The first thing one notices about the third release in Codemastersí
Formula 1 series is that itís much more accessible than previous
iterations, with the learning curve tempered ever so slightly to
accommodate newcomers and those of us who donít have the time to play
for 8 hour bursts.
In an attempt to cater to a demographic outside of hardcore Formula 1
fans, the game has included three new modes that are more conducive to
the pick up and play gaming habits of the casual gaming market.
One of these is the well received Young Driver Test on the Abu Dhabi
track, basically a tutorial that allows new users the opportunity to get
to grips with the rudimentary basics of F1 racing, such as taking
hairpins and teaching them about KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System)
and DRS (Drag Reduction System).
Another is Season Challenge, in essence a truncated F1 career consisting
of ten races. The basic premise is the same as the exhaustive full
length career, just streamlined somewhat ; you start at the bottom and
work your way up by selecting a rival from another team and challenging
them to a three race competition Ė If you beat them, you take their
seat. This mode is a godsend for those of us who arenít blessed with the
multiple hours necessary to reach the top in career mode, as it allows
us to feel the victorious sensation attached to progressing through the
ranks to the top teams and eventually becoming World Champion.
Last, but certainly not least, is Champions Mode. According to Creative
Director Steve Hood, this mode was inspired by there being six World
Champions on the grid for the 2012 season, and it allows you to go head
to head with each one of them in scenario based races.
Long term F1 fans may be a tad perturbed by all of these additional
modes, but fret not! The lengthy career mode that is the meat and
potatoes of the series has returned practically untouched from previous
iterations and is still a challenging mistress that will rob you of your
social life and sleep in equal measure.
And, of course, there is always the Quick Race option for those of us
who just want to take a quick spin behind the wheel.
So, the game is aiming to widen its fan-base and the inclusion of these
new modes certainly pave the way by knocking down the barriers that may
have prevented newcomers from giving the games a serious chance. Itís a
savvy move on Codemasters behalf.
Multiplayer options are basically identical to F1 2011, but other
noticeable changes to the game include a system that allows you to
localise weather depending on where you are racing and a tweaked
flashback system - Basically a time rewinding mechanic reminiscent of
Prince of Persia Ė Which is always a nice touch and definitely comes in
handy by allowing you to regain your position after a particularly
damaging spin out.
Handling is slightly more arcade like this time around, especially if
you use the immense amount of driver assist tools, such as assisted
braking, which certainly helps if you're new to the genre and don't want
to spend your first few hours ploughing into walls at high speed.
However, if you rely on these too much, you'll soon find that you have
no chance whatsoever of obtaining a decent position in a race, as the
braking assist slows your car down to a literal crawl, making it almost
impossible to even complete the final challenge of the Drivers Test or
get a semi decent lap time under your belt. They should only be used as
a way of alleviating the notoriously hard learning curve until youíre
comfortable to go at it alone, like virtual training wheels, if you
Understeering is a bit of an issue and it takes some time to come to
grips with braking a lot earlier than usually expected. Apparently this
issue has been noted by Codemasters and a patch is to be released soon
in order to rectify this.
There are great visual representations of all of the famous Formula 1
tracks and the stars of the sport, as expected, are included as a part
of the major racing teams. The penalties are as unforgiving as ever,
although they can be slightly negated by using the flashback feature.
Rubber-banding AI is practically non-existent, so you have to earn your
place on the podium based on your own merits.
There is a nice balance of difficulties amongst the achievements; some
of them you'll get rather easily, while others will have you pulling
your hair out whilst putting your driving skills to the test.
The graphics are top of the range, as to be expected from a top tier
title such as this. In the cockpit view, your car, opponents and the
stunning weather effects Ė Especially that gorgeous rain Ė are rendered
so sweetly that Iím pretty sure they gave me Diabetes.
I noticed a few graphical glitches when pulling into the pit, such as
what appeared to be a crew member who had appeared to suddenly gain the
power of teleportation, but these were infrequent.
The colour palette is slightly muted, however, and spectators resemble
cardboard cut-outs, harking back to the days of the PS1. But with the
cockpit and fellow racers rendered so impeccably, down to the individual
stones that lodge in your tires if you leave the track, this can be
forgiven... And really, who watches the crowd in a race anyway?
Audio is generally limited to sound effects and tips fed to you through
your headset. The sound effects are brilliant, as always, and really
serve to immerse you in the game. However, I personally found the lack
of an option to turn on subtitles frustrating, as the accent of your
team leader is a little thick and muffled on occasion, but generally
this isnít really an issue.
F1 2012 is much more accessible than its predecessors, however the
learning curve is still rather steep; if you have the time and
dedication to persevere through it you'll have a blast, however it's not
really suited to an overnight rental and requires a lot of dedication
and practice in order to get the full benefit of the game.
As a Formula 1 simulator, there really is nothing better on the market,
and the dichotomy between the desires of the hardcore and the casual
gaming market has been balanced exquisitely. Credit must be given to
Codemasters for refusing to rest on their laurels like some annual
releases and making an effort to give us a new game rather than adding a
few minor tweaks and releasing what amounts to a glorified expansion
Due to these changes, I found myself enjoying F1 2012 quite a lot more
than I expected and would recommend it to any racing fan.