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TAKE THE WHEEL: That's me in your rear-view mirror, eating your dust

May 22, 2005

BY JIM SCHAEFER
FREE PRESS GAME MASTER

I am terrible at "Forza Motorsport." One race performance landed me in 32,758th place. I am not exaggerating.

"Forza Motorsport"
THREE STARS
out of four

Price: $49.95

Players: 1-2, up to 8 online

Web site: www.xbox.com/en-us/forza

Format: Xbox

Category: Racing simulation

Rating: E (Everyone)

How can this be? Well, if you play this game over Xbox Live, it tracks most everything you do, ranking your performance against every gamer, everywhere, who ran the same race.

Obviously, this is not my kind of game. But if you're into racing simulation of the highest quality, this very well could be yours.

"Forza" takes a more serious approach to cars, and tuning them up, than any other Xbox title out there, rivaling the PlayStation 2's "Gran Turismo" series.

I can't tuna fish, let alone analyze the telemetry of my video game vehicle to figure out how to make it run better. But -- get this -- telemetry is an actual feature in "Forza."

You can watch replays of your races and switch on the telemetry option, which monitors virtually every move your car made. It shows you things like RPM, torque, tire load, camber, steering adjustments, angle and intensity of forces on the vehicle's body, plus many more things.

The upgrade tools go way beyond tricking out your car with style and flash (though you can do that, too). Here, there are many things to tune, from tire pressure to exhaust systems to suspensions, chassis, bumpers and more.

The result is absolute true-to-life road racing, right down to the tracks, where the settings are so realistic you wouldn't know they weren't computer-generated (were it not for the people in the crowd, who resemble two-dimensional cardboard cutouts).

"Forza" is big, offering a portfolio of more than 250 licensed real-world vehicles, from super cars to everyday cars.

And, man, is this game difficult, even on the easy setting. I prefer games with unreal speed, power boosts and shortcuts. I just couldn't seem to get a grip on "Forza" until I played around with different cars, perusing the six classes, from standard production cars like your basic Honda Civic to race cars like the Audi R8.

I didn't win a first-place trophy until I got behind the wheel of a Dodge Viper GTS. Thank goodness for American muscle. I was able to keep the Viper steady and straight enough to win.

This game has a great feature called the "suggested line" that helps the driving considerably. Purists can toggle it off, but I loved how it displays the best route on the track. It is green when you should accelerate, yellow when you should slow and red when you should brake. The colors change with your speed.

Career Mode is deep and has another great option: You can play online. This allows you to race other real-live players, and even trade cars with them.

But don't expect to call me out for a ride anytime soon. I'm still stuck in the pits.

Contact JIM SCHAEFER at 313-222-5995 or games@freepress.com.


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