Formula One 2010
Released September 24th 2010, Codemaster's take on the motoracing sport of Formula 1 is certainly a good one. After a quite frankly boring set of F1 games in my opinion (with the exception of F1 2009 for the Wii with it's great steering wheel), it's good to finally have one that brings the fun back to this blindingly fast sport - yet still keep the technical side of things that are integral to it's workings.
Formula 1 2010 is sleek in it's new menu design, with some not-too-tedious loading screens. The career option, and the main focus of the game, offers varying degrees of difficulty fully customisable by the player or available in preset options; easy, medium, hard or expert. Needless to say; expert is definitely expert.
Being a user of the expert setting on Forza III, it became apparent about two seconds into the race that contrary to my beliefs, F1 cars definitely do NOT handle like Dodge Vipers, and I quickly found myself a firey ball of burning logos tumbling over the tyre-barriers on the first corner.
After switching to medium and going for round two, I have to say - I had a great time! The visuals are simply stunning, you only need to take a look at a couple of screenshots to appreciate the beauty of the graphics, atmosphere and models involved in Codemaster's latest racing creation. The weather effects are exceptional, especially the rain: get caught in the backspray of an opponent's car, and you really can't see a thing. Not only that, but it's a clear handling difference depending on the state of the track, as you'd expect.
My career began with BMW-Sauber, although there were a couple of others to choose from. None of the top teams, but if you started with Ferrari, what'd be the point of carrying on?
Before starting, you can choose how many seasons you wish to partake in, choose your team and off you go. At any point you can view your standing with your team and other teams, and your contract details for the one you have chosen. I was no huge F1 fan before, but having completed two seasons now, I have to say - the sport has drawn me right in. I'm even looking forward to the 2011 season!
There's not too much focus on the politics of it all, which I like - the game is about racing and Codemasters haven't swayed too far off that line. At each race you can choose to do a long or short race weekend, the latter rolling up Q1, Q2 and Q3 in to one qualifying session. Depending how I felt, I chose to do either.
Each race weekend contains the practice, qualifying and race day segments, and you can skip to any part once you've started, though this can sometimes be at your peril. The team will set you targets for each phase of the weekend, and if you don't set a time in qualifying and skip straight to the race you will be last on the grid, as well as not knowing the track at all - which is essential. The team will also hate you for not meeting their intended target position for the race.
You can also set how much of the race you wish to partake in. Expecting you to do 71 laps of track X in the practice, qualifying and race stages would be daunting and far too time consuming, only really an option for die-hard F1 fans. I usually stuck to the 20% of the race mark, so between 9 and 16 laps depending on the length the circuit. This did me nicely, and allowed me to complete an entire race weekend in an hour and half average.
The views you can choose whilst driving are all well placed: from cockpit view to distant third-person, there's plenty to choose from and get you comfortable. My personal choice is the broadcasting 'race camera' attached above the driver's head when you watch F1 on TV, which provides a good balance of being able to see everything yet being down there in the action.
All the rules of F1 apply - tires and flags and everything in between, and you can also toggle how rigorously they are enforced by the track dudes. I did have some quarrels with the warnings system - there have been many an occasion where an opponent has clearly knocked in to my car yet I have suffered the penalty. There is a 'flashback' function players can utilize if they make a drastic mistake, but they are limited in number and only valid for the entire weekend. On medium difficulty, you have three. I tended to save them all for the race itself.
During the race you are expected to pit and change tires, no matter what percentage of it you wish to do. If you start in option tires, you will have to switch to prime in a dry race to save disqualification, usually on the 5th or 6th lap, and the handy northern-accented race engineer is always in your earphones keeping you in-the-know about the state of your engine and when you need to pit. My only gripe with this little feature is that he sometimes gets his race-awareness totally wrong. For example, I could be about half a second behind Massa, and engineer-man will come over the comms and tell me Massa is 5 seconds ahead of me. Doesn't happen often, but enough for me to notice and swear at his incompetance.
Before each bit of driving you can choose how you wish to set up your car, with options ranging from wet to dry and more than plenty in the middle. F1 2010 utilizes totally dynamic weather, and chance of rain is given to you on a handy screen in the garage so you can plan accordingly. Drive around in prime tires with a dry setup in terrential rain in Hockenburg and you'll quickly find yourself in a world of pain. Not to mention at the back of the race.
Towards the end of each season though, when you're ten points behind the number one driver, the game gets a bit more intense and each race counts more. It's here your contract offers from the other teams start to come in, and your meagre salary is hoisted up in to the realms of respectable as people want you in their cars.
At the end of it all, Codemaster's F1 2010 is a great looking, great playing game. I can't fault it that much, though I'm sure a more hardcore fan of the sport might be disappointed by it's lack of the ultra-fine details involved in such a precise form of motor racing. I've enjoyed playing, as has my girlfriend's dad, a far more F1 savvy driver than myself.
A good one for the racing collection, and certainly a good buy for any F1 fan, I can safely say this is a top-notch representation of the sport and a very good game all-round. It's also made me hate Lewis Hamilton with the fury of a thousand burning suns. Well, his virtualised self anyway.
Give it a try!