Racing Science Made Fun: Celebrating Forza Motorsports
Before 2005, there were only a handful of racing franchises that dominated the landscape. If you asked any player what a good console racing game was, they would probably point you in the direction of Need For Speed, Gran Turismo, or even Burnout. While each of those games set a style and garnered a fan base all their own in the world of vehicle video game enthusiasm, there was yet one more franchise on the way that was about to turn the genre on its head. In May 2005, Forza Motorsports arrived on shelves for the original Xbox, and with it came an all-new level of realism the likes of which had never appeared in a racing game before it.
Unparalleled realism was priority number one from the beginning with Turn 10 Studios. From adapting real world physics to all aspects of each car to adjusting car look and performance based on damage, Turn 10 worked out mechanics and designs to get as close to mirroring the real thing as possible. For each of the massive roster of 231 cars included in the game, a wide-array of upgradeable parts and customizations were included. With fine-tuning adjustments such as gear ratios and even adjustable tire pressure to account for an in-game temperature mechanic in races, Forza Motorsports offers an experience that any player can approach, but avid gearheads will get the most of.
Of course, with all of this customization and availability of motor vehicles, players need a suitable array of tracks to keep the pedal to the floor and keep you coming back for more. Forza delivers with a variety of oval, drag, street, point-to-point and even a few licensed tracks to challenge players’ skills behind the wheel. Road Atlanta, Silverstone, Laguna Seca, Tsukuba, Road America and Nürburgring Nordschleife were the licensed courses offered alongside quite a few original tracks inspired by real-world roads and challenges. With adjustable rules, Turn 10 gave players everything they’d need to experiment with any given vehicle, nail down a strategy and design and find success on and off the track.
Turn 10’s formula isn’t just a bunch of numbers without substance. In 2005, Popular Science Magazine invited professional racer Gunnar Jeannette to test vehicles in Forza Motorsports against their real-life counterparts on the game’s Road Atlanta and real-life Road Atlanta tracks. Amazingly, with only a few exceptions due to the condition of the vehicles, Jeannette’s times on real and virtual rides were almost identical, fully allowing his style of racing to translate over to the world of the game with little to no adjustment. Of course, average players aren’t going to be playing on the full cage rig with a 50 inch plasma screen that Jeannette was being tested on, but the sheer lack of adjustment Jeannette had to make to his style to race with such proficiency was an amazing accolade to the time Turn 10 put into the game’s numerous systems.
The Forza series has become one associated with this type of sheer customization and realism. Six core entries in, Turn 10 has only continued to push the boundaries on just how fun and comprehensive a racing simulator can be. Hundreds of cars, thousands of customizations, an awesome set of replay tools and fierce competitive multiplayer scene later, Forza stands as one of the foremost titles of the racing genre. Need for Speed, Gran Turismo and Burnout all worked to satisfy a certain type of itch, but when you want competitive game play mixed with thousands of real-world factors translated to near perfect digital racing, you go for Forza.