Design by Collin Oguro
Forza Motorsport is Microsoft's entry into the world of pure driving simulation, and its attempt to square off against the current king of racing games, Sony's Gran Turismo series. It's almost expected by this point that top-of-the-line racing games will have great graphics and an almost obsessive level of verisimilitude, and Forza doesn't disappoint in those areas, but there are also some factors which could tip the scales in favor of Forza, notably its inclusion of real damage modelling and strong online play, both of which are missing in the latest Gran Turismo.
As with most recent racing games, there's a ton of content in the way of cars and courses to explore in Forza, so this isn't intended to be a full-fledged guide to the game. Instead, our purpose here is to offer up a brief primer on some of the unique aspects of Forza, and give you some tips to get you up and running in the Career Mode of the game, along with some basic instruction on the tuning options in the game. Enjoy.
When you first boot up Forza, you're going to notice five primary options for getting into the game. Some of these are self-explanatory, such as time trials (in which you're challenged to take a certain car and a certain course and get the lowest time possible) or free run (which will let you take a good number of cars out to tracks for a test drive). The two primary single-player modes, however, are Arcade Race and Career Mode.
Arcade Race is going to be preferable for players that want to get right in on the action, as you'll start out with most (but not all) of the cars in the game unlocked and available for your use. You can choose any car you wish for the races here, but the computer will adjust your competition based on the class of car that you choose, so if you pick a speed demon race vehicle, you can expect to be going up against likewise speedy opponents. In order to unlock more cars and tracks, you'll need to conquer the races that are available at the beginning of the mode, then proceed along the line until you wind up at the formidable full Nurburgring challenge.
If you wish, you can import cars from your Career Mode to race in Arcade mode, and this can be handy. If you upgrade a car so much that it bumps into a different class, though, you'll need to be careful that you're not putting it up against cars that it can't compete with. In general, if you upgrade a car more than one full class (e.g. if it goes from B1 to S4), then you're probably going to be outmatched when you take it to the track. On the flipside, though, if you upgrade a car with certain features into another class, then it may be able to dominate the cars of that class without a problem on certain tracks. For instance, the Subaru Impreza WRX Sti Spec-C (J) (say that three times fast), which starts at A4, can be upgraded all the way to S2 if you purchase enough parts for it in Career Mode. At this rank, it'll have a perfect 10.0 ranking in acceleration, allowing it to rush past even the Enzo Ferraris and Saleen S7's it'll be facing in S-class competition, resulting in some easy wins. See the Class discussion in Career Mode for more discussion on this matter.
Most players, however, are going to want to jump into Career Mode, which is going to let you start out as a hip young cop, sent undercover to infiltrate a band of highway pirates and their gritty, underworld street-racing empire. Along the way, you'll learn about life, love...and yourself.
Well, that's all entirely false, except for the part about you being a cop. Well, OK, that's a lie too. In Career Mode, you're going to start out with nothing but a small war chest of cash, and absolutely no cars at all. In order to start working your way up through the ranks of the international racing elite, you're going to have to start small.
Before you can begin a career, you're going to have to choose a region to base your driver in. This is a permanent choice, and one that can have an impact on your finances, but won't limit the kinds of cars you can obtain. As the manual says, no matter what your choice of region, you'll eventually be able to obtain all the cars in the game, and will also be given access to all the tracks, as well. There are three areas in which your choice of region will affect your game, though.
Car Prices and Rarity
Region choice affects the price of cars, so that a North American driver will have to pay more for cars that come from Europe and Asia, while an Asian driver will have to pay more for cars coming from Europe and North America, and so on. This is most important when dealing with A and S-Class cars than with other car classes. The lower class cars are going to be the product of large production runs, for the most part, and thus will be relatively common in all regions, while the purpose-built race cars in the R class are going to be equally rare (and thus equally expensive) in all regions.
The rarity of a car is also affected by your region. Rarity doesn't have an effect on a car's gameplay mechanics, but the rarer a car is, the more cash you'll earn by winning races with it. Why? Heck if we know. Maybe the race organizers give you a bigger cut of the cash for drawing in more spectators with your uber-rare ride. Regardless, using a rare car will net you more cash, but you shouldn't cripple your chances of winning a race by using a car that's more rare, but which performs worse than your other choices.
