My post about Forza Motorsport 2 may have come across more negative than I wanted. I want to make it clear that I do actually like this game and do believe it to be one of the top racing simulators yet made. My problems with the game are almost exclusively tied into the design of the game's structure and how, without any self-restraint you can very easily buy your way to victory as the game does not scale the competition to meet your car's abilities.
Here's a perfect example of how the game's Auction House mode, an absolutely phenomenal feature that allows players to easily buy/sell cars to one another all around the world, can be used to easily win some races that would otherwise be a bit more difficult.
It was finally time for me to compete in the Porsche Sports Club Cup, a series of three races with some stiff competition -- all of the cars in the field were rated with a Performance Index of around 790. The only Porches in my garage were a couple of oldies that I'd rather not spend tons of money upgrading, so I headed to the Auction House to see if I can buy one from another player. It wasn't long before I was able to buy a GT3 Cup car at auction for only 32,000 credits. This is the car you actually unlock for winning the Porsche Sports Club Cup and in terms of performance, is worth over 100,000 credits compared to the stock cars from the factory. Using this "Red Bull #82 GT3 Cup" car I promptly slaughtered the competition, winning over 15,000 credits in each of the 3 races, plus a hefty bonus and, you guessed it, another GT3 Cup car as a prize. I'm now selling the car I won at auction for, hopefully, upwards of 50,000 credits.
I didn't do anything illegal. I didn't game the system. All I did was play the game as it was meant to be played. I would have been happy with a factory Porsche with a high A-rating or an S-rating, but it's not my fault that somebody had an R4-rated car dirt cheap at auction. It's also not my fault the game doesn't recognize what car I was rolling up to the line with and quickly adjust the competition behind the scenes so that I won't be able to run away with the race. I shouldn't have to rely on my own self-imposed restrictions in order to guarantee some semblance of a challenge in the game.
And yes, there are plenty of events that feature a series of races limited to a certain horsepower. I just completed another series that was limited to cars with less than 150 horsepower. I grabbed the factory Mazda Roadster I had won earlier (146 horsepower) and quickly spent a few thousand credits upgrading the transmission, tires, brakes, and suspension. I also lightened the car. I didn't increase the horsepower a single pony, but I did make the car a hell of a lot faster. And I quickly zoom-zoomed my way to victory in all three races with the only ounce of competition coming after I entered a turn at Suzuka way too hot and slammed the wall. I still won the race though.
There are things I can do to make the game more difficult. I can increase the difficulty of the A.I., I can disable the anti-lock brakes or traction control, but as it is I'm already playing with a 15% boost to the difficulty rating and why should I turn off driving-assists that are essentially standard on all modern cars? Can you even buy a car without anti-lock brakes anymore?
Forza Motorsport 2 is a very fine driving game, but it could be a great, great game with just two minor tweaks. For starters, either every race/event needs to be governed by a maximum Performance Index or the game needs to scale the competition's cars so that they are within 2% to 5% of the player's car. Another change that needs to be made going forward is a total revamping of the race/event structure. Right now, playing the game gives players the sense of working their way through a checklist. Never is there any sense of accomplishment or urge pulling you forward for "just one more race". Instead, it's just a checklist of accomplishments. You know what car you're going to win, you know you're going to win some extra credits, and you know exactly what you need to do to win those prizes. It's all a matter of sinking the time into the game and slowly plowing your way through the 20 hours or so of Career mode gameplay. Frankly, it gets a bit repetitive and I doubt I'll make it. If only the game had a way to make me care about what it is I'm doing with it, I'd probably still be playing it this time next year. But as it stands now, I'm already looking forward to next week's release of DiRT. Too bad, really.