by: M.S. Smith
; edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom
; updated: 4/17/2012
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So, you've heard about this Forza thing, and you've picked up a copy. But now are you're not sure where to begin. Jump online? Career mode? What do the assists do, and how should you drive to receive the best track times? In this guide we'll review all that and more.
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It's a Big Game
Forza 4 has a lot of content. It has everything that Forza 3 had, but adds even more cars, more tracks, and even more single and multiplayer modes. There's a lot to do, a lot of settings to adjust, and a lot of ways to play. This can all be overwhelming for new players.
It doesn't have to be. I'm a long-time Forza fan, having played the game religiously since the release of Forza 2, so I have a lot of experience. Let's jump right in to this Forza 4 newbie guide, and put you on the track.
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Jumping in the World Tour!
There are several different ways to play the game when you begin. You can play online public matches, you can do timed challenges, you can do one-off races in Free Play or you can jump in to the World Tour.
Unlike most games, World Tour doesn't have much in the way of a tutorial. There's a one-lap race at the beginning of the game that's supposed to determine your skill level, but in my experience it is fairly useless. It is extremely conservative, so everyone ends up with a number of assists turned on.
Once you get past the one-lap intro and into the proper world tour, you're going to be driving relatively slow cars. My advice? Turn off both the racing and braking lines and go to town. This may seem a bit scary at first, because you can indeed screw up in Forza, big-time. Take the wrong line in a turn and you'll find yourself in a wall.
Keep in mind that with these little cars, it's hard to end up too far off course, and the beginning AI is forgiving. In addition, you can always use the rewind feature (hit X) to erase your mistakes. There's no penalty for doing this in single-player.
Turning off the racing line will benefit you because, like the one-lap entry race, it's conservative. If you follow the racing line you are going to be a very slow driver. The racing line also discourages the development of a crucial skill - the ability to judge how much speed you can carry through a corner. If you can't do that, you'll be rather hopeless in mutliplayer.
You'll earn fast cars quickly in World Tour, and you may be excited about jumping in them. Feel free to do so on occasion, but I suggest you continue to drive the slower cars when possible. Faster cars make everything more difficult, and you may not have the skills yet to handle them. If you find that you're plowing off-course two or three times every lap, take a step back to a slower class of car and work on judging the speed you can carry through a corner.
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Patience in a Virtue
New players to a racing simulation like Forza 4 most often become frustrated because of a lack of patience. In an arcade racing game, players are encouraged to be on the throttle frequently. Brakes are often an after-thought, and a corner usually involves steering into a drift and then cramming the throttle.
Traction is not infinite in this game, which means that if you slam the gas half-way through a tight corner, you'll probably either understeer into a wall or oversteer into a spin. For players who aren't used to simulation games, this is a problem, because the tactic that usually makes them go faster actually makes them crash.
You must be patient. If you're in a corner and you hit the gas, you may find your car starts to slide. This doesn't mean you should press the gas further. It means you should gently let up on it (usually - there may be situations where being steady on the gas will mean more traction, but you shouldn't worry about that yet).
The fastest driver in Forza 4 is the one who can explore the limits of traction without going beyond them. Tail-out drifting around corners is cool (and there is in fact a Drift mode in the game) but it won't win you races. Smooth, steady movements are best.
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What About Assists?
As you begin to develop your skills in Forza 4, you may want to take off some of the assists. This will allow you to have a more direct driving experience, and it has the potential to reduce your lap times. However, it's not wise to take off all the assists at once. So where should you start?
As I already mentioned, I would take the driving line and braking line away right off the bat, provided that you follow my advice and begin with the World Tour. As long as you learn with the slow cars, driving without the racing line should not be too difficult, and will help you build the skills required to play Forza 4 well.
Another assist that you may or may not want to adjust off the bat is the transmission. Automatic is the easiest mode, but also the slowest. Manual gives you far more control, and is preferable in all situations. You difficulty coming to grips with it will likely depend on what you drive in real life. If you've controlled gears before, it should not be difficult, but those who've always driven automatics will require a period of adjustment. I only recommend driving manual w/clutch if you have a high-end racing wheel with a stick manual transmission and racing pedals attached.
Once you start to feel in control of the vehicles you drive for the majority of the race, remove traction and stability control. These are different but related assists, and both help keep your car under control when things seem to be going wrong. However, they cut in early to achieve this, and so can rob you of some speed if you've become skilled enough to drive a car at its limit of traction without exceeding it.
Anti-lock brakes should be kept on until you're very comfortable with braking into corners. Without ABS, you can lock your brakes, which will increase your stopping distance and make your car harder to control. However, with very careful brake modulation you can brake a bit better without ABS, which will further increase lap times.
The last assist I recommend you remove is steering, which can be dialed over to "simulation." In this mode, you have no steering assists at all, which means your ever movement is communicated in full. I'm not sure if going to simulation steering actually has an impact on lap times, but I can say that it provides an even more realistic driving feel.
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Best of Luck!
Remember, have patience. Don't jump into the fast cars too early. Don't jump on the gas out of a corner too early. This Forza 4 newbie guide has a lot of content, and delaying your approach to the supercars doesn't mean they won't be available later in the game. You'll have plenty of time to race them once you've learned how to properly control your car.
Have a question not covered in this guide? Feel free to leave a comment!