Initial Car Selection
Your choice of region is also going to affect the initial car selection. You're going to start the game with 23,000 credits and a selection of six cars to choose from, each of which will set you back 20,000 or 21,000 credits. Now, we'll be the first to admit that you can choose anything you like, but an examination of the cars in each region will usually convince you that a certain model of car is going to be objectivly better than the other choices. For European drivers, you'll almost certainly want to nab the Audi TT Coupe; Japanese folks will be best suited by the Nissan Silvia; and American racers will have to choose between the Acura 3.2 CL Type-S and the Acura RSX Type-S. (We found the extra acceleration on the 3.2 CL to outweigh the marginal gains the RSX had in other areas.)
Basically, these choices all have something in common; they're faster than their counterparts in the early game. You might be saying "well, duh!" but in the D-class of cars, which is where you'll be starting out, it's important to note that speed differences between cars are going to be much more important than will handling. Handling will become an integral part of the game in the upper classes, where braking distance and turning ability will often decide your ability to win a race, but at the outset of career mode, he who goes fastest wins. After all, when you're barely busting out 100 MPH from corner to corner, you're going to have a pretty easy time slowing down and turning as compared to a car with 600 horsepower and a top speed of 230 MPH. So, yes, pick your starting car based on its acceleration and speed rather than any kind of handling consideration.
Your progress in the Career Mode of Forza is dependent on your level, which you increase by earning cash in races. What's more, each time you earn enough cash to increase your level, you'll earn a reward from either a tuning shop or a car manufacturer; these rewards will be dependent on your region. For instance, all profiles will earn discounts on car upgrades as they proceed through their career, but many of these discounts will only work on cars from the same region as your profile; i.e. if you're an Asian racer, then you'll only net the discount if you upgrade an Asian car.
In addition, every fifth level will net your profile a new car, and what cars you obtain will also vary based on your region choice. Oddly enough, most of the cars you obtain will be from another region. North American racers will earn a Toyota Tom's Z382 Soarer when you reach level five, for instance, while Asian racers will net a Pontiac 2004 GTO for reaching an equivalent rank. Like we said, you'll eventually be able to buy every car in the game, no matter what region you're from, so this isn't a big deal.
When you have your region and initial car selected, it's time to start hitting some races and earning some cash. At the outset of career mode, you should have at least three events unlocked; two in the Amateur series and one in the Point-to-Point series. If you took our advice and obtained the fastest car available to you in the initial selection, then you shouldn't have a problem winning these races, assuming you're decent at cornering and keep the AI set to medium in the difficulty options. At worst, you're going to be facing off against a bunch of cars that don't really stand a chance against you and one car that's of the same make as the one you bought, making most of these early races a straightforward duel, and one you should handily win, since the AI doesn't quite max out the speed of its cars on medium difficulty. (If you intentionally crippled yourself by buying something like the Mini Cooper, then you'll probably have to dial the difficulty down to Easy to even have a chance of winning these races.)
So, you should be able to win some of the early races without building up much of a sweat. Each time you win a race, you'll earn cash, which will quickly increase your level, and each time you complete a self-contained series of races, you'll also earn a new car. These new cars will likely be inferior to the one you bought when you chose your region, but the important thing about them is that they'll let you enter races that your initial car isn't qualified for.
Speaking of which, this mechanic should be familiar to anyone who's played a Gran Turismo game, but just so we're clear, you won't be able to upgrade and overpower a single car and use it to blast through all of the races in Career mode. Most of the race events will have restrictions on them, so that you'll be forced to use a 4WD vehicle to get through one set of races, then switch to a RWD vehicle for the next group. Each event will detail what's required for it, and also let you know if you have any cars in your garage that are suitable for the event; if you wish, you can immediately switch to an eligible car and use that to try your luck at the races.
In addition, you'll find that most of the events in the game are locked and unavailable to you when you first start out. Gran Turismo vets will be pleased to learn, however, that there aren't any license exams or hoops to jump through in order to gain access to these events; instead, they're automatically unlocked as you gain levels. In most cases, these races will be unlocked around the same time that you'll have earned enough cash or will have earned cars that can actually compete in them; if a race is locked to you, in other words, you probably wouldn't be able to win it even if you were able to enter, as you wouldn't have the appropriate cars to really compete.
