NEWS - Monday, March 21, 2005

Popular Science Test Drives Forza

Popular Science Test Drives Microsoft Game Studios’ Forza Motorsport Just how real have video games become these days? The folks at Popular Science magazine aimed to find out by putting Microsoft Game Studios’ highly anticipated and critically acclaimed Xbox® driving simulator, Forza Motorsport™, to the test in the cover story of their April 2005 issue, which hits newsstands March 15, 2005. The story examines the blurred lines between reality and virtual reality by comparing and contrasting the performances of two drivers on the real-life and virtual American LeMans Series track Road Atlanta. "The drivers weren’t really racing against one another," says Eric Adams, Aviation and Automotive Editor for Popular Science. "The most scientific way of testing Forza Motorsport’s realism was to look at how the drivers performed against themselves—in real life and on Xbox." Popular Science equipped American LeMans Series racer Gunnar Jeannette and veteran racing gamer RJ DeVera with the ultimate videogame driving rig, which included the all-new FANATEC Speedster ForceShock steering wheel, a VRX SPARCO Pro2000 racing seat, and a 50-inch plasma screen television to serve as a virtual windshield. The drivers sampled six of the more than 200 cars in Forza Motorsport—from the modification-friendly, 240-horsepower Volkswagen Golf R32 to the mind-blowing 605-horsepower Porsche Carrera GT—on the Xbox digital version of Road Atlanta. Jeannette and DeVera were then given the keys to take those same six cars around the track on the real-life course, and instructed to report any similarities or differences. "Forza Motorsport is an incredible driving simulation that we’ve been working on for more than three years and are extremely proud of," says Dan Greenawalt, lead designer for the game. "When Popular Science—a publication that prides itself on technology and innovation—came to us with the idea to put the physics and realism of Forza to the test, we jumped at the opportunity." In the end, the study yielded uncanny results with eerie similarities between the drivers’ hot lap times, shift points, and apexes on the track and in the game. One factor that could not be replicated by Forza or any driving simulator, though, was the element of human fear. "Head-to-head, the performances were very similar, with lap times in the game consistently a handful of seconds faster than those recorded on the track," says Adams. "I think that’s mainly because in the simulator, the drivers started out at a maximum and took the no-fear approach. That is, if they took a corner too sharp and hit a wall, they knew they could always start the race over without any consequence. The fear of real-life impact at 150mph is probably what prevented Gunnar and RJ from taking that same approach on the track, and ultimately what prevented them from reaching the benchmarks they set in Forza."


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