Is Ford Racing 2 Underrated? Ford Racing 2 is a racing game developed by the now defunct Razorworks Studios of England, and released for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 back in 2003 Per usual this adult themed game never made it to Nintendo’s GameCube, but was available for the PC and Mac In any case, this was a budget title and celebrates the Ford Motor Company As one would expect from a budget release, Ford Racing 2 was met with mostly average reviews G4TV scored the game a 3 out of 5 stating, “It’s not deep, nor especially challenging, but if you want to take that vintage Mustang to the generic California streets and choke your enemies with exhaust, it’s a fun ride.” The Official Xbox Magazine gave the game a 5.8 out of 10 noting, “The structure isn’t terrible, it’s just not very good…same goes for depth and the game as a whole.” Finally, IGN scored the game a 4.9 out of 10 proclaiming, “The general game engine is decently executed with some arcadey physics and yet it still is not remotely enough You’re better off playing another racing title and imagining that the cars all have blue Ford logos on them.” So, is Ford Racing 2 really this average? Let’s take a look There are two main modes in Ford Racing 2, the first being the Ford Challenge mode where you unlock all of the cars, race types, and tracks the game has to offer The Ford Collection mode then allows you to create your own challenges using what you have unlocked in the Ford Challenge mode Finally, if you plug in a second controller, you can race against a friend, which I didn’t do As the Ford Challenge mode is the meat of the game, this is where I spent all of my time I also played with a standard controller rather than a wheel; driver assists turned on, and completed my journey on the Medium difficulty If I had to guess, I’d say the folks at Razorworks Studios were probably big fans of the Project Gotham Racing series of games, as this is basically how Ford Racing 2 is structured You are presented with 7 different groups of events, dividing Ford’s lengthy history into convenient categories Living Legends represents some of Ford’s most iconic cars, Movie Stars being cars from classic movies, SVT presenting Ford’s Special Vehicle Team cars, Concept showing off some of Ford’s most beloved concept cars, an Off Road category for various trucks and a Focus rally car, a Custom category for tuner cars, it was 2003 after all, and finally Stock Cars I have to admit, Razorworks did an admirable job capturing a massive variety of Ford vehicles Each of the 7 categories then has specific events to race in Much like the categories, there is a diverse selection of events for you to drive I say drive because a majority of the events here are not racing, but rather driving challenges The first event is called Driving Skills, where you have to complete a lap before the timer runs out However, the time provided is way too low, and you have to maneuver through cones which add one second to the dwindling timer You need to find the right blend of speed while also racing between cones to be successful The next event is a basic Time Attack, requiring you complete a lap in the target time There are no gimmicks here, just a simple time attack Racing Line forces you to complete a lap within a specific target time, but you are punished if you wander off the racing line, with penalty time added to your final lap time for each second you fail to race the line This does a decent job teaching you a given course, though it could have been improved if the racing line featured alternating colors for braking and acceleration points Seconds Out works much like Driving Skills, except you must collect the timer power-ups rather than race between cones As you can see, these four events are all solitary affairs, but there are four more events which put opponents on the courses Drafting requires you to draft an opponent until the meter at the top of the screen runs down If you bump into the opponent, time is put back into the meter Additionally, there will be a set number of opponents to be defeated before the timer runs out, creating a nice sense of urgency while you race up to the next vehicle Duel requires you to finish ahead of your opponent at the end of a lap, with a new opponent being presented with each successive lap Fail to lead on any of the three laps, and you must start back at lap 1 Elimination is a field of six racers, with 2 cars being eliminated after laps 1 and 2, leaving just you and a single opponent for the final lap, assuming you didn’t fall behind and get eliminated Finally, there is a Standard Race against five opponents All you need to here is win the race with no added gimmicks Like I said, with all of the different events, and only half of them featuring other opponents

