Being a racing car driver is a tough profession. You’ve got to be both mentally fit and physically fit; you have to know exactly what makes a car perform better, and you need to know how that’ll help you push it further than it’s ever gone before. You need to have a mind that can process lap times, racing lines, and still know where other drivers are on the track. Of all racing car drivers out there, the maddest lot have to be the Formula One racing car drivers; all of them prepared to hurtle through corners at 90mph and hit straights at nearly 200mph, thankfully Codemasters Racing have tried their very hardest to recreate that life of an F1 driver.
Another year, another Formula 1 title; which is no bad thing as the last two years of Codemasters’ rather fantastic series has really pushed the sport into the forefront of gamers hearts. F1 2010 looked fantastic but had a lot of bugs and issues to deal with; F1 2011 fixed those issues and looked great. With F1 2012 Codemasters Racing has finally created an all round package that offers great gameplay, fantastic visuals and an absolute ton of content and accessibility to all.
Starting out as a driver is always a daunting task, especially if your only ‘rookie’ experience is Mario Kart. However with F1 2012 Codemasters have taken a bold new direction with the idea of a tutorial. Young Drivers Test places you in the shoes of an aspiring F1 driver at the Abu Dhabi Yas Marina track day. Choosing to be instructed by either Ferrari, McLaren or Red Bull, your novice driving persona will be taken through the basics of car control, racing lines, KERS and DRS usage too – something that’s utterly invaluable when you’re trying to push past the opposition.
Once you’ve passed the Young Drivers Test you can then move into either the full-fat Career mode that takes you through a full season as you work your way up the racing grid to your win. It’s not too different from what you’ll find on offer in Formula 1 2011 though – just with updated teams and all the fancy new features found in F1 2012. Alternatively, and more conveniently for your average player, you can embark on the path through Season Challenge mode. Here a Formula One career is squashed down into the space of ten races, with each one only taking five laps instead of a mind-numbing 52. You’ll select a rival to go up against and, upon beating them; you can steal their position on their team and work your way up to becoming a champion relatively quickly. It’s a brilliant addition as it gives you the flavour of the core career without asking the busier players amongst us to commit quite as much time to progressing.
One thing that did surprise me about F1 2012 was how much easier everything felt over the high-simulation and steep difficulty curve found in F1 2011. Perhaps it was the addition of Young Drivers Test easing me into racing, as opposed to how 2011 just plonked me on the starting grid. It could have also been the rather helpful lap tutorials, narrated by F1 test driver Anthony Davidson, that gave me the confidence to gun it down the straights knowing I’d have more than enough time to slow down turn and accelerate out of a corner. Whatever it was, I found it too easy on Easy and thankfully normal meant I wasn’t out of my depth like I had been previously. Although Easy mode made racing incredibly simple, as tyre choice was made for me along with vehicle optimisation, I still had the option to let the computer decide what was best, or let me modify it to my tastes.
This isn’t to say that Codemasters have gone easy on fans though. Ramping it up to the higher levels makes it nigh on impossible unless you seriously know your Formula One stuff. There’s also an opportunity for skilled players to test themselves in new Time Trial and Time Attack modes and, if that wasn’t enough, an extensive Champions Mode has been introduced to really lay down a challenge. Featuring six FIA Formula One World Championship World Champions, Champions Mode pits you against Kimi Räikkönen, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher. Naturally this poses quite a challenge, and so over the various head to head challenges you’ll best these champs and come out on top. It’s hard work, especially if you’re only good when playing on Easy mode, but it’s designed to be the ultimate challenge for big time racers.
Some other features have been introduced and tweaked, which will definitely divide the community. An interesting change is the new weather system that creates more believable weather conditions. This means that it may not be raining everywhere on a track, so you’ll have to battle through both wet and dry track – changing your tactics accordingly. The addition of the new Americas track in Austin, Texas also means fans can get familiar with the track ahead of its November debut; and Hockenheimring makes its return too.
The choices that have been taken out however may not be as popular as the additions as they definitely skew Codemasters’ title towards accessibility over simulation. Gone are the twenty-minute qualifying session and the race weekend practice sessions. Now all you’ll get is an hour for practice and a three-stage knock-out session for qualifying – although a single lap qualifying mode is set as default. You’ll also no longer be able to race in custom championships in quick-play, instead only getting to race on a single track at a time. Codemasters have also reduced the minimum amount of laps required to play a race, meaning you’ll never be able to race in a Career Mode sessions with laps set to 25% (13 laps). Obviously this is to make things a little bit more of a challenge over the easy-peasy 3 and 5 lap options found in F1 2011, but it seems strange after the other changes the team made.
I can seriously see this title dividing fans when they get their hands on it. For me I think Codemasters Racing has done a great job of providing a well-rounded and desirable package for both fans and newcomers to the series. They may have had to play around with the realism in the process, but not everybody is cut out to be a Formula One driver – otherwise we’d all be raking in the millions. In the end Formula 1 2012 is in pole position for both F1 fans and your more casual racing game enthusiast.
Audio/Visual – 4/5: The roar of the engines and whooshing of the wind ramps up your enjoyment when navigating beautiful tracks in glorious cars.
Gameplay – 4/5: It may still not be for everyone, but F1 2012 has made everything so much more accessible and enjoyable to play.
Innovation – 5/5: The addition of Young Drivers Test and track tutorials is a great addition to easing in new players, and Champions Mode still provides the challenge familiar fans are looking for.
Value – 4/5: Plenty of new modes to keep you busy and more than just a yearly reiteration, Codemasters Racing have delivered a worthwhile package that’ll satisfy any full-price purchaser.
Final Score: 4.5/5