The Formula One season is drawing to a close, the title is nearly sewn up and you have the chance to relive it all again with the latest F1 release from Codemasters Racing
Once again the game is trying to put you in the life of a top F1 driver, as you start from the bottom and work your way to F1 champion. Well not quite the bottom, you aren’t starting by racing Karts and then working through the various racing classes, you start at the young drivers test, which acts as a glorified tutorial and introduces the various controls and mechanics of the game.
For newcomers it is a great way to get used to the vital parts of the game, such as the control system and find out what DRS, KERS and the like is. However for regulars this has been done before and does become a little tedious. The development team have tried to make this engaging still, by having it performance based, by measuring how well you perform to give you a wider range of teams to join. Don’t perform all that well and be stuck at Marussia, yet put in a solid weekend and Team Lotus could be waiting.
As with most racing games, it is how the cars handle, how they feel, how much they make you feel like you are in control. F1 sits between arcade and simulation and makes sure you experience the thrill of being in a F1 racing car amazingly well, it has always done that since Codemasters took over the licence.
The game can be set up to be as arcade feeling as you want, or as simulation as you can handle, although some fans of the likes of rFactor and other PC sims may find that it isn’t as hardcore as they may like, but in all honesty, that is fine. Handling an F1 car isn’t easy, us mere mortals wouldn’t be able to handle the raw power, so having a game that is too hardcore would put most people off. So the balance here is just right, it can be challenging, but still accessible to those who do need a little bit of hand holding.
What still strikes as being a little unbalance though, is the AI, on lower levels the intelligence just seems to be missing, with cars breaking for corners way too early, and often causing accidents by being over cautious. It is only when you enter the harder difficulties that the AI really shines, changing racing tactics on the fly, being aggressive or defensive as needed. But you really need some skill to be able to keep pace. It’s not just a fault of this game, it is a fault of racing games throughout time.
Visually things are as impressive as ever. When you are in the cockpit the sense of speed is outstanding, you get so drawn in and focused on what you should be doing, looking at the road, finding reference points for braking, looking for that perfect moment to make a pass. For the times you are racing, when you are right on the edge, it feels real, you are Lewis Hamilton, you are Nico Rosberg, when you cross the line in first you are Sebastian Vettel, you might as well raise that finger.
It is the graphics, the little visual tricks used, the amazing sound, that make that feeling possible. F1 2013 has a better sense of speed, a much more immersive experience than a Forza Motorsport, or a Gran Turismo. Which, whilst being maybe a lot more realistic with handling and the like, they can sometimes feel a little stale. Not this though, this is a joy to play.
There is plenty of content also, from the usual career modes, single races, championships, etc. There is something to keep you going for months on end. Whether you like your races in short bursts, or staying the distance and having full length events, it can be set up however you wish. Again if you fancy just learning the tracks and cars, there are the time trial and time attack modes.
The scenario mode is where you can have a great time, split into four areas based around the point in a drivers career, you are given set takes that you need to perform, earn medals and points, before taking on the next. Ranging from taking part in your first race and beating your team mate, battling it out for a championship, right through to taking part in your final year. Some of the scenario events are easy enough, but some can prove difficult and won’t be beaten on a first attempt, but each of them is short enough that you are happy to go back again and again to beat it, or even to improve your best score.
What really makes 2013 a must buy, is the inclusion of classic cars and tracks. Which includes all the modes from the modern era including a few scenario levels of its own. Being able to race a Williams FW12 or Ferrari F1-87 will bring back some memories for some of the older F1 fans and also gives a taste of how it used to be for a younger generation. There are even some of the classic tracks available to race on.
What is a shame, is that a little more wasn’t done with the classics, it would have been nice to see more made of the history, having presentations on what made these particular cars and tracks classics, what was special about them. Learning a bit more about the drivers, their special moments, that sort of thing. That being said though, you cannot help but feel nostalgic when playing. We hope there are more and more of these cars and maybe tracks released as DLC, covering some further eras than the 80s and 90s.
Driving these cars is a totally different feel to the modern 2013 cars, no DRS, no KERS, no paddles for gear changes, less lights and buttons on the steering column, the steering column actually looks like a steering wheel. The sound is different, the handling feels different. Codemasters have done a fantastic job in recreating the nostalgia of the era, when F1 was at its very best.
If you have no interest in the classic cars, then there may be no real incentive to pick up F1 2013 over last year’s release, but you’d be missing out on something very special. It is probably the best release yet, there is plenty packed in and oh, those 80s cars are things of absolute beauty.