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Human Players Are Different
The campaign in Forza 4 is the best yet, and very enjoyable. I've likely spent a good fifteen or twenty hours just in the campaign, racing through various events on various tracks, gaining new cars and tuning old ones. It's a good time, and a particularly good one for any player who enjoys the cars themselves, as you can take some through numerous events, grabbing gobs of experience as you go.
But like most single-player game campaigns, Forza 4's does little to prepare players for what is to come in multi-player. You may be able to win every single race in the campaign but end up finding yourself far behind online.
So what's the problem? Sometimes, the problem is your driving skill. If you are still racing with the racing line turned on, I suggest that you continue to play alone until you are comfortable with turning that off. It would also be wise to learn how to use the manual transmission option.
However, even a skilled player can find themselves far behind. Let's find out why that happens.
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Forza 4, like previous games, lets you tune your cars. The level of tuning available is dramatic. With proper equipment on your car, you can change gear ratios, adjust sway bars, change tire pressure, alter downforce, and more.
These changes are not small and sometimes mean the difference between winning or losing a race. These changes also are not represented in the single-player game. In campaign, you don't have to worry about going up against some obsessive-compulsive car nerd who has selected a car for each track and tuned it for that track. Online, that happens.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that you need to tune a car for each track before you even think of going online. The fraction of people who tune at all seems rather small. However, the best players do it, and if you want to catch them, you'll eventually need to do it as well. Unless you yourself are a huge fan of tuning, this is a mission that can be accomplished over time. Go online. Race. See what cars work on what tracks and try out cars that you like, and then tune them to perfection.
Remember, you can always tune in test drive mode on-the-fly without actually leaving the track you're on. That makes it an excellent tool for dialing in your car.
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Be Ready to Play Rough
Another significant difference between the campaign and multi-player is the attitude of other racers towards you. The AI can be a little aggressive, but in most cases, they do everything they can to avoid your car. They're better at it, because they actually receive more information about the position of your car than another player does. Unless a player has a multi-monitor setup or the Kinect head tracking, he or she can't see you when you're beside them.
As a result, rubbing happens. A lot. Players spin out and crashes occur. It's easy to become mad about this and lose your rational mind. Poker players call this being "on tilt." According to the Wikipedia definition, it is " a state of mental or emotional confusion or frustration in which a player adopts a less than optimal strategy, usually resulting in the player becoming over-aggressive."
That's not a state you want to be in because Forza 4 is a game that requires smooth driving and patience. If you over-cook a turn because someone spun you in the first corner, and you want to catch up and seek revenge, well - you could go into the wall and lose so much time that you'll never catch up to the front of the pack, no matter how quick you are.
Recognize that crashes happen. Usually, they're unintentional. Sometimes, they're not. In either case, you don't win races by acting like you're playing Mario Kart. If you want to try and seek revenge, do it - I've done it and it can be a lot of fun. However, if you want to win races, don't let anything - including your own anger - get in the way.
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Be Ready to Lose
Unless you spend most of your time playing Forza 4, you will ultimately have to come to face facts - you're not the best.
I play Forza 4 a lot, and I'm good at it. I can usually come within the top 10% of all players on any timed lap challenge. Yet I still lose far more often than I win, and first place is rare.
Part of this is due to exploiting players, who are using some loopholes in how the game rates car performance to blast ahead of the crowd. Most of it, however, is because while I'm good, there are usually a few people in a full 16-player race who are better. In addition, if you look at the leaderboards, you'll see that the gap between someone who is a top 10% player and someone who is a top 1% player is often a matter of 5 seconds per lap or more.
There's also some self-selection happening here. Players who are quick are more likely to play online, while those who can hardly handle a bend without crashing will stick to campaign with the assists turned on. If you jump in to any random public match, you're likely to be up against at least a few people who are very, very good.
So best ready to lose, but don't worry. Taking third place in a sixteen player race is a solid finish and provides decent experience and credit rewards. Even sixth place is a respectable finish.