|Formula 1 (F1) 2013|
|Developer: Codemasters Birmingham
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: 1-2, 2-16 online.
Despite having their fair share of bugs and flaws us lot at Gamecell have found ourselves playing F1 2010, F1 2011 and F1 2012 right up until the release of their respective sequels, and although admittedly we’re inveterate petrol heads we don’t find we do that with any other regularly updated game franchises and you can include FIFA, Tiger Woods, Forza, Need For Speed, Pro Evo, Call of Duty and all in that.
F1 2012 starts well with a fantastic intro, a rousing speech by Sky Sports F1 presenter David Croft, backed by a superb piece of music titled Athena which could have been composed specifically for F1 by Daniel Law Heath and Jane Antonia Cornish. The presentation menus are as slick as ever, with a clean F1-centric look and some apt selection screen and event music. The voices of Anthony Davidson on hot lap videos also give it the authentic Sky F1 feel. When the end titles roll they’re accompanied by The Chain by Fleetwood Mac, the classic BBC Grand Prix theme music.
After entering various details and choosing a helmet design the first thing you’ll have to do when starting a career is the Young Driver Test. This has been extended slightly (if the game finds an F1 2012 save on your HDD then you can skip the first day) and has you performing various tests and techniques and learning all about KERS and DRS in a 2-day programme at Abu Dhabi’s spectacular Yas Marina circuit. Getting a good rating in the tests means you can start your career with a higher ranked team, thus encouraging you polish your skills from the start.
Another new feature, and one that’s going to literally be a game changer for a lot of gamers, is the ability to save mid-session. This means you can save anytime you want, mid-race, mid qualifying, even mid lap! You might say this is long overdue, but it does mean that gamers who wanted to do longer races and have the full race weekend experience can now do so without having to dedicate 2 or 3 hours to every race. It also means that if you screw a race up you can return to the mid-session save and have another go without having to do the entire race over.
There's a lot more subtlety in the handling and when fiddling with your car’s setup you’ll be able to detect the difference between mechanical (tyres) and aerodynamic (the amount of downforce you put on) grip. Likewise, the effects of DRS, KERS and changing the engine mixture (and subsequent fuel consumption) are more noticeable, and the difference in the engine characteristics and handling between the classic cars and the current crop, and even the best and worst of this year’s cars is noticeable, fascinating even, and compels any enthusiast to compare lap times between the various machines.
The handling allows for even looser slides, drifting and “rotating” the rear of the car with the throttle just like the real drivers do. The feeling of going just over the limit and collecting up a four-wheel drift and powering out of a corner is extremely exhilarating, and this seems even more pronounced with the less grippy classic cars. Tyre wear has been faithfully reproduced and if you’re brave enough to have it turned ‘on’ then you’re going to find what the drivers call “the cliff” – when the tyres reach their wear limit and no longer provide anywhere near the level of adhesion they did a few corners earlier. This can literally ruin a race if you’ve tried to stretch a stint to a lap longer than planned and ignore your engineer’s radio messages. If the weather changes sadly you still get no prompt from your engineer until it’s too late, as all he seems to do is report on what the weather’s going to do in 15, 10 and 5 minutes time and what tyre selection the other teams have just made. Either way, like me you’ll probably find yourself fumbling with the quick tyre selection menu (set to the D-pad, which is also assigned with fuel mixture and brake bias) as you enter the pit lane, praying you choose the right tyres for the conditions. This is where the Mid Session Save comes in very handy in case you make a ricket. Up to 4 flashback replays (the ability to replay an incident and rewind time) are available depending on the difficulty setting you select, and mean you can avoid a crash, a collision or a penalty by having another go.
When selecting a camera view you can choose between full screen, TV pod (central and offset), cockpit and close and distant chase cameras. For me the level of control has not only been improved by tweaks to the handling model, but also by subtle but noticeable changes to the TV pod and cockpit cameras so they give you a better feeling of attachment to the car. The sensation of speed when playing from the chase cams also seems to have been improved.
