Ever wanted to learn about everything that annoys an F1 driver?
The F1 series of games from Codemasters has gone way past the iterative releases that we see from EA Sports games. Rather than releasing the same game every year with new names and teams, instead they’ve tried something new; sometimes the change is spurred on by rule changes in the real sport, sometimes it’s due to whole new features being added. F1 2013 isn’t just 2012 with a few bells and whistles, it’s much more dramatic than that.
For those unfamiliar with the modern F1 series, it’s a Formula 1 simulator that allows you to control enough of the assists, camera angles, race lengths and damage modelling to let you decide whether you want to play an arcade racer or a full on simulation. If you want to do 3 lap races without worrying about qualifying, fuel or tyres, go ahead. If you want to do full 60-lap races and fully simulated tyre wear and dynamic weather, you’re welcome to it. While the arcade mode isn’t perfect -the number of menus and loading screens you need to get through while playing in career mode makes quick twenty minute bursts of gameplay impractical – the fact that it’s catered for at all is a bonus. This is a fully licensed game so every driver, team and sponsorship deal is present and correct, and every rule change each season is present too.
The big new feature for 2013 is the ‘classic’ mode where you get to take part in races from the 80s and 90s, racing alongside greats such as Mansell, Alesi and Senna, although to play in the 1990s races you’ll need to pay extra for the mode and tracks (it’s £10 extra for the PC version, or £6.49 extra if you just want the scenarios and not the tracks for other modes). While this might have seemed like some kind of simple collector’s edition extra when the game was being hyped up, it’s much more than that. As soon as you get into one of the 80s races you realise how far the sport has come. There’s no boosts or wing tomfoolery, you can get away with much more contact, the sense of speed is more immediate due to the size and position of the cars. It’s terrifying to be honest, but in a good way as you hurtle round the track in what seems more like a battle of driver’s skill rather than of machinery. The 2013 career is excellent and authentic, but due to the nature of the sport it feels more clinical and detached, and when you’re half way through the default 15-lap races you might start to find the game gets tedious once you’ve settled into a groove on a particular track, the classic content never once feels like that, it’s always beautifully nerve-wracking and incredibly polished.
Graphically the game is similar to 2012 with the exception of the dynamic weather that produces rain effects better than anything we’ve seen in other racing games. The spray and rain clouds up your vision and as you fly around the track to stay competitive you realise you’re battling against the elements just as much as the AI or other online players are. You tend to naturally give each other a wider berth almost as a sign of respect for the war against the elements. Doing a 15-lap grand prix through Monaco in a rain storm is a horrendous experience but the brief moment of respite you get in the tunnel each lap refreshes you just enough to enable you to fight your way round again. It can be a beautiful game at times with neat little features like the shiny surface of the Vodafone cars reflecting their surroundings. Without a beefy rig (we use a 7870HD and an i5 processor) we were easily getting a constant 60 fps on 1080p with everything set to ultra.
The annoyances that drivers face seem to have been a focus for Codemasters this time around. If you play in the ‘real’ camera position, as if you were sitting in the cockpit., you’ll find a tiny little aerial sticking up right in the center of your view. When you’re playing in any other mode you can’t see it but I imagine it’s something real drivers have to learn to put up with. Similarly your head movement is restricted to the right and left making your mirrors ever more important so it’s lucky the reflections work so well. Combined with the rain, the debris sticking to your tyres, mistakes by the AI and tricks of the light on the surface of the track, these annoyance build up to what is a more authentic experience than in previous games. Of course this is a massive assumption, we’ve never been in an F1 car, but sometimes it’s nice in sports games to get more than just the glory, a little bit of grit can be quite endearing.
For your money (£30 for the basic edition, £40 for the classic edition) you’re getting a huge amount of F1 content that will last you a long time. There’s so many modes and a small but dedicated online community to play with. At times the game can look a little bland but that’s because the real life tracks look a little bland, the tutorials are a massive pain but you only need to go through them once and the menu system isn’t the most intuitive in the world, but if you love F1 you’ll easily be able to look past these flaws and enjoy what is easily the best simulation so far.
If you’re into racing games and just looking for something to tide you over until Forza 5 or Gran Turismo 6 you might be better off holding on to your money. F1 2013 is not a particularly forgiving game and on the easy settings it’s possibly too easy. To get the most out of the game you need to be playing the full weekends and longer races which requires a dedication of hours at a time to really get engrossed in the game and the atmosphere. But if you’re willing to put that time in, the game will reward you tenfold.