on the track, there is a definite Project Gotham Racing vibe here, minus the kudos of course With that said, you don’t get to choose a vehicle for each event; instead each event represents one of the game’s 35 licensed Fords Of course many are initially locked, but as you progress through the Ford Challenge mode you’ll slowly unlock the rest, in addition to the 16 race courses Speaking of tracks, this game features no real world circuits Being a budget title, I assume funds for licensing real world race tracks simply wasn’t available Instead, we are left with a completely fictional lineup of courses spanning a diverse set of environments In this way, Ford Racing 2 reminds me a bit of the Ridge Racer series And trust me when I say, this is a good thing Don’t get me wrong, there are courses around the world I absolutely adore like Suzuka, but the track designers at Razorworks Studios did a phenomenal with their own creations, without being hindered by things like reality Much like Namco, the developers seemed to have a firm grasp on what makes a track good The length of each is about spot on They aren’t too short where you quickly become bored, but aren’t too long where it becomes a massive chore to memorize each and every corner Specifically, 14 of the courses take between 1 and 2 minutes to complete which I find to be the sweet spot in track length The 2 oval speedways are the only exceptions, clocking in at under a minute, which I find acceptable for a speedway Next, these courses all flow really well Generally, long stretches of pavement will have gentle bends matching the types of speeds you’ll be at ‘S’ turns are usually complemented with short lengths of straight sections again matching the momentum of your existed speed, and then there is everything in between Each track also seems to have a signature turn or two which can be quite challenging These segments reward racers who have memorized the circuit, giving you a feeling of satisfaction when you get the breaking just right, hit the apex, and then accelerate out, to repeat the process in the next set of bends This thoughtfulness of each allows you to get into a racing Zen like state, where all you are really seeing is braking, turning, and acceleration points, while the rest of the racing environment just sort of fades away from your focus They really did hit the perfect blend of length, turns, and elevation changes, creating some truly satisfying new courses to race through and master And because you generally have to do events like Driving Skill, Seconds Out, and Racing Line before the actual racing events, you’ll likely have a firm grasp of the track at hand for those moments when you’re racing opponents However, as important as the track design is, the controls are what really matter and can either sink a game, or truly elevate it Surprisingly, Ford Racing 2 also excels in the handling department While I’ve heard this game described as arcadey, I would actually disagree Ford Racing 2 feels much more like a simulation to me, than arcade First, the steering feels excellent The cars truly feel like the front wheels are in fact steering the car, which for me, is important Next, the weight-transfer from side to side, or forwards and backwards under deceleration, and acceleration, effect the grip the 4 wheels have For example, there is the sensation of lift-off oversteer, with the rear wheels losing grip and sliding when you lift off the accelerator while turning, because the weight is shifting to the front of the car Now, I’m not sure if Razorworks developed their own tire model here, or licensed a pre-made game engine, but in either case, if you’re a diehard racing fan, you’ll appreciate the subtle responses the tires have with the pavement That isn’t to say everything is realistic however Generally speaking, most of vehicles in Ford Racing 2 feel far more powerful and quick than they probably are in real life Even the classic cars can really get moving, and I doubt a Thunderbird is this nimble in real life Still, while the performance is definitely exaggerated, Ford Racing 2 still feels far more realistic than arcadey, and if you don’t play the game as such, you’ll likely struggle to find success This is not the kind of game that allows you to brake during a turn, you must brake before the turn With the pavement out of the way, we must move onto the Off Road events All of the trucks, except one concept vehicle, and the Ford Focus rally car, take place on specific off road courses These act as a dramatic departure to the semi-realism presented thus far This is probably for the better, as the thought of racing a Ford F-350 around the scenic back roads doesn’t exactly get me excited Basically, the off-road physics definitely feel more arcade-like and forgiving The environments too are far more arcade like While the courses so far have felt plucked out of real life, the Off Road Courses are almost pure fantasy You’ll find yourself racing past Mayan ruins one moment, and then racing through lava,