As well as just plodding through season after season and working your way up to a Red Bull, Ferrari or Mercedes drive there’s also plenty more to do in F1 2013. Playing as the real drivers in individual Grand Prix (long and short weekends, or just the race); the Proving Grounds which include beating requirements in the addictive Scenario Mode; and lapping fast enough to be awarded bronze, silver and gold medals in Time Attack mode will take you a while to achieve and teach you how to lap several tracks perfectly in the process. Time Trial mode allows you to take any car to any track and use your own setups. Both Grand Prix, Scenario Mode, Time Attack and Time Trial modes are available in F1 Classics Mode and have leaderboards, both global and friends, for the more competitive amongst us.
A new mode to the Career section is Season Challenge, a truncated 10-race season consisting of 5 lap races in which you try to beat other “rival” drivers as chosen by you. Depending on which difficulty setting you choose your choice of starting teams may be limited, for example; Hard difficulty means you only have the choice of Marussia and Caterham. This mode is designed to be a lighter, arcadier and more dynamic version of the career mode with one-shot qualifying and a quick setup menu to keep things simple and umm... immediate. Beat your chosen rival in a best-of-three mini-competition and you'll get a contract offer from his team, effectively nicking his seat; you can change teams up to five times within a season. It’s obviously not a good idea to challenge Sebastian Vettel if you’re playing on Hard and driving a Caterham, but you soon get the feel of who you and your current car are capable of beating depending on your chosen difficulty setting.
Starting a ‘quick race’ lobby gives you a choice of either a Sprint (three-lap) race with no qualifying; or a Grand Prix (seven laps) with dynamic weather (so a pit stop may be necessary) with tyre wear enabled and a 15–minute qualifying session (the problem with this mode is the same plonkers as previously mentioned who ram you up the arse at the first corner when you’ve spent 15 minutes driving that arse off to get pole); and for those with better concentration and fewer distractions the Endurance race, set at 25% of full race distance with dynamic weather that includes at least one pit stop with the tyre wear and track evolution simulation enabled, and a randomly decided starting grid. All quick race modes give the drivers random cars, track selection (with a vote to skip) and equal performance, and players can select any assists they want. You can either join or set up your own ‘Custom Race’ and specify everything, from the race location and number of laps, Short Weekend-one-shot qualifying, short qualifying or race only, car availability, 2013, 1980s or 1990s cars, DLC tracks on/off, weather, damage, flags and rules, restrict or allow any particular driving assists and make a race public or invitation only. They have removed the ability to restrict camera views though, and I have no idea why. Separate online ranking has also been removed and why that’s gone is a mystery too.
Back to the solo game, the replay mode shows the pretty graphics off as well as ever and will allow you to watch an entire full-length Grand Prix back. But unfortunately the replays suffer from the same anomaly as last year, whereby if you have a race finish wet then watch a replay, the track will be wet even if it was actually dry at the start of the race! It’s very disappointing that this hasn’t been picked up and fixed. We found another replay glitch too but it may have been patched as we haven’t seen it reoccur.
If you've read this far, then when it comes to F1 I do waffle on a bit don't I? Well to sum up; the new F1 Classics certainly add more than a little to the game and hot lapping in a Lotus driven by Ayrton Senna or a Williams driven by Nigel Mansell around some of the greatest circuits in the world is definitely if not as good as, then almost as good as sex for us gamers of a certain vintage. To put it simply and succinctly F1 2013 is an improvement on the slickest and most playable representation of F1 I’d seen (F1 2012), and I’ve been playing Formula One games since Geoff Crammond’s 1992 benchmark Formula One Grand Prix game on Amiga and PC. But the fact is that I can't give it 11 out of 10 and it does still have a couple of glitches and niggles. However, if you’re not sure about buying an F1 game because you think it might be a bit too specialist or “niche” for you, then I urge you to try F1 2013; with its genuinely varied racing, highly customisable difficulty and era-spanning gameplay, car, driver and circuit line-up it might just change your mind about F1.
- Improved, “friendlier” and arguably more realistic handling.
- Classic cars and tracks from the 70s, 80s and 90s.
- Looks great throughout.
- Plenty of racing to do.
- Quality online racing.
- Split-screen and system link too.
- A few glitches remain and those “unfair” penalties.
- Online drivers who can’t brake for the first corner.