So, in order to progress through career mode, you're going to have to earn or buy more cars and use them, in turn, to earn cash in the highest-level races available to you. The earliest races will usually offer you around 3,000 credits per race, which will be enough to get you up to level five if you play them often enough, which in turn will unlock a new car of some sort. The level five car is generally going to be much more powerful than what you've been winning at races, so feel free to hop in and and see what it's eligible for.
Now, depending on your skill level, you may either want to find races that provide an even match for your cars, or, if you're just looking to progress a bit, you'll want to find races that you can easily win with a certain car. In general, the quickest way to cheaply earn cash will be to hop into your most powerful car and head to the races. You can repeat races for more cash as many times as you like, so if you find a high-paying event that you can win easily, feel free to start racing it over and over again, if you like, to build up more cash for upgrades and new car purchases, and to earn more levels to unlock new races and earn new free cars. Keep in mind that the gap between levels is going to increase as you go ever-higher, which means that the early, low-paying races will eventually stop being an efficient way of increasing your level, so you may want to find a high-paying event and see if one of your cars is competitive in it, and if not, then either buy a new car or upgrade one of your earlier ones to give you access to more cash rewards. You increase your level by earning more cash, not from your total cash reserves, so there's no reason not to invest in some upgrades if you think it'll help you win races that wind up paying more.
General Career Tips
Often times you can get a feel for your chances of winning a race even before it begins, thanks to Forza's on-by-default qualification simulation. Before every Career Mode match, your Xbox will take all of the cars in the race and simulate qualifying laps for them, and rank them accordingly on the starting grid. If you're in first place on the grid at the outset, then there's a good chance that your car is the best on the track, and you'll probably be winning the race no matter what. If you're in second place, and the car in front of you is a different model vehicle, then it will likely get a bit of a jump on you off the line, but you should be able to overtake it with skilled driving. For our purposes, we didn't even bother to try races where we qualified in fourth place or lower, as we found that the car that qualified in first place is usually almost impossible to catch up to in these situations, barring some severe pack-ramming on the first turn. In situations like these, we just quit out and waited for a more powerful car to come along before trying the circuit again.
Enable Simulation Damage: The default damage setting, Limited, will still let you damage your car; it'll just prevent systems from becoming more than half damage. Unfortunately, that's generally going to be more than enough to cripple your car and prevent you from taking first place, which - let's be honest - should be your goal for every race you enter. If you're going to restart the race when you take enough damage anyway, you may as well set damage to Simulation mode. You'll earn 15% more credit for each race, and if you're able to get out front of the pack and avoid collisions, you're unlikely to take any damage anyway.
Bump the AI Settings: If you're interested in even more cash, then after racing a little while, you'll be able to set the A.I. Difficulty to Hard for a 20% bonus to your rewards. This isn't going to be an easy setting to deal with if you're like us and have a tendency to play with a loose, arcade-like driving style, but for races where you can bring a preponderance of firepower to bear, this is essentially free money. What we mean by this is that after you unlock certain cars, like the Toyata Tom's Z382 Soarer (obtained for free after reaching Level Five in North America) or the Subaru Impreza WRX STI Spec-C (J) (which you can win by playing the Point-to-Point Impreza vs. Lancer event), you should find yourself absolutely dominating some of the races that they're eligible for, especially in the Amateur class, even without modding them.
The reason for this is because these cars seem to emphasize pure speed over souped-up handling, allowing them to pull away from the pack in the straights, even over short straits, which thus makes these races much more forgiving of turning mistakes on your part. The Z382 should easily win races in the Front-Engine RWD and Asian Open events in Amateur, while the Impreza is going to own the All-Wheel-Drive and Rallisport Face-Off events, letting you pull down some large cash bonuses without being too threatened by the competition. You'll need to judge the relative strength of your car before deciding whether or not to run with Hard A.I., though, as harder A.I. settings in a field with relative parity will probably result in some swift drops to the back of the pack, unless you're quite good at following a proper line and cornering. Still, though, if you're able to beat cars with both simulation damage and Hard A.I. on, you can increase your winnings by 35% per race.
Maximum Cashola: Of course, if you're absolutely destroying the competition in a certain event, then feel free to switch all of the difficulty options so that you get extra cash. The maximum boost you can earn is +100%, which will double your earnings, which can make some low-paying races just as lucrative as some of the harder races. Switching off all of your automated systems will result in a car that's just about impossible to control in turns, however.
