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Gaming DeathMatch: NASCAR versus Forza 2

September 14, 2007

By John Powell - G4 Canada

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It is time to put the pedal to the metal and tear up the track. In 'Gaming DeathMatch' this week, we compare two racing games for the Xbox 360 and after the smoke has cleared we will see who indeed takes the checkered flag.

 

NASCAR Racing '08

Sam and Max: Season OneOverview

It is another year so that means another sort of, kind of, maybe brand spanking new edition of everyone's favourite let's-all-turn-left racing game has been released and the changes are nothing to shout from the stands about. There is no career mode and the A.I. drivers don't have personalities of their own. They all just crash and bump into you like beer-swilling Kamikazes.

Sights and Sounds

With so many NASCAR titles under their belt, you would think that EA would have this category down to a science. Not so, sadly. Having been to live NASCAR events, I can attest to the roar of the engines, the squeal of the brakes and the cacophony of pit row being accurate but the crowd noise barely registers as a peep and your crew chief's repetitive banter might just make you want to drive headlong into one of those retaining walls. NASCAR's next-gen debut is not very impressive. There is nothing eye-catching about any of the tracks or the cars themselves. The crashes with all that smoke billowing and metal crunching is pretty cool but you've seen that before and done better.

Gameplay

Unless you have a racing wheel, you are pretty much screwed as it is almost impossible to draft in a tightly knit pack using a joystick. There is no option to use the directional key either. This isn't open-wheel racing so there is no margin for even the slightest error. Every little nudge or bump could potentially end your race in an instant and while that is exciting to veteran racers, for beginners it can put a damper on the entire learning curve. Another ding against the title is that there is no multiplayer racing although there is on Xbox Live but it is unlikely you will find a full field to compete against there.

 

Forza Motorsport 2

Sam and Max: Season OneOverview

Microsoft really worked some overtime in the pits tweaking and tuning Forza for its debut on the next-gen 360. The substantial effort by the developers and programmers is readily apparent in each and every facet of the game. You thought Forza on the Xbox was something? Wait until you see FM2 ferociously chugging away on the 360. With so many gameplay and customization options available, Forza 2 is practically flawless.

Sights and Sounds

With the original game providing such a firm foundation, it is no surprise that FM2's car models are unqualified masterpieces. Car nerds who break out in goose bumps at the sight of gleaming chrome and polished metal will undoubtedly be in their motorized glory over the faithful designs.

With everything whizzing by at light speed as you thunder around the tracks, you may not scrutinize Forza's backgrounds too closely and it is best that you don't. The illusion would be ruined. While there is nothing
wrong with any of the tracks or the scenery, there are devoid of any meticulous detail. It would seem those details were sacrificed for an ultra smooth frame rate. It is a fair trade off and a smart decision on
Microsoft's part. Erring on the side of gameplay was the right way to go.

I just wish the damage done during crashes was more realistic and cumulative. I know that FM2 is not a smash up derby type game but including 'Flatout' style car damage was just makes things more fun for us sadistic gamers and although I miss not being able to include your own music soundtrack, FM2's thunderous engines, shrieking brakes and roar of the crowd ties a nice bow on the entire package.

Gameplay

Since you are able to custom tune the game to your skill level, FM2 is accessible to any gamer no matter their experience level. There are over 300 racing machines available, an insane amount of customizable options, upgrades and a fully stocked online community which even lets you auction off cars to the highest bidder.

Despite all of this, the game would be nothing without solid physics and FM2 has that covered. As incredible as it may sound, each car has its own distinct "feel" as no two vehicles handle or react the same way. The programming and development that went into just that undertaking is astounding when one considers the effort that was involved.

 

Conclusion

There is no comparison. As upgrades to their predecessors alone, NASCAR '08 stalls on every front. It plays like super speedway bumper cars on ice and as such will only appeal to the die-hard fans. Even those dedicated gamers won't find anything radically new or different in this year's edition. Is it even really necessary to publish a new NASCAR game each and every year? Wouldn't downloadable updates on Xbox Live be enough? With its multitude of options and expansive online community, Forza just blows by NASCAR at each and every turn.

Final Score

NASCAR '08: 4 / 10
Forza Motorsport 2: 9 / 10

Winner: Forza Motorsport 2

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