Yep, that's what he said. The CAD data they get from car companies is usually pretty unusable for the making in-game cars. And, even more telling, Forza developers never trust the manufacturer specs for HP, weight, etc. They do all their own dyno testing, and part-weighing. So turn on your Xbox One for accurate car specs.

It seems that the actual CAD files used to actually make new cars really aren't well suited to building video game cars (though they're sometimes an okay place to start), and it's not too surprising HP and weight figures might get fudged by makers of ultra-high performance cars. They wouldn't go into who's the worst offender for HP overestimation, sadly. I bet it's Smart.

I heard this from Dan Greenawalt, Creative Director for the Forza franchise, as he and his colleagues were showing a pack of feral auto journalists the highlights of the new Forza Horizon 2. We didn't get all that much hands-on time with the game, but from what I saw, it's pretty damn impressive, especially if you're a fan of evaporation.

Oh yeah, evaporation. And puddle formation, and meteorology. If your goal is to find an impressive, console-based precipitation and puddle-generation simulator that also includes a bit of driving, Horizon 2 is your answer. That's because one of the big things this new version is adding is a fully dynamic weather system, and that means rain. And puddles. And puddles evaporating.


This isn't just visual effects to look like rain — it is rain, at least computer-modeled rain. Puddles form like they do in the real world, filling crevices and lower areas first, water beads on car paint and glass as it would in the real world, and those puddles evaporate like nature says they should. And, of course, those wet patches affect traction and wheel slip and all those physics-related things you've come to expect.


It also looks incredible. As the wipers on your virtual car wipe the windshield, they occasionally leave little arcing trails of drops — just like actual wipers do. The skies get that same pregnant, laden look right as it starts raining, and the falling drops are wildly convincing. It's impressive.

Like the previous Forza Horizon, Horizon 2 is an open world, but this one is three times as large, and set in Southern Europe instead of Colorado. It's a totally open world, which means that all guard rails and barriers used in the previous game to keep your travels constrained are gone (except where they exist in reality). That means if you want to tear ass in your Huracan right through some poor Italian bastard's vineyard, have at it. In fact, I watched one of the developers do just that.

The main engine of the game is based on the Xbox One's Forza 5, and it does look incredibly photreal. They told us it's less about texture resolution and polygon counts now, and more about light, and light effects. Reflectivity, refractions, flares, glares, all that delightful crap we associate with the physical act of seeing has been modeled in the game, and the result is a paradoxically subtle yet dramatic leap in realism.


Where the previous generation of Xbox 360 Forza games have been realistic, but almost too crisp and clean, this new engine creates visuals that really can be mistaken for photographs. As a kid raised in the Pole Position era, it's remarkable.

So, the visuals are fantastic. Oh, except for the hands on the steering wheel. Without gloves, they still look like the hands of some sex doll.


The concept of "Drivatars" has been carried over from previous games and much enhanced, as they incorporate new neural-net systems to really, really learn your driving styles in a ways that almost will creep you out. Plus, they'll keep driving in the game world when you're not there, earning money for you and acting as competitors for other people playing the game. Hell, they could probably cut users out of the equation altogether! But that's probably not a great way to sell games.

There seems to be a crapload of content available here. There's over 200 cars, 700+ racing events, and they're saying that it would take over 100 hours to do all the races and events set up in the game. And that's not counting all the online interactions, which now include the option for clubs of up to 1000 users, custom livery and modification trading, and on and on and on.


I can't imagine having enough time to explore all this stuff.

Still, I'm sure there's those of you who could, and the game's out on September 30th for Xbox One. There's a 360 version, too, but it's developed by an entirely different group, and these guys didn't really want to talk about it at all. Because they've moved on.


I'm just excited to see some puddles evaporate.