One of the more intriguing concepts in Forza is the ranking of each car into a class, based on its real-world rarity and purpose. Cars you can walk up to a dealership and buy in an hour are going to be low-class (and generally low-power) vehicles, while the higher-class vehicles are going to be, in the real world, very expensive and difficult to obtain.
Class ranges from D (worst) to R (best), with most classes being subdivided into four subclasses, such as D4, D3, D2, and D1, with D4 being the worst of these and D1 being the best. Although the rarity of a car determines its initial class, the subclasses are used to draw distinctions in power levels between vehicles, so that a D4 car will usually be significantly inferior to a D1 on the racetrack.
The key thing here, at least as it applies to Career mode, is knowing how far to upgrade a car. When you purchase new parts for a car in the garage, it's going to become more powerful, and thus will increase its class. For instance, one of our favorite cars (and we're repeating this example from the Arcade Race section, so bear with us), the Subaru Impreza WRX Sti Spec-C, starts out as an A1 car, able to compete against and usually beat A-class cars. If there's a race in Career mode that will only accept A-Class cars, then you can bring it to the track and enter it in those races. Since it's at the top end of the A-Class, though, it only requires a couple of upgrades to be bumped into the S4 class. Doing so will enable it to race in S-Class race events, but will also disqualify it from A-class events. Since it's on the lower end of the S-Class at this point, it may not fare too well against cars like the Enzo Ferrari that it's not competing with, where it would've handily won races in the A-Class. There are also races that feature restrictions based on horsepower, which you can upgrade yourself out of if you're not too careful.
Thus, it's best to keep a car stock when you first get it, see which races it's qualified for, then try to enter those without upgrading to see how you do. If you need to upgrade, feel free to do so, but be sure to check the restrictions on the races to be sure that you don't wind up disqualifying yourself.
So, in short, you'll need to keep an eye on the class of your car when upgrading. If you upgrade within a class, say by taking a car from A4 to A1 by buying parts, this doesn't have any negative effects, so feel free to do so. Note also that upgrading a car will never disqualify it for races based on its model and drivetrain, so pimping out the aforementioned Impreza would probably let it dominate the 4WD and Impreza vs. Lancer races it might've previously struggled in.
Most of your education in Forza is going to have to come on the track; there are simply too many tracks and cars to give you any kind of projected walkthrough to the game, besides the basics of "go fast". You'll want to also check your manual for more general tips, as it has some decent info on passing and turning.
Using The Line
One of Forza's most distinctive features is the inclusion of a full-fledged racing line for each course. Other games have had this before, but Forza is one of the few that incorporate it into all of the game's racing modes, including online multiplayer.
The line is, in essence, a tool that will help you know when you brake and turn so that you can learn how best to approach a corner and get through it. It is customized for each course, and will change colors based on your speed, with green indicating that you should be going full-throttle and red indicating that you need to brake, generally speaking. There are also a number of gradations between the extremes to indicate that some amount of gas is needed, so long as you can keep your car under control.
The key to dealing with the line is, oddly enough, knowing when to ignore it. It is a fantastic tool for learning courses, but won't necessarily always apply to your car or driving style, so as you get a feel for how your favorite rides handle, you may find yourself using it more as a guideline than a hard and fast rule, or even turning it off altogether. The thing about the line is that it's a model of the path you follow in a perfect situation, and said situations are unfortunately somewhat rare, especially when dealing with numerous cutthroat A.I. opponents. It also doesn't always take into account the differences in braking and acceleration between all cars. You'll need to play around with a car on different tracks to see exactly how to adjust your path to the line. Cars with excellent braking may be able to travel into the red zone before pumping the brakes, for instance, while cars with oversteer or understeer may have to deviate from the line in order to get through turns.
One of the interesting aspects of the racing line is the way it often inserts yellow and red segments into short turns of no more than 20 degrees. Although top-end racing cars with extreme top speeds may find these handy, most of the cars you're going to be using throughout the game will be able to handle these turns simply by undercutting the line while staying at top speed, eliminating the need to brake; at worst you may just want to lay off the gas a bit before heading into the turn. The exception here is, of course, areas where chicanes or short turns precede sharp turns; if you attempt to speed through one of these, then you may find yourself poorly equipped to deal with the subsequent turn. The beginning of the Rio de Janiero course is a good example of this; if you attempt to max out the throttle in the chicane at turn four, then you're almost certainly going to slam into the wall in turn five.
