After learning a track, it's off to the races. Naturally there is a career mode in which you will be racing at various tracks in your region. Available regions are North America, Asia, and Europe. Within each region, Forza offers a mix of real-world tracks and fictional tracks. I tend to ignore the fictional tracks, preferring to race on a track that I have seen before. The real-world tracks are very well modeled - if you have seen a race at Road America, for example, you will be hard pressed to find differences between the real and virtual tracks. The track pavement is textured such that it imparts a reasonably good visual sensation of speed, and the trees, shadows, billboards, and lighting effects complete the sensation. The visuals are so good that you can almost feel your stomach rise to your throat as you dive down the famous Laguna Seca corkscrew turn.
The quality of the racing naturally depends on the quality of the computer AI that controls the other cars. The jury is still out on this. In some cases, AI cars behaved exactly as I would expect them to. In others, they drove like a 90 year old with glaucoma and a 50 pound foot. In other words, they'd ram into my car in a most disconcerting manner. I'm not clear as to what causes this behavior, as it is unlikely that the AI drivers can see me flipping them off without an HVDFP (High Visibility Driving-Finger Portal, aka sun roof) on my car. I've found the best strategy is to get in front of them and don't allow them to catch up. Keep in mind that many of the earlier races are very short - typically only two laps. This doesn't allow a lot of time for gentlemanly racing. In fact, it encourages just the opposite: get to the front fast, and worry later about who you had to punt out of your way to get there. This strategy comes at a price, though. Depending on how you configured the options, you may have to pay for damage to your car. It wouldn't take much to win a race, yet net to zero dollars profit. It's not likely that you'd win, though, as damage adversely affects the performance of your car.
This brings up another feature I liked: selecting or de-selecting various driving aids increases or decreases the bonus dollars you can win for the race. For example, you will win more money if you race with ABS brakes and stability control turned off. It's up to you to decide whether you can make money more efficiently by driving an easier to control car or potentially earning more per race.
Even with the availability of driving aids and reasonably short races, there will still be those that just want to collect and modify cars. For those folks, Forza has another innovation: the Drivatar. After accomplishing a few training sessions in an assortment of different cars, your Drivatar will be able to race just as if you were actually driving, exhibiting all of your strengths and weaknesses on the track. The Drivatar training doesn’t simply capture your preferred driving line and braking points – it actually builds a profile of your driving style that can then be transferred to any car on any track. Once the initial training is done, however, you can perform more training using a specific car and track combo for better performance.
You can enter your Drivatar in the races that you don’t want to race yourself, but you will not receive as much money for those races – you have to pay a share of your winnings to the Drivatar. Your Drivatar also gets better as you continue training it. In a somewhat surreal mode, you can even race against your own Drivatar. How to deal with the humiliation of losing to your clone is left for you to deal with.
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