It’s been a long time between drinks for the F1 franchise. Not since F1 CE on the PS3 have we had a officially licensed opportunity to race our favourite F1 cars around some of the most glamorous and spectacular circuits in the world. Racing veterans Codemasters have secured the rights to the F1 series and utilizing a modified version of their tried and tested NEON engine called EGO, we now have their latest attempt at a F1 racer.
Personally the most important aspect to a F1 racer is how the cars feel, physics is everything. Although not perfect, what Codemasters have delivered is a extremely competent and enjoyable experience. The cars feel balanced, fun to drive and the sense of speed is incredible. There are enough options with assists and controls to satisfy almost everyone. With all the assists on and the opposition on easy most new comers will still have enough of a challenge to keep the game interesting. But even on easy the game isn’t as forgiving as many other racers on the market, but approachable enough not to intimidate. Most F1/race fans will prefer more of a challenge, set it to hard (or hardcore if you’re insane) turn off a few assists and you’re in for a decent battle. Speed, accuracy and consistency are the key. Braking too late into a corner or accelerating to quickly out of a corner can spell disaster, either damaging (quite pretty damage modelling too) your car or sending you tumbling down the field. The opposition A.I. is impressive and really do seem to act with independent unpredictable personalities. Fortunately Codemasters have seen fit to include their now universal ‘flashback’ feature. Where you can rewind the action and try again. A feature the elitist in me initially scoffed at (until I served my Mercedes into a wall on the last lap at Monte Carlo), needless to say it’s a welcome feature, but only has a few flashbacks are available during a race, use them wisely.
Graphically the game for the most part looks decent. My expectations were quite high, but there were a few details that really let it down. The detail of the reflections on the cars is really poor, it was the first thing I noticed when I started playing. Again the detail when in the cockpit view seems lacking, the detail, draw distance and frame rate in the wing mirrors is ghastly, blocky jumpy and frankly quite distracting. The cars look gorgeous and the tracks great, the general scenery seems a little dull and the canned spectators isn’t anything special. It’s hard not to be a little disappointed with the first impression. But to be perfectly honest once the racing starts you’re so focused on the next apex you wont have time to stare into the grandstand. The frame rate is generally pretty solid, I noticed a we bit off chug on a few races but nothing I haven’t seen in most other racers on the market.
Where F1 stands out is in the new dynamic weather system, during a race day (practice, qualifying and race) the weather can change drastically, from beautiful sunshine to torrential downpours and it looks AMAZING. Few other racers have implemented a weather system before but Codemasters have nailed it. It gives the sensation of racing in the real world and the effect is brilliant. I’m lucky enough to have raced a open wheeler (karting, like f1 just 1/3 the speed) in the rain and the blur and lack of vision is spot on. Plus the way it alters the performance and feel of the vehicles feels quite realistic. Unfortunately the rain also highlights the same issue with the reflections. The reflections of buildings and bridges in the water on the track pops in and out, which removes so much from the immersion and realism.
The career mode is simple, enter you’re details, select your team, choose how many seasons you want to run (up to seven) and start racing. As with most modern F1 teams you’re in direct competition with your team mate. You’ll be given objectives that you’ll need to complete to maintain your seat in the team, exceed these objectives and offers from other teams will be made at the end off the season. There is also a press conference at the end of the races, where you’re asked a couple of questions and there’s a couple of options for answers. I’m aware that how you answer these questions can affect your relationship with you team, team mate and potential offers in the future.
F1 2010 features a basic but more than satisfactory multiplayer element. Lag free and quick and easy to find games with up to 12 players, let’s hope it stays that way.
I feel it’s worth mentioning, I understand it’s something that will be addressed in a future update but there is a almost game breaking glitch with the pit stops. What happens is that with every race be it a 12 laps or a 56 laps race you need to make a pit stop, if you happen to be mid pack (yes mo0ser I know it doesn’t effect you cause you’re always in first :p) or pitting at the same time as a few others the car controller sometimes holds you in the pit box until almost all of the other cars have passed, all but destroying any chance you have of winning or even placing. I’ve since learnt it’s avoidable if you alter your pit strategy to suit, but frustrating none the less.
With it’s solid career mode, good multiplayer and quick race feature F1 2010 is a more than competent racer, a must for F1 fans (who will probably have it by now regardless) and definitely worth a look for most racer fans. Although not perfect and with a few ugly bugs it’s still a great game. Plus it’s a great start for a game that will undoubtedly have a sequel coming out in the not to distant future.
Out now on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.
Note: I’ve been informed some of the graphical reflection issues aren’t as bad on the Xbox 360 version, but it suffers from some screen tearing whereas the PS3 version does not… Swings and roundabouts I guess