F1 2010 Review

   27/09/2010 at 23:08       Richard Horne       16 COMMENTS. - Score 5/5
 - F1 2010, Codemasters, Formula 1, Murray Walker Legend, Monaco

As the 2010 Formula1 season draws to its conclusion, with just 4 races to go the World Championship has never been so tight. With any 1 of 5 drivers currently a single win away from topping the leader-board, things are inevitably going to boil down to the last race of the season and the sport’s popularity is at an undoubted all-time high. All of which will have no doubt come as a massive surprise to many, especially after the sceptics came out rubbing their hands together in scathing criticism after the admittedly processional opening Bahrain Grand Prix back in March.

The fact that Codemasters left it so late in the season to release its newest Formula 1 game seems fittingly prescient. While the fact that it this week motored into the games chart at the hugely appropriate pole position means that that wait was wholeheartedly justified.

Not since Formula One Championship Edition on the PS3 in 2006 has a next-generation F1 game graced our current crop of consoles. And the question on everyone’s lips is has it been worth the wait or is Codemasters for now just making up the numbers like the Hispania, Virgin and Lotus racing teams?

“and this is the third placed car about to lap the second placed car”

With F1 2010 Codemasters has delicately straddled the line between making the game an all-out hardcore simulation as well as making it a fun, accessible and easily playable arcade-esque racer. Yes it’s possible to turn on a wide array of helpful assists including ABS, braking, traction-control, automatic gears, automatic pit-lane speed limiter and a handy dynamic racing line, that, similarly to Forza’s implementation, shows the optimal line through each of the game’s 19 tracks as well as when and where to brake or accelerate. And in doing so your car will stick to the road with all of that astonishing gravity defying down-force that commentators constantly like to remind you are strong enough such that at certain speeds an F1 car could drive across the ceiling. You’ll rarely spin out of control, your back-end will stay exactly just as that, and assuming you can stick to the racing line, you’ll relatively easily finish in the top ten depending on which car you’re racing in.

But turn some, or all of the assists off, and the game becomes a different animal altogether. Your car will turn into a disobedient, insubordinate wild stallion – almost quite literally if you’re in a Ferrari – and will need to be tamed as you constantly fight to correct its over-steer, its under-steer and its downright savage undomesticated raw power.

"Rene Arnoux is coming into the pits ... lets stop the startwatch"

There’s a reason Formula 1 drivers are paid such ridiculous sums of money and for the first time in an F1 game, you’ll begin to see why. Drivers have to make countless subtle adjustments and make split-second decisions that if made only a hundredth of a second too late can often cause them to go careening off-track towards an inevitable DNF (did not finish). Formula1 is a hugely technical sport with so many variables that contribute towards the success or failure of a driver. For instance, for your tyres and brakes to behave predictably and most effectively they need to reach a certain optimal temperature, but until they reach that required temperature an F1 car feels like a barge on wheels. And so the only way to achieve the required temperatures is to push your car to its very physical limits. Formula1 drivers have this ability to push their cars to the absolute ragged edge and continue to push even when any sane or rational human being would stop for fear of causing serious injury to themselves. F1 2010, as close as is possible without actually being in a car and pushing 5G under-braking, gives you that sense on driving on that ragged edge.

The feeling it gives you when you keep the throttle squeezed fully and accelerate through 3 or 4 high-speed corners perfectly nailing the apex of each is un-paralleled. Each corner becomes a obstinate challenge and conquering each at the maximum possible speed becomes a gratifying achievement. It’s genuinely enthralling, engrossing and utterly captivating.

"IF... is a very long word in Formula 1..."

Sure you can get a feel for that sensation of speed and risk vs. reward with driving assists turned on, but until you have to manually brake extremely late going into a corner in order to pass an opponent on the outside you won’t get a sense of just how tense and fraught with danger F1 can actually be.

Weather conditions also have a dramatic effect on proceedings with the rain massively reducing visibility and simultaneously having a serious effect on your car’s handling and stability. And the graphical effects employed when the heavens open are astounding, particularly on some of the more detailed and intricate tracks.

Codemasters has also carried over one game-enhancing element from its popular Grid and DiRT games - that of the flashback. During each race, and up to 5 times, at any point you'll be able to view an instant replay of the last 20 or so seconds. Pause the action just before you lost grip and started a 360 spin and press the flashback button to restart the action just before that pivotal mistake. When you inevitably crash on the last corner of the last lap, this mechanic proves itself to be an absolute god-send.

"..in fact IF is F1 spelt backwards!"

In terms of game modes, all of the usual bases are covered with single Grand Prix, multiplayer and time-trials all accounted for. But it’s the career mode where you’ll inevitably spend most of your time and similarly to Codemasters’ previous TOCA and Grid titles they’ve had a good go at fleshing it out with all of the ancillary paraphernalia that makes up the high-octane life of a playboy F1 driver. Press interviews, engineer de-briefs, custom car upgrades and contract negotiations all contribute towards making the game as authentic and realistic as possible. And while they’re convincing in the main, they’re occasionally somewhat stilted and decidedly extraneous, but definitely something for the developer to work on in the future.

"And the session will start in 3....8........9........0!"

With a wide variety of options, it’s possible to compete in the full race-weekend experience with three practise sessions, three qualifying sessions and the genuine full-length race, or things can be trimmed down slightly with single practise and qualifying sessions before a somewhat reduced race. Even at 20% race distance it’s not uncommon for each event to last well over the 30 minute mark. And if you think that’s a long period of time to maintain your concentration for, yet again you’ll get an appreciation for the talents these guys really have.

The online options are just as detailed too, though in all honesty it’s best to avoid practise and qualifying when playing on Xbox Live or PSN as each race inevitably ends up in a first-corner cluster-fuck. Unless of course you enable full damage in which case everyone will tip-toe carefully around trying not to trip each other up with disastrous consequences.

Online races are breathtakingly entertaining though early on you’ll either find yourself miles in front or miles behind. Such is the small margin for error of Formula1 that mistakes are so easy to make and on a tight course such as Monaco you can quite easily find yourself 30+ seconds behind with little or no chance of catching up without your opponents making any mistakes.

"A sad ending, albeit a happy one"

F1 2010 is the first time in a racing game probably since PGR2 where I’ve embraced the practise sessions. Where I’ve spent hours trying to master one single track one corner at a time. Where I’ve memorised the track layout rote and pushed until I think I’ve reach my limits, before somehow pushing even further and squeezing another tenth of a second off my previous best laptop. F1 2010 rewards patience. Yes it’s a cruel and ferocious mistress but when it pays off, boy does it deliver a blistering sense of speed and an adrenalin fuelled burst of excitement that’s second-to-none.

Whoever wins the drivers’ championship this year will thoroughly deserve it, but with the release of Codemasters’ F1 2010 we’re all winners. A sublime and magnificent achievement that’s definitely been worth the wait and Codemasters deservedly takes the chequered flag.

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