Forza Motorsport: Xbox preview

The Xbox already has some great racing titles available, but Forza Motorsport looks set to outdo them all. Is Forza going to be a GT4 killer?

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Forza Motorsport is the Xbox's answer to PlayStation's Gran Turismo series. And from a preview play CNET.com.au recently had with the new racing simulation, Forza looks likely to trump the venerable GT in several key areas.

More than 150 Microsoft developers have reputedly been working for three years on Forza, and it shows - the game looks fantastic. The Xbox's processing power looks like it's being pushed to the limit, with both the car models and tracks looking detailed and ultra realistic. The preview code we played showed no signs of slowdown and gave us an excellent sense of speed.

Being a racing simulation, Forza has pulled out all the stops to ensure realistic gameplay. The game's physics engine works extremely well, with a spin CNET.com.au took around the New York city track highlighting its strong points. The vehicles feel appropriately 'weighty' when you try to throw them around a corner at too high a speed, and will become unresponsive if you move into a skid - as cars do in real life. Revheads will love the attention to detail available in Forza. After each race, the entire thing can be replayed accompanied with up to the minute stats on every aspect of the car's performance during the race. Serious racers can then use these stats to tweak various aspects of their vehicle to ensure the best performance.

Not that you have to be a hard core car fanatic to enjoy this game. Forza includes some cool additions to make sure anyone can pick up the controller and quickly master the intricacies of racing. The most apparent 'help' tool is the on-screen dynamic racing line, which appears on tracks to show you where your car's line should be, where you should brake heading into a corner, and where you should accelerate. This line changes depending on your driving. Brake too hard before a corner and the line, which was coloured red (for braking) previously, will turn green to tell you to accelerate. This dynamic racing line can of course be switched off if you prefer to discover the best routes around a track yourself.

Microsoft says there will be roughly 250 real world vehicles available in the game from 60 different manufacturers (for those who missed Porsche and Ferrari in Gran Turismo 4, they're here in all their glory). And unlike Gran Turismo, each car in Forza can be fully customised with real world accessories that can be seen within the game's races. There are hundreds of options for customisation, ranging from mag wheels to racing skirts and decals to company logos - a player can literally spend hours tricking out their ride and making it as individual as possible. Best of all, any changes you make can be seen on your car model during racing (even during Xbox Live races).

Car damage is also represented well in the game - bang your car up seriously enough and not only will you see a huge dent in your car, it will also start to affect your vehicle's performance on the track. Even a slight scrape against a wall or another vehicle will result in your car's paint job visibly peeling off.

While Forza does have a split screen racing mode, most players will want to take it on-line via Live to get the best multiplayer experience. While Forza's full on-line capabilities and racing modes are not clear yet, Microsoft is sure to pull out all the stops for this title.

Forza Motorsport is set for release in Australia in May. Check CNET.com.au's game section for a full review soon.

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