First things first, and it's a minor gripe that has always nagged me somewhat and that is from the moment you first put this disc into the console, you don't get the official opening theme or montage by the BBC formula 1 team which I feel is a great shame. None of the series has done this so maybe for 2012's please? It would I feel give it that little bit more of a sense of authenticity.
OK now I've got that off my chest, it's onwards and upwards with the review.
Are you really expecting one? It's as simple as simple can be. You start the game asking what they call golden questions, such as your name and nationality etc, etc. From these questions, you are then asked to choose one of three teams. For me, being patriotic and all that, I got offered the choice between Team Sauber, Force India and Lotus. I decide to choose Force India and so became the number two driver to Adrian Sutil.
So from here on in, it became my task, over the next 5 seasons to become the number one driver and perhaps move onto a bigger and better team, say Red Bull. Now here comes the slant on the game that may surprise some, and hopefully this isn't jumping ahead, but for once you can have a two player on line co-operative mode with you both competing to become the number one driver and gain the technical upgrades before your team mate.
This is a feature that has not been done before and is a welcome change and one I hope they keep for the 2012 incarnation. Anyway back to single player mode for now.
OK, you have selected your team and it's not long before you are thrust right into the thick of it. Gone from previous titles in the series are the fuel and tyre tests, etc, you are given an objective to compete both in qualifying and the race itself. My first was to qualify in 16th place or higher, and finish 14th or higher in the race which is not beyond the realms of possibility on the easiest mode. Of course it gets trickier on the higher skill levels but the feeling of accomplishment when you nail a target is most satisfying.
You have a handful of options available to you as well to add to the overall experience, such as only racing 10% or 20% of a full race, or of course going the full distance (You can go half distance as well). Also you can go through the whole race weekend which would include the practice and the three rounds of qualifying, or a shortened version of the three day event. The choice is yours, nothing is foisted on you here. And like Formula 1 itself has evolved, so too has the game itself.
With the technical revelations of KER's and the RBS system in the sport making life interesting, they have now made it into the game for the first time. Not everything is covered though, the limitations on tyres and engines, etc are not covered. That may irk some people perhaps, making them bemoan the lack of detail but I feel that it would have made the games difficulty level way too high. Maybe it will be included somehow in the 2012 incarnation? Perhaps that could be covered in a team management mode, we shall see what innovations will come for the next game.
As it is, you can tinker with the options all you like, which will affect the difficulty of the game. For instance you can have the driver aids such as brake assistance (and until you get used to it if you are a novice, then I'd recommend using it), a Forza style line showing the race line and braking zone if you have the brake assistance off, from cosmetic damage only to full impact damage (and you know how fragile these things are, so switch that off if you want a REAL challenge). Penalties cannot be altered in single player mode though, so watch your racing p's and q's as it were, though for online play if hosting, you can switch that off but that will be covered later. There are times though that the penalties seem a little harsh and I will cover that in the pro's and cons section. There's also an XP point/reputation score system in effect, that aids you in becoming the number one driver and of course, gain access too the technical upgrades for your car that you can select and add as you see fit in the garage before you go onto the circuit before the race. OK time to roll up the sleeves and take a closer peek under the bonnet of the game shall we?
Well though not as breathtaking as forza 3 or indeed forza 4's demo, never the less they are extremely pleasing to the eye indeed. Cars are reflected in the tarmac on wet tracks, dust clouds are generated if a car takes a slight detour on bends, and the gravel flies. It's also possible (that is if you can spare time to look!) to see the marbles appear on the track as the race goes on.
There is no pop up or fade out and the frame rate runs as smooth as can be. All in all a great job has been done by my fellow Brummies at the Codemaster's studios. They can hold their heads up high with pride. Nice one guys!
Clouds and weather effects are very nicely rendered indeed and as said, is a visual treat and the feeling of speed from the cockpit view of the car is breathtaking. You can almost feel your head whipping from side to side as you tear through the chicanes and roar around the bends.
It's very close to the TV presentation with the HUD showing the KER's charge and the DRS when activated. It also represents the G-force exerted on the drivers as they go round the circuit. It's that attention to detail that impressed me, though you don't always get the chance to study that part of the HUD seeing as you are going like a bat out of hell!
Slick and responsive. Cars handle very well indeed. Left stick is used to steer the car, Right trigger is the accelerator and the left trigger applies the brakes. Simples! KER's is used by a press of the left button whilst the RBS is activated with the Y button but all of the above can be customised. Feel free to mix and match as you see fit.
No Fleetwood Mac's the chain in the opening! This is a shame as I have already said. To be honest the music is not a crucial part of the game for me. It's there and it works a-okay and suits the style and mood of the game.
Again not a major factor in the game. You do get to interact with a TV crew between races and like 2010's game, what you say reflects how the team and your rivals see you and treat you on the track. Pay heed, it's not a good idea to upset your own team mate either, although the needle that may be generated can make your life interesting indeed! Likewise, criticism at someone else on the track can also backfire on you as well. It's all good!
Again smooth and responsive. There is no pop up, visible lag or any drop in the frame rate. And if you do get bored of flying solo this is where of course, the new co-operative team mate mode kicks in. (though if he isn't on line that's a problem of course!) Can you beat him to the technical advantages offered by the team or are you going to be gracious and try and share? It's up to you!
Online races can be short affairs or you can go for the full on race experience with full length races on offer. The penalties (more on these as I said in the pro's and cons) can be full on or switched off, and if they are on, be careful, and if off, prepare for some high speed shenanigans indeed! Pit stops can be included or omitted as can car damage. The options are as varied as can be. Feel free to experiment.
Crashes are well rendered and if you are a victim of one, you will soon see the effects on your cars performance and feel it. The pad vibrated very authentically on me when I took damage to my left front wheel after a slight knock with another car and the car 'twitched' to reflect that damage. They are also very spectacular (or can be!) to watch providing you can avoid getting added to the pile up yourself!
Pieces of carbon fibre will fly through the air, smoke will cloud nicely and gravel gets thrown out if someone fails to take a bend correctly. An impressive job indeed.
A truly immersive and engaging game. This is one you will not complete in a single sitting. Career mode covers 5 years with all the ups and downs that can go with it. Enjoyable by yourself as well as on line whether it be co-operative or competitive.
Graphics really capture the feel of speed, especially the camera view from the nose of the car