The line also doesn't usually take into account corner-jumping techniques. While corner-jumping and rail-riding isn't often a technique that will net you a time bonus, mostly due to the way that the courses are laid out, it's worth noting that the line will never indicate when it actually might be faster to ride up onto a rail or jump a corner entirely. A bit of experimentation in areas with grassy terrain may net you some speed bonuses, but you can expect to damage your tires a bit even when you do find a quicker line.
Brake In, Gas Out
The primary difference between simulation racers and arcade racers comes in their handling of turning. If you're playing a game like Need For Speed: Underground, then you may be able to get through a turn by just hammering the accelerator and scraping along the outside wall until you come to the end of the turn, but in Forza, you're going to have to approach turns with a bit more respect. In other words, you're not going to be able to turn with the throttle open all the way; you're going to need to brake until your car hits a sweet spot of maneuverability and speed, allowing it to get through the turn as quickly as possible while still retaining control. When done properly, you'll gain speed over the course of a track, even if you spend a lot of time braking, since uncontrolled turn approaches will often send your car off the track, or force you to correct your path and cause significant time delays.
The most important thing to remember is to try and brake while you're still travelling straight ahead, if at all possible; braking while turning your car reduces the effectiveness of both actions. The "best" approach to a turn will usually have you braking while you're still approaching, reducing your speed to a manageable amount, and only then starting to turn while accelerating to try and stick to the line. On many courses, you won't be able to get from one corner to the next without braking at least a little while turning, but just remember that doing so decreases stability and will be likely to get you off the ideal racing line.
Know The A.I.
One thing we can say for sure is that Forza's AI is pretty good for a racing game, especially with regards to how they pass. The cars here will, like human opponents, usually attempt to pass you up on a turn, and will completely disregard the line while doing so; you'll notice them jumping corners in an attempt to get past you, especially on sharp chicanes and turns.
If you happen to be out in front of a car that is your equal or superior in terms of speed, then, you're going to need to learn how to block off your foe properly. If you're using an exterior view, then you'll have to hit Y to check your rear view; in-car viewpoints have a handy rearview mirror already set up. When you're in front of such a car, all you really have to do is do your best to keep yourself in front of them. They'll almost always try to pass you on the inside of a turn and proceed to block you off when they get past you, using their car as a shield to prevent you from accelerating and passing them.
In order to prevent this strategy from working, you will, of course, have to try and stay in front of their car when they head inside on a turn. This is going to result in a pretty awkward turn for yourself, as well, but so long as you prevent them from getting past you it won't matter much, as you'll both be forced to slow way down; so long as you're still directly in front of them, they won't have much recourse but to follow your lead and wait for another opportunity to pass.
If a car does manage to bypass you, you should immediately try and get around it, if possible, as it will have taken the turn awkwardly in most cases and will require a bit more time than you to get up to full speed. The key here is to avoid actually hitting them, which can sometimes be difficult to do, as the video on this page should attest to; an unfortunate run-in with a computer opponent on Limited or Simulation damage can sometimes wreck a perfectly good run.
Whether you're bringing a Ford Focus or a mighty TVR Cerbera Speed 12 to bear on your favorite track, delving into Forza's tuning options will let you get a bit more bang for your buck. This section of the guide is intended to give you a very, very basic overview of the tuning commands in Forza Motorsport. It'll only be a matter of time before there are FAQs detailing tweaks and tuning tips for the most popular cars in Forza, but for now, you're going to have to adjust and tune your cars yourself. We're not going to delve into specific recommendations here, just tell you basically what the settings do and how they'll affect your car.
As in the Gran Turismo games, Forza will allow you to both buy upgrades to your cars and tweak their settings manually. (Manually tuning car settings will indeed usually require you to have purchased some upgrades first.) If you're intimidated by the tuning screen's complexity, then, well, don't worry about it; just buy the upgrades that you can and leave the tuning options on default. Upgrades alone will work to increase the raw power and stats of a car, so if you're just looking for something "better," just take it to the shop and buy whatever parts you can afford for it. Tuning can get you closer to a car that handles the way you like it, but it's also somewhat easy to screw things up if you don't know what you're doing. (You can always revert to the initial settings for your car, though, in case you happen to, say, entirely cut out the brakes.)
