Release Date: Out Now
Platforms reviewed: PS3, Xbox 360
Players: 1, 2-12 system link or online
It’s a while since the last F1 game I played as developers seemed to fall out of love with the sport (or more likely the amount the games sold) and the last was Formula One Championship Edition, one of the more disappointing PS3 launch games. Most race game fans always wanted Codemasters to do an F1 game and here it is, so was it worth the wait?
Well yes and no are the unhelpful answers. After trying a quick Grand Prix or time trial at one of your favourite circuits (I always head for Spa, Monza or Monaco) you’ll no doubt want to enter into the game’s main Career mode, which is just that; you can pre-select a career lasting from 3 to 7 seasons, and selecting the longest means you start with offers from the bottom teams (Hispania, Lotus etc) and work your way up, 3 means you can start with a chance to drive the better ones sooner (McLaren, Red Bull, Ferrari etc.) Good results mean improved contract offers from your present team and interest from other teams, and beating your team mate means you may get the No 1 driver position so you get to decide the direction the team’s R&D (Research & Development) goes in.
The career feel is extended off the track by having lady agent who sits in your motorhome (which, like in DiRT 2 acts as the game hub) and gives you messages from time to time. She doesn't do a lot apart from sit and play on her laptop and look vaguely attractive-maybe she was one of those "mail order agents"... During your career season you can tailor each of the 19 Grand Prix individually to your own liking, from 20% to full distance, Full Weekend (which will compose of 3 practice sessions, Qualifying-including the two elimination sessions and the final shootout as per the real thing-followed by the race on the third day with the weather possibly being different on all three, even changing during a session), or Short Weekend which consists of just one practice, one quick qualifying session (both of which can be 'skipped' or 'time accelerated') and the race. You'll be asked for an "interview" after races by a reporter, but these amount to no more than choosing one of three generic answers (generally they amount to being critical of the team; non-committal and modest; or confident, self-serving and cocky) and you get the same sort of questions put to you in the press room after a race if you finish in the top three (although for some reason there’s no podium or spraying sexy promo girls with champagne until their dresses go see-through mini game…)
Sadly it’s not long before the game’s quirks, bugs and glitches start to show themselves. One of the worst “quirks” revealed itself in my first qualifying session, and is that the AI cars don’t actually set the times, they’re all just “simulated” so you may follow a car around, matching or beating its time on the track only to find that it’s somehow managed to go seconds faster than you (depending on which difficulty setting you’re playing on.) So oh dear, not a good start. The difficulty level from race to race also seems to vary hugely; we achieved pole position and easy race wins at circuits we'd never driven before, whilst at familiar tracks like Catalunya and Monaco we struggled, and we must have raced literally thousands of laps there in various racing games over the years, so these difficulty spikes made no sense at all. The worst bug however, will quite probably reveal itself when you make your first pit stop (some people didn’t get it first time, but it will happen eventually) at which point—and seemingly regardless of which position you’re in—when you enter the pits, the crew change your tyres, and then your lollipop pit crew guy won’t let you leave the pit until all the other cars have passed—on one occasion this resulted in me literally going from first to last!! You can get over this glitch by pitting later, using “primes” instead of the soft “option” tyres for qualifying or by turning off the tyre wear simulation altogether, but who wants to have to do this? To make things worse some AI cars don’t even make a pitstop at all—which is of course now against the rules and will cost you a disqualification if you do it… There are more than a few other glitches and bugs that have come to light including the AI cars ignoring blue flag situations (because there aren't any), and I even got a drive-through penalty for passing a spinning AI car, or an “illegal blocking penalty” just for slowing to the pit lane speed limit! There are more, but I’m certainly not going to catalogue them all here. Needless to say the patch to fix F1 2010 is gonna have to be some kind of masterpiece.
There are little visual touches like gravel sticking to the tyres for a few corners if you go off, or the cars’ tyres leaving a trail on a damp track, or smoking and throwing up dust, or exhaust flashes from the inset tail pipes, or dandelion seeds floating through the air… the water that surrounds various tracks is shockingly unconvincing though. There’s dynamic weather (although I’ve yet to see a track completely dry out after a downpour) and the spray in wet races is really well done, although your car is the only one kicking up a realistic amount of spray. If you follow a car closely the blinding effect of the spray is remarkably realistic. Unfortunately another of the game’s quirks meant that when I wanted to show our sub editor how cool the effect looked in a post-race replay, it doesn’t actually appear and the other cars throw up hardly any spray at all—hugely disappointing, as are the frame rate problems in some replays, which explains tha lack of spray. Another thing that needs to be changed is that (yet again) wussies who use third person chase cam views don’t get any spray interfering with their view, which just isn't fair and doesn't make any sense.
Managing the damage levels in a F1 game was always going to be tricky and I think in the main they’ve done a good job. The car’s front wing won’t fall off at the slightest touch and some quite substantial impacts can be survived without any damage at all. The front wing does have different levels of damage and these affect the handling, you can add downforce out on the track on the move via the D-pad menu to counteract slight damage.
Crashes sometimes look very convincing with showers of polygonal carbon fibre accompanying a crunched nose cone, but they mostly look a bit too uneventful and “safe” to be believable, and certainly won’t please sim-wanters out there who need their F1 car to explode into a million shards of carbon fibre every time they so much as burp. But let’s face it, if it’s spectacular crashes you want, you’re probably better off heading back to Burnout Paradise anyway. Retirements by AI cars don’t happen often, but I was disappointed to see that retired cars just vanish, disappointing as Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix on the PC & Amiga had cars that had crashed out or blown their engines being craned off many, many years ago. You'll also probably wonder why there's no safety car, I can probably guess that it's been left out for "gameplay purposes," and lap after lap behind a safety car would undoubtedly make shorter races a lottery, but it'd been nice to at least have been able to turn the option on.
There are plenty of animated spectators and the pit crews are motion-captured, but the pit lanes are still rather desolate places compared to the real thing. Pit lanes have always been as deserted as ghost towns in all other previous F1 games but here they have tried to add some life to the actual pit areas, so you at least get some guys in each pit and your pit crew running out to be ready for you, which is an impressive sight—even if one of them looks worryingly like Harry Hill.
Other solo options include Grand Prix (single race weekend), Time Trial (complete with your own ghost car or you can download a friend’s if you wish), or host an online Time Trial Party lobby for friends. Online you can set up different events such as:
So what have we got; a desirable and sporty, if flawed and unreliable classic or a rusty old junker full of bugs? Well, if you get enough races ruined by the pit stop bug then you’ll probably think it’s the latter, but F1 2010 certainly supplies a good-looking and handling glimpse at what the likes of Webber, Alonso, Hamilton, Button and Vettel are experiencing this season. It’s disappointing (I seem to have used that word a LOT don’t I?) that the game arrived in such a raw form, with bugs that are quite frankly unlikely to be fixable. If you’re looking for something more involving and interesting than the likes of Forza 3 with an excellent online racing component then look no further than F1 2010. Unfortunately you might have to wait until the 2011 version to get the complete package.
- Looks nice.
- Good impression of speed & power.
- All the cars, tracks and drivers from the 2010 season.
- Quality online racing.
- The pit stop bug and others.
- Frame rate drops.
- Uneven difficulty.
- The engineer’s innacurate and inappropriate comments will irritate.