a weird combination of driver's ed, thumb-pump, and self-flagellation.

Forza Motorsport will certainly give the hardcore auto aficionado sore thumbs, but they won't care. In this Xbox-only jewel, racing is always fun. Starting with a lowly Focus, or similar, is fun. Working toward earning all 230 cars is fun, tuning them is fun, trying to finish in the points in spite of heavy and ugly-looking damage affecting your handling is fun. Best of all, nothing is the kind of fun that wears off quickly due to being too easy, since driver aids can be selectively switched off if you're just steamrollering everyone across all the game's widely varied tracks. You can even train up a "Drivatar," a computer driver with all your strengths and bad habits, to race the events you'd rather not, which sounds odd but turns out to be fun. And unlike in some motor-sports simulators, Ferraris are included—forza, indeed.

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Beyond the gameplay: True motor-geeks will get hours of life-enhancement from extensively customizing the paint and graphics on their sim-dream car, running a few hot laps of Germany's iconic Nürburgring, and then looping the gorgeous saved cinematic replay while they pay bills and clean the living room.

Worth playing for: The sensations of speed, of competing against actual opponent drivers instead of soulless cars running programmed laps, and of performing dashing Juan Manuel Fangio-esque acts of derring-do are balanced perfectly against the sensation of pretty much always having an absolute blast.

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Frustration sets in when: The upper-tier races, especially the extra-long endurance events, can start to drift into diminishing-returns territory for even the most hardcore, and there are some nasty evil cheaters online, but that's really about it.

Final judgment: Absolutely and without question the most enjoyable driving simulation currently available.

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