F1 2012 Review
Codemasters' attempts to freshen up the Formula 1 series are just enough to keep this racing sim compelling
It seems the F1 series is here to stay as Codemasters’ successful Formula 1 racer enters its third iteration in as many years. By now it is fair to say the game occupies a similar place in the market as its fellow annual sporting franchises, such as FIFA or Madden. But can the developers replicate what EA Sports do so well, in providing yearly updates with just enough new content to warrant a purchase?
Much like the cars themselves, it’s a case of fine-tuning, but the risk with tweaking to the limits is that the formula might break, so the gameplay has been left largely untouched. Perhaps the car handling is marginally less ruthless than F1 2011, but if you showed anyone but the most stringent fan a race from last year alongside this year, they would be hard-pressed to tell you the difference.
It’s lucky then that the racing was so well constructed from the off in 2010. The pace and agility of the cars are well judged, and the speed is as thrilling as ever. When you time an overtake just right, or when a risky line on the last corner of the race pays off, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Yet it will be daunting to those used to more traditional racing games. Even Forza fan will struggle with the power that’s on offer here. The inch-perfect and reflex-heavy nature of the sport may act as a barrier even to some more experienced players, let alone fans of F1 whose interest in racing games might not stretch beyond Mario Kart.
Codemasters have attempted to address this issue with a new mode that accompanies you the first time you start up the game - the ‘Young Driver Test’. Though optional, it comes highly recommended. The test leads you through the basics of the gameplay while also teaching the fundamental aspects of F1 racing, such as how to hit the apex of a bend and when to use KERS. It’s at least half an hour long and well presented at the Yas Marina track, really drawing you in to the game. If you’re in any way new to the series, you’re going to need it.
Beyond the tutorial, there are a few more options to consider on the main menu this year. Alongside the usual time trial mode there’s a Champions Mode which pits you against top drivers, such as Hamilton or Schumacher, in different conditions having to fulfil certain requirements. It may not sound like much, but having to battle from 13th to overtake Niko Rosberg in 7th is a real challenge, and offers a neat change of pace from the standard races.
It won’t be the mode where you spend most of your time though, and there’s a new mode bridging the gap between quick play sessions and the mammoth Career Mode. Season Challenge is a 10 race mode with an emphasis on beating your chosen rival and claiming their car. This different approach adds a new aspect to proceedings and alters the race dynamic from just aiming for the podium. The progression is more palpable than anywhere else in the game, and you gain a refreshing sense of freedom as you jump from team to team. It’s an enjoyable mode for all types of players.