The main tire setting is pressure. You can increase the pressure here if you want more control in turns, but you overdoing this will result in more sudden slips when the tires suddenly lose their grip. Less pressure will increase grip by allowing more of the tire to contact the road, but the side effect of this is that you'll take slightly longer to turn off the forward axis.
Properly tuning gearing ratios is one of the black arts of car adjustment; it can be difficult to adjust these properly unless you really know what you're doing, especially if you're adjusting the ratios individually, but well-tuned gear ratios can greatly increase your ability to succeed on a given course.
Higher ratios here (i.e. moving the sliders to the right) will increase your acceleration, while lower ratios (moving the sliders to the left) will increase overall speed. Luckily, with Forza's built-in benchmarking utility, you can quickly get feedback on the efficacy of your ministrations and correct any mistakes you might be making before you get too out of hand. In our experience, most cars can get a bit more top speed by individually adjusting the top gear, but it will take you longer to reach said top speed, so you'll only want to perform such tuning when dealing with a course with fairly long straights.
You can also attempt to twiddle with the lower gears and tighten up the ratios there for better acceleration on courses with lots of sharp turns, but in our experience, the preset settings were usually suitable for most situations.
Camber affects how your car's wheels are tilted towards each other. A zero-degree camber means that the wheels are perfectly aligned when resting on a flat surface; negative camber will tilt the tops of the wheels inward; and positive camber will tilt the tops of the wheels outward from the body of the car. Increasing negative camber will reduce understeer, while reducing negative camber will reduce oversteer. You can adjust this individually for each axis, so if you find your rear wheels slipping on corners (we're looking at you, Tom's Z382 Soarer), you may want to try adjusting the rear axis by itself to see if you can't correct this.
Toe is similar to camber, but along a different axis. A negative degree of toe will result in "toe-in," where the fronts of your wheels will be closer together than the rear, while a positive degree of toe will result in "toe-out," where the fronts of the wheels will be farther apart than the rest of the wheel. For the front axle, toe-in will increase your turning ability but hurt your overall stability, while the situation is reversed with toe-out. Any kind of severe toe will decrease your tire lifetimes, meaning that you probably don't want to fool around with these settings too much if you're going out on an endurance race.
Caster affects the tilt of the steering pivot relative to the vertical axis. Only positive caster angles seem to be possible in Forza, meaning that the top pivot of the axis will be further towards the rear of the car than the pivot that actually connects to the wheel. A positive caster will increase the amount of camber that wheels are affected with while turning, allowing you to run with lower inherent camber numbers. On heavier vehicles, though, lower caster angles can increase responsiveness while turning, so you'll need to fine tune this in conjunction with your camber for maximum responsiveness in turns.
Anti-roll stiffness will affect how rigid the bar between the inside and outside tires is kept in a curve. Increased rigidity in the front anti-roll bar will increase understeer, giving you a bit more safety in blown corners, but it's mostly noticeable in long, flat corners, rather than in sharp turns. If you find that a car has too much oversteer in long corners, reduce stiffness and see if that helps.
Your spring settings affect how well your car handles uneven ground and cornering. Soft springs are a good thing when dealing with uneven ground and bumps, as stability will increase due to the increased movement of the springs. Stiffening the springs will decrease the speed of their movement, giving you improved control in corners.
Your spring settings are going to be something you should adjust on a track-by-track basis. Tracks that force you through elevation changes through turns, such as many of the mountain point-to-point tracks, will benefit from setting a softer spring setting, as you'll gain stability. On flat tracks with sharp turns, though, you're going to want to have somewhat stiffer springs, as you'll be able to turn more precisely. You'll still need to be wary of sudden elevation changes, especially when it comes to grip pads on corners. If you hit a grip pad with two wheels while your springs are set relatively stiff and happen to bump those wheels into the air, it'll be quite difficult to regain control while still turning.
Ride height can be modified in the Springs menu as well. Generally speaking, you're going to want to lower the ride height as much as possible, as this is going to lower your car's center of gravity and increase cornering stability by letting your tires grip the road more closely. If you get too low, however, you can find yourself scraping the ground when heading over sharp bumps, which will affect your speed. If you're willing to test a car out on the track before using it in a race, you may want to just completely lower this setting all the way and take your car out for a spin on a course with some elevation changes. If you find yourself scraping the tarmac, start upping the height until you find something comfortable.
