“You’ll need to conserve your tyres to make it to the finish. Alonso is now on option tyres and is closing in. You are now twelve seconds ahead of second place. Congratulations on your race win, well done!”
We’re coming to the close of yet another amazing season in Formula 1 and what better way to carry on the rivalry than competing yourself in F1 2012: The Game. This is Codemasters’s third year developing the F1 game since taking over the rights and with each of the previous two years there has been steady improvements. Can F1 2012 take the lead and become the best F1 game to date?
To start you off you’re thrown straight into the cockpit as it’s your turn to take part in the Young Drivers Test. Now this is a glorified tutorial mode, but it’s certainly less daunting than the majority of tutorials and by daunting, I do of course mean boring. Taking place over two days you get an insight into driving in different weather conditions as well as the use of KERS and DRS, both of which add an interesting dynamic to the game. Once you’ve passed it’s time to decide what you want to do next.
From the outset you’re met with a sleek looking menu system that is summed up with one word: lush. Without trying to state the obvious, there’s a career mode where you can compete in a full race weekend from Practice to the overall race. This is not the mode you want to play if you only have fifteen minutes spare, but if you’re looking for the full experience, and have at least forty minutes spare for each race weekend, then the career mode is where to spend most of your time.
The main career takes you around the world visiting each of the twenty tracks in the 2012 circuit list, from the super-rich Monte Carlo to the brand new American circuit in Austin, Texas. As with most things you can’t jump straight to the best teams, so you’ll need to prove yourself over five seasons to make it to the top. Being a Scot, I decided to join team Force India and challenge Paul Di Resta to make it as the team’s number one.
Not got that much time? Then fret not, there is plenty more for you to do to get your burning rubber fix, including two brand new game modes: Legends mode and Season Challenge. The latter is a similar version of the career mode but a lot faster. A season takes place over ten races and include a new ‘one hot lap’ qualifying set up. As its namesake you get one lap to qualify and this one lap determines where to start on the starting grid. Races are then normally five laps long allowing you to experience the enjoyment of F1 without having to complete a full race weekend, and for good measure you also have to choose a rival to beat over a best of three races, with the winner having the option to take up a contract with the cars manufacturer. This is great for gamers who don’t normally have the patience to complete the full experience, but don’t want to miss out on the frills of F1.
The Champions mode is the second new mode to be introduced and pits you up against six champions, namely Raikkonen, Hamilton, Button, Vettel, Alonso and the great that is Schumacher. You have to beat each champion in order to move onto the next champion, and each champion has a different challenge. For example in the first challenge you play the part of Kimi Raikkonen’s team mate at Spa and you’re on a new set of tyre whereas Kimi is on old worn tyres. With three laps remaining it’s in your own hands whether or not you’ll finish ahead of him.
Completed that? Then there’s still plenty more to do. Time trials, time attacks and Xbox LIVE is sure to keep your tyres grounded. Xbox LIVE definitely provides a different aspect to racing. As you can imagine, everyone piling down the initial straight bracing themselves for the first corner just to hope and pray that someone doesn’t create a massive pile up by thinking they can squeeze through ‘that gap’. This is a common conundrum for online racing games, yet it does provide some fun. If you have a friend who has the game also you can play two player championship mode and race throughout an entire season as team mates, this I thought was pretty cool.
Although online can be chaotic at times, it can also provide a more realistic drive, something the AI sometimes struggle to achieve. Don’t get me wrong, the gameplay mechanics are great, but sometimes the AI drivers can be extremely over cautious and very rarely do they take risks, especially when it comes to overtaking. In very dry conditions you can often find yourself coasting around the track with a healthy lead, but the retort to that is to turn up the realism settings, of which certainly make the game realistic.
With full damage on, you can’t go trying to squeeze through gaps you would normally be able to do for the risk off taking off the cars nosecone or rear wing. Trying to find the balance is key and once you’ve got the settings to your liking, all of the racing is extremely fun. The added difficulty of the weather conditions provide yet more excitement although I’ve yet to master the wet conditions and the car can slide all over the place unless tamed. Using the DRS and KERS features can provide you with the edge to take glory and it’s key you get to grips quickly as the extra power you receive can turn a decent lap into a record setting lap.
Presentation wise the game is impressive. The wet conditions are superb, especially when the course begins to dry out and dry parts of the track appear. The detail goes down to the tread of the tyres and the cars themselves look outstanding. In relation to the cars they sound like any formula one car should sound; annoying for anyone not watching or playing. The change in sound working its way up the gears can drive people mad if they aren’t involved (i.e. parents), however when playing it adds to the thrills of formula one racing. Although you get to speak directly with your team engineer, it would be interesting to see whether or not Codemasters would consider including TV style commentary to the game, something that would take it to a whole new level.
Overall F1 2012 is a great step forward for the F1 series. It’s extremely fun and highly addictive and with the amount of game modes available, it even caters for the recreational gamer. Although the AI could do with some beefing up, this is a racing game that should definitely be on your ‘to get list’. I’m off to set some lap records in Monte Carlo.