Game: F1 2012
Developer: Codemasters Racing
Available on: Windows PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
You find yourself in the lead after 41 breathless, punishing laps in Montreal, Canada. It’s the final corner of the final lap, victory is so nearly yours. The Wall of Champions awaits. Get it right, kiss the wall, nail the exit, glory is yours. Get it wrong, lose a wing, blow a tyre, lose the lead – lose everything. The margins are tight, this is Formula 1, and this is Formula 1 2012, the third of Codemasters licensed F1 efforts. It’s a yearly update that F1 fans are happy to see, but is it worth picking up? How does it compare to previous efforts?
It was joy to the ears of F1 fans when, back in 2010, Codemasters were confirmed as the new developer of Formula 1 licensed games. Why? Because Codemasters know racing games, it’s kinda’ their thing. September 2010 came and we all lapped up their efforts, we admired its visceral portrayal of the brutal, intense world of Formula 1. We were in awe of its slick visuals and involving campaign mode, and we all waited for the patch that would fix the game crushing pit lane bug. first to last all in one pit stop. Sigh.
GRAPHICS: F1 2012 looks rather a lot like last year’s effort, in fact it looks much the same as the 2010 game. Is this a bad thing? Well, not really, it looks drop-dead gorgeous when things get wet. The cars, track and drivers helmets all glistening with a super realistic wet look. It’s in the dry that things looks noticeably, well, dull looking. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good looking racer, but am I the only one that looks at a title developed for Xbox 360 first (and later ported) and thinks that it looks a little…stale? This is likely a hardware issue rather than a fault made by the developer. They can’t be blamed for developing a game for a console that has been out for seven years.
SOUND: F1 2012 sings a glorious song. The song of a V10, 2 litre, naturally aspirated engine, revving up to 14000 RPM. It sounds great, folks, so much so that it becomes a wonderful driving aid, as you try to keep as much power down through the corners as possible. In the wet, the engine noise becomes vital as you look to avoid spinning the rear wheels and ultimately losing traction.
GAMEPLAY: The 2011 sequel served as a fine refinement of the 2010 ‘original’, ironing out a number of small creases, while updating the rules, racers and teams. 2012 has nearly reached its twilight period and with it comes Codemasters’ latest effort, promising to deliver the best F1 experience yet. The headline changes this year are the addition of the new Young Driver Test mode, a sort of tutorial mode that serves to introduce the uninitiated to the world of F1 racing, while also acting as a precursor to the Career mode. The change that everyone has been twittering about, however, is the removal of the “Grand Prix” mode seen in previous entries, which allowed you to pick a real life driver and play as them in an involving Career mode. This removal has riled up some commentators, but, in this reviewers opinion, it was a game mode that came loaded with a lot of ‘fluff’, stuff that really didn’t need to be there. Interviews with the media, press events and other such additions were shovelled in and, well, this is a racing game.
There is still a full career mode here however, and it lets you forge your own path without all the associated media guff that came before. This is accompanied by an all new Champions Mode, which takes advantage of the fact that for the first time ever this season Formula 1 features six different world champions on the starting grid. In Champions Mode, you take on each of the different champions in a preset face off, which suits the driving style of that particular champion. For Lewis Hamilton, this means racing in changeable conditions, and for Kimi Raikkonen catching and staying in front of him is a true test of your driving skill. This mode adds a lot of quick play value to F1 2012, as you can hop in, choose your champion and difficulty level and go racing. Bish bash bosh. Easy as that.
On the track, the game feels much the same as previous entries, which will be music to the ears of fans of the series, as the on track action is a joy to behold. There are one or two changes, however, the main one being that the game comes set up in a way that will be far kinder to new comers, with a lot of the driving assists turned on, where before they were turned off. This means that the game won’t be so instantly off-putting to those not up for the challenge of driving a simulated Formula 1 car. That’s not to say that the game isn’t challenging out of the box, as it most certainly is, however, experienced racers will find themselves winning more than they lose if they leave the driving assists turned on. Happily, a few button presses and a journey through the pause menu will rectify this issue in a matter of seconds; and you can change the setup whenever you like to find a level that is perfectly suited for you. I found myself scaling back the driver assists over the course of a couple of hours, until the only thing I had left on was the driving line (corners only). You will be screaming round the Parabolica in no time, your hands aching from gripping the controller so tightly for half an hour or more.
All this is right at the centre of the F1 2012 experience, once you get into it, it will take hold of you, throw you around, beat you up and leave you breathless. The joy of an overtake, the heartache that comes with crashing out and running out of retries after a 40 lap effort, well, it can’t be beat. When the conditions are against you, this game becomes crushingly hard, so much so that you wonder how the CPU cars are going so quick in the wet. So you learn to improve throttle control, become a better driver, improve your skills. It’s brilliant stuff, and it will punish the clump footed racer heavily.
LONGEVITY: This is a game loaded with gameplay modes, and if you want to give them all a go, and become good enough to win on the highest difficulties with little to no driver aides, well, you’ll be here for a long time. If, however, you are short on patience and low on skill, then you may find yourself doing one career season, struggling to get into it and putting it down for good. You’ll have to judge that for yourselves, of course, but Codemasters have definitely made a concerted effort to welcome new players to the fold. There is of course a multiplayer option, which utilises Codemasters RACE NET service. Online you can get into any race you fancy really, long, short, with driver aides turned on or off. I found the online players to be accommodating, by which I mean they didn’t ram me off the road in order to pull off an overtake; which is always a bonus.
VERDICT: Here we have a racing game that seeks to replicate the high octane world of Formula 1, something that it and its forbears succeed in. We also have a sequel, a yearly update, that needs to bring something fresh to the table to part you from your cash. Aside from the expected rule updates and driver changes, F1 2012 feels like the comprehensive F1 game that fans will crave, and newcomers will enjoy having a go at. You won’t find any radical on track changes here, but what you will find is a refined experience that will leave you breathless and begging for more.