You can also attempt to adjust the front and rear height individually to increase downflow and give you more oversteer and a bit more acceleration off the line. You're going to want to have a lower front end than a rear in this case, but don't overdo it, or you'll have a hard time toeing the line in turns.
Damping acts as something of a counterbalance to your spring settings, in that you can manually adjust how quickly the springs recoil into their original state after absorbing a shock. There are two settings here: bump damping, and rebound damping.
Bump damping controls how quickly the springs will recoil upwards after absorbing a shock from the road. Stiffening these settings will prevent the springs from coiling too quickly, thus preventing your car from diving too much when braking into a curve. These are individually adjustable on the front and rear, and you'll always want to have stiffer dampers in the front of a car than in the rear. When you have to brake hard when entering a turn, most of the energy in your car will shift forward, thus compressing the forward springs more than the rear; to keep your car balanced, you'll thus want to make sure that your front springs are a bit more resistant. Good braking emphasizes the shifting of weight to the fore of the car without too great of a "dive" effect, which will reduce traction on the rear tires and make for a less stable turn.
That said, you can overdo the stiffening of your dampers, especially if you also stiffened up the springs themselves for extra control. If you have stiff springs and dampers, you're going to have a lot of control, but your car will be quite bouncy; you'll want to soften up the dampers to get yourself back some stability and control over uneven surfaces. Overstiffening the front dampers in particular will prevent adequate weight-shifting and increase your braking distance.
Rebound damping controls how quickly your springs return to their normal positions after absorbing a shock. These need to be stiffer than the bump dampers, as they act to return stability to your car after braking, but setting them too high will likewise increase your braking distance.
Downforce is an important component of a car's overall handling capabilities. When you've set up a car so that air flows more quickly underneath it than over it, the different air pressures will cause a net downward force on your car, thus causing your entire car to grip the road a little more tightly. This will give you better grip on your tires and increased control, but will also cause increased tire wear. Note that you can overdo downforce, which will cause your car to be sucked into the ground by a massive difference in pressure; this will result in sluggish handling, so try to stay in the sweet spot if possible.
With the balance bar, you can adjust the balance of braking forces between the front and rear brakes. Biasing this towards the rear will let you turn in more quickly, but will reduce stability, while favoring the front brakes will increase your stability while braking; helpful for those cars that tend to shudder or shake when you're slamming on the brakes.
This affects the sensitivity of the brakes relative to the amount of force you apply to the brake pedal (or, if you're using a controller, the left trigger). This setting will largely depend on your car and the specific track you're working with. Having a higher pressure will increase brake sensitivity, which can be helpful on hairpins, but will make it more difficult to feather the brake on wider turns. By the same token, reducing total pressure will make it easier to feather due to the fact that the brakes will be less sensitive, but will make it tougher to lock up your brakes when going full-speed into a corner. Reducing pressure all the way will cut out your brakes entirely - try doing this on one of your buddies' Xboxes and see what happens the next time they load up a race!
Note that pressure here won't have much of an effect on your braking distance; brake balance is what you want to tweak for that.
Your emergency brake can be used in Forza, as in many games, to increase the amount of oversteer while cornering, or to fishtail out your rear end on sharp turns. The frequency with which you use it is going to depend on your play style; we personally didn't find it to be too useful. If you find yourself busting out with some phat powerslides, though, you can adjust the rate at which your emergency brake affects your oversteer with this slider.
Increasing acceleration differentials can help prevent squealing tires when powering through corners by increasing traction, thus letting you accelerate more quickly when coming out of a turn. If you push this setting too high, though, you can stiffen up your turning and reduce response.
Higher deceleration differentials will increase the traction of your wheels when braking into a turn, thus giving you mildly shorter stopping distances. On 4WD and especially rear-wheel drive cars, increasing your deceleration differential will also increase traction while braking, thus helping you turn in, but as with acceleration differentials, setting this too high will make for sluggish turns.
Note that 4WD cars will have Acceleration and Deceleration settings for both their front and rear wheels, since power from the engine is used to rotate all of them. They'll also have a torque setting, which will enable them to shift power either front or rear, to increase or reduce oversteer and make the car handle more like a RWD or FWD car, within a limit.