literally racing through lava, the next I’m not going to say these are bad courses by any stretch, but as a whole they lack the finesse found on the paved courses On the bright side, they are generally wide enough to compensate for the upgrade in vehicle size, so they have that going for them, which is nice This brings us to the final group of cars, the Stock Cars There are four in all, with each representing a higher level of stock car racing However, for as much as I raved about the tire model, they actually don’t hold up here I first noticed a minor issue with the Ford GT, with the massive rear tires exhibiting some unnatural hop in tighter turns I originally thought it was a fluke, but the weird hopping phenomenon is repeated with the stock cars From what I can tell, these wide tires break the physics engine Instead of having grip, or losing grip and sliding, the car sort of hops creating an extremely awkward sensation with some unpredictable, disastrous, results You can more or less get around the issue on the two speedway courses, but the unpredictability with the grip makes the two road courses with the stock cars needlessly difficult On more than one occasion, I was tossed into a wall somewhat unexpectedly While I find a majority of Ford Racing 2 to feature some excellent driving on some equally excellent courses, the 7 Off Road events and 4 Stock Car events are definitely a jarring departure from the high bar previously set At first this kind of annoyed me, but you really can’t celebrate the Ford Motor Company and simply ignore the massive success they’ve had with pick-up trucks and stock car racing, and looking at it from this perspective, the Off Road sections can be a fun diversion But the Stock Cars, eh, not so much Another problem in Ford Racing 2 is the inconsistent challenge presented Again, I completed the entire Ford Challenge mode on the medium difficulty, but some of these events don’t offer a challenge at all You’ll breeze through a few of them without breaking a sweat, and are then presented with a challenge taking you a multiple attempts to get right The fourth challenge in the game, a Racing Line event, took me four tries to complete for example, and the very next challenge, also a Racing Line event, was beat on the very first attempt The 10th event, a Driving Skills challenge where you need to race between cones, took me a whopping 11 tries The next challenge only took me three tries These inconsistencies are prevalent throughout the entire game The second to last event, which is a stock car race around a road circuit, took me two tries to beat But last event, another stock car race around a road circuit, took me 6 tries The difficulty is just all over the map and I feel the developers could have tweaked things to make the difficulty curve much more linear from beginning to end, rather than scattered about While I’m on the topic of the final race, let’s talk about the structure of the game The Ford Challenge mode is truly the heart of the game, and is where everything in the game is unlocked Beating this mode will yield you 35 of the game’s 35 cars, 16 of the game’s 16 courses, 8 of the game’s 8 race types, but only 8 of the game’s 18 trophies The first 7 trophies are awarded for beating the 7 Challenge categories, along with an 8th trophy for completing the entire Ford Challenge The rest of the trophies must be collected by creating and racing your own challenges in the Ford Collection mode Basically, this left me at 88% complete, and as I’m not much of a completionist, I don’t feel terribly compelled to go for the final 12% Unlocking everything offered in the game and clearing the main game mode counts as beating Ford Racing 2 in my book Whether my assessment is right or wrong will be up to you As you’ve no doubt noticed, Ford Racing 2 is a rather fetching game If I had to use one word to describe the style, it would be clean Here, Ford Racing 2 again reminds me of the Ridge Racer series Everything looks exceptionally crisp, with polygon models being of sufficient quality to prevent anything from looking blocky or unrealistic The turns all look round and it’s almost impossible to make out the straight polygonal lines making up the bends And there is no motion blur, or anything else to soften the game’s sharp presentation The texture work is also way above average The road surface looks great, as does the grass, and all of the road side advertising looks legible from a distance, yet smooth when you’re up close Now I am playing this on the Xbox, and can’t speak for the quality found in the PS2 version, but color me impressed Even better are the backgrounds The trees look terrific, the city skylines look full, and the canyon environments look organic Even better are all of the little details Skies are filled with birds, planes, helicopters, and balloons, while the water and marinas are always teeming with boats, yachts, and cruise ships, and little houses will dot the

hillsides I find it all rather impressive While Ford Racing 2 isn’t filled with a ton of graphical wizardry, there are some nice particle effects Exhausts look fairly realistic, and I do appreciate how it comes out of the side of vehicles when appropriate Particle effects don’t stop there either, and the Off Road sections look fantastic There is nothing cooler than seeing five plumes of dust ahead of you, while tire marks of said five trucks are all being imprinted on the sand in real-time, all without a hiccup Even the car models look terrific, by 6th generation standard anyway The models are reasonably detailed, right down to the headlights and taillights, with very few textures being used in place of actual details This means the way the sun reflects off the sheet metal looks awesome and reacts in a realistic way as you make your way around the tracks Even the back windows look good, changing from translucent to reflective depending on the angle of the sun And it does all of this at 60 frames per second, and the smooth frame rate never drops or stutters, ever Ford Racing 2 just doesn’t have any of the technical compromises you would expect from a budget game The super-fast frame rate, detailed polygon models for the cars and the tracks, and shiny metal surfaces, create a super crisp style I really dig This quality carries over into the sound department, specifically, the engines Each vehicle has a distinct engine note, from the low rumble of American muscle, to the high whine of the GT90 concept car’s V12, and everything in between There is also excellent stereo and surround separation, and it’s easy to pinpoint opponent locations simply by sound The soundtrack on the other hand, is a bit lacking You can choose between funk, house, and rock, but there are so few tracks your best bet is to select all, regardless of your personal preference in music genre Judging by the credits, there may in fact only be four songs, which is pretty lame On the flip side, you can use custom soundtracks if you’ve ripped some CDs to your Xbox Had I known this, I would have ripped some Sonic R and used that instead of the stock audio But hindsight is 20/20 So, with all of that out of the way, we arrive back to the question asked at the beginning of the video Is Ford Racing 2 underrated? Make no mistake about it; Ford Racing 2 is not in the same league as the Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo series The car library is impressive for what it is, 35 different Fords, but this includes both a Ford Thunderbird, and a Ford Thunderbird convertible So yeah It also lacks any sort of customization options, and you can’t even tweak simple things, like basic suspension settings or gear ratios And the artificial intelligence is pretty lousy Ford Racing 2 implements some rubber band A.I., making your opponents more difficult when you are leading, and slowing them down when you fall behind While the tire model feels realistic like a sim, the computer controlled drones are pure arcade While this does create plenty of exciting side-by-side moments and fun passing opportunities, it’s all smoke and mirrors For example, here in an off road race, I smash into an opposing truck and we end up sideways Instead of turning around, the opponent simply continues on, going the wrong way around the track I find this pretty uninspired Even the replays exhibit some questionable decisions Generally speaking, they are extremely pixelated, and then retain full resolution when the car is close to the camera I assume the developers were going for some sort of focus effect, bring the action into focus when the car is near, and then blurring as it drives away Unfortunately, the effect is applied too liberally, resulting in unwatchable replay footage a majority of the time And when you’re trying to vary up gameplay footage for a video review, stuff like this really matters On the flip side, Ford Racing 2 does get some other minor things absolutely correct The racing tarmac has a slight sheen for example, and will glisten in the sun The forced feedback, or controller rumble, is also executed flawlessly, perfectly communicating tire grip levels to your hands Opposing cars will even turn transparent when they are right behind you, to not obstruct your view The attention to detail is outstanding But flaws and minor details aside, what Ford Racing 2 does manage to do is be a very competent driving game The smooth, responsive, and predictable controls really are impressive, and the moments when Ford Racing 2 is ripping off Project Gotham Racing, are truly enjoyable I just wish the actual racing segments were better executed Other than a couple of tough Off Road Races, and the final Stock Car race, these rarely pose a real challenge, and with the game’s title containing the word “Racing,” I can’t help but feel a little let down Still, the diverse selection of cars spanning over 60 years is sweet and does an admirable

job celebrating the Ford Motor Company And even if you aren’t a die-hard Ford fan, there are plenty of awesome rides here for motor heads of any kind So yeah, Ford Racing 2 is definitely underrated I wouldn’t call this a great game by any stretch, but calling it average would be under selling it The game’s bright spots, like superb presentation, memorable track design, and wonderful controls easily outshine any of the game’s shortcomings If you’re a fan of driving challenges or really dig the Project Gotham Racing series of games, I highly recommend Ford Racing 2

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