A World Champion in the making?
The first I saw of F1 2010 was when I was sitting in a sports bar watching the NFL. It came to an ad break so I looked away from the screen, then when I looked back there was an F1 car tearing along. But there was something a little odd about it – it looked completely real, but at the bottom of the screen it said “Actual game footage”. Needless to say I eagerly grabbed the opportunity to review it.
F1 2010 is the latest driving game from Codemasters, and what a driving game it is! Clearly it is aimed primarily at the hardcore driving simulation crowd, but luckily for me is still accessible to the arcade racer. There is a staggering amount of customisation available to the player, from tyre choice to wing adjustments and a range of driver assists. For those that don’t know a lot about driving sims this is pretty overwhelming as there is no tutorial to talk you through the settings available, and in the world of F1 you need different settings for every track and different settings for each of those tracks depending on the weather! You can ask your engineer to set up the car for a few preset driving styles and weather conditions though.
Whether you want to jump in and drive or get stuck in to your career as the latest F1 world champion contender F1 2010 has you covered. There are time trials, custom Grand Prix and online multiplayer to check out, or you can jump into the main event – Career mode. All these modes are chosen from a first-person perspective paddock, with career mode having extra options within your trailer in the paddock. Being fully licensed, F1 2010 has all the cars and drivers competing in the 2010 season. One of your first tasks in career mode is to pick your team and create your character. This is done via the first of many (assuming you keep winning!) press interviews which is a nice touch, although as you progress through your career they become tedious as the questions are very limited and your available responses even more so. These interviews supposedly affect your career as you can choose to either promote yourself or put your victory down to the team, although it’s hard to tell if they really do have any effect.
The driving is what F1 is all about though, and what an amazing experience it is.
In career mode you choose to either take part in a short or long race weekend. In a short weekend you have a single practice, one qualifying session, and then your race. A full race weekend consists of the full 3 practice and qualifying sessions, with the player required to place above a certain position in order to progress to the next session. Your primary goal, obviously, is to win, but for each race your team sets you performance targets. Achieving these targets makes your boss happy and gives you the chance to move into the first driver position and the first pick at upgrades to your car. In addition, in some races you will be given an R&D goal which if met will enable those upgrades.
The driving is what F1 is all about though, and what an amazing experience it is. With all the driver aids on you can have a good arcade-style experience, only worrying about when to brake and turn. Start turning those assists off though and track knowledge comes into play, not to mention having to think about the racing line, keeping your tyres at the right temperature, watching out for marbles and standing water… You really need to concentrate hard just to keep the car on the track never mind keeping in front of the competition! Considering how stunning the graphics are, F1 2010 runs incredibly smoothly for the most part as well. The only noticeable slowdown I experienced was coming through La Piscine in Monaco, but this is one of the most visually intense tracks in the game.
As I just mentioned the graphics are stunning. Monaco is just beautiful with all the houses and yachts in the marina. Kuala Lumpur was looking great until the inevitable downpour, and then it looked even better. The weather plays an important part in F1, and so it does in the game too. Racing behind someone in the wet becomes a huge challenge with realistic spray nearly blinding you. When it stops raining you start to see a dry path emerge and puddles of standing water – crucial for cooling your tyres if you’re still out running on wets. The in-game HUD is fairly minimalist and this is where my next minor complaint comes in. There’s virtually no telemetry information bar a toggleable graphic representation of your car with colours indicating the temperature of your engine and tyres, and I found it very frustrating not knowing how far ahead or behind me my competition was because you only seem to get shown lap times, not the split times.
Audio is also very minimalist – The only music you’ll hear is in the menus or when fast-forwarding time in the pits. On the track the only sound you’ll hear is your engine, with the occasional interjection from your engineer. At first this was rather novel as it really does help you get in the mindset of an F1 driver, but after a while I found myself wishing I could at least have the option of toggling some music. The engineer does come up with some useful information sometimes, but he just doesn’t speak enough for my liking. There’s also no race commentary, which while realistic from a driver’s point of view makes it a lonely experience for the player. With the minimalist HUD and general lack of information it would be nice to have a more regular stream of radio chatter. As it is I find my mind wandering to things like “should I pause and put my stereo on”.
For any fan of F1 or racing games in general, F1 2010 is a solid choice for some great fun. The high degree of customisation means anyone from the arcade racer to simulation enthusiast will find their place. The graphics are absolutely beautiful and the gameplay insanely fast yet smooth. The only drawbacks I can find are the lack of a tutorial for the advanced settings (seriously – I think only a mechanic could really understand what’s going on there), and minimalist HUD and audio. Aside from those minor complaints F1 2010 is a fantastic addition to the racing genre.
The Bad: Virtually no audio, Repetitive interviews, Minimalist HUD