We've never been able to smell the burning rubber in the scorching sun on an F1 track via our very own Xbox 360 before. That’s why when it was announced that Codemasters had acquired the rights to develop an F1 game I, along with many of you, got very excited. And the product we’re left with, F1 2010.
Throwing you straight into the mix your F1 career starts by being interviewed by the media. Here you are able to give your details as well as answer a few questions which will determine, which array of teams you'll be able to drive for in the coming season. As expected though, no matter what you answer, the teams you get to choose from are from the bottom of the scale. No offence aimed at Virgin Racing and Toro Rosso but these cars don’t nearly match up to the power and speed of the McLarens, Ferraris and Red Bulls.
Once you've settled into the main hub of the game, the team’s paddock, you can choose a selection of modes to get started. If you just want to burn some rubber, get a feel for the game and set some quick lap times then time trial is for you. Alternatively if you fancy a grand prix weekend on your desired circuit you can do so too, however most of your time will be spent within the career mode where you sit in the cockpit and live the life of a formula one driver. It's not all money and fame though as a lot of hard graft and determination is required.
Starting for the bottom team, Virgin Racing in my case, your team boss doesn't really have high hopes for you. Not only are you the team’s number two driver, but your car is by far weaker than the majority of the field. This doesn't matter though, if you've got the skills, you'll in time move onto a more competitive team or become the team’s number one driver where you will then get any car upgrades first, but it’s at the Bahrain grand prix where it all begins.
The first thing you notice when sitting in your car in the pit lane is the realism and outstanding visuals. I usually don't mention how good or bad visuals are in my reviews before game play, but in F1 2010 I have to as they are incredible. Every race weekend consists of a practice session, qualifying sessions and more importantly the race. It's vital that you use each of the sessions to not only familiarise yourself with the track, but to make sure you are as far up the grid as possible. F1 nutters will feel right at home in the garage at this point, as the team’s engineers are ready and waiting to alter the cars dynamics to your needs. Need more down force going into corners? Just ask your engineers to alter the front wing. For those less astute to custom car settings, you can always ask the engineer to set up the car for you.
Formula one rules change all the time from season to season, so in case you didn't already know you no longer need to pit for fuel, as all the fuel is placed within the car at the start. You will however have to come up with a race strategy to come into the pit and change your tyres. This is where I stumbled across my first bug in the game. When tearing it up around the track and you come into the pits, as the race strategy suggests for some reason, on occasions, the pit crew keep you in the pit for longer than is necessary. They'll hold you back until the pit lane is clear to avoid any collisions. Now I don't know if you've ever watched F1 live, but there's certainly no hanging around waiting for the lane to clear. It should be a quick in and out job. It's happened quite a few times for me, especially when I've been in the podium positions. I end up being put to the back of the field which is frustrating. One thing I have found to counteract this bug is to alter the race strategy by making my pit stop either later or very early on in the race, where there will be no traffic, and this seems to do the trick.
Before going on to mention the aspect of the game that impressed me the most it's worth mentioning the media interviews that you have to do. To try and 'insert' you into the game rather than just driving you'll often be asked questions from the media. While it is a nice touch they could have gone a lot further with it. It seems even if you insult your team they are delighted with how you've handled the press. After a race I was asked how I thought my team did. I told the media that my car wasn't up to scratch and my team should be doing more. Instantly I got a message from my team saying they were delighted with my handling of the media - strange. And because there's no wrong answer it quickly becomes monotonous and you'll find yourself clicking any answer as there doesn't seem to be any impact. With this minor negative out the way, i'll get back to the good stuff: the driving.
F1 2010 is slightly more aimed at realism than arcade, but no doubt fans of both will still love it. With the right tyres on and the right track conditions, you'll easily be able to tear up new lap records. Braking into and then accelerating out through the corners feels as it should, as does overtaking an AI driver - getting into his slip stream and sliding past. It really is impressive considering this is the first proper F1 game in a while. The AI is pretty solid but it does tend to break a little too early, allowing you to often jump multiple cars at one time, but this is a feature common in racing games so it would be harsh to single F1 2010 out for that.
Something that should be singled out however are how impressive the graphics and audio are. The nineteen tracks look absolutely stunning, especially the glamorous Monte Carlo circuit. It’s not just the heat waves you can see on the starting grid but more the surroundings and textures. What’s even better is when the heavens open and it starts raining cats and dogs. The water bouncing over the track and dry racing lines being produced as the cars splash through the surface water is really something. The audio is similar. It’s a little disappointing there are no commentators similar to that on TV, but your engineer is in regular contact to keep you abreast of the race on goings. Unlike previous racing titles the cars no longer sound like a cat being strangled. Instead you're left with the roar of an F1 engine, and while it may annoy others in the house, it certainly adds to the enjoyment within a race.
That enjoyment is further continued when you take your skills online. As expected there are leaderboards for the time trial modes but you can also take part in single races or multiple grands prix. There is a shed full of options for any host to create a party and generally the races I participated in were lag free. One thing that will never change in online racing games is the first corner of doom. There’s nothing worse that knowing while you’re going down the straight, you’re about to get pummelled from the other cars that are behind you. While this can be fun it does drive me insane the majority of the time.
Thankfully the rest of the game is really good. Fans who have been waiting a long time for this game to arrive will not be disappointed and with the series now becoming a yearly release - I can’t wait to see what they do with the game in the future. Excellent graphics and great game play are the perfect mix to make this game great fun. Only one thing left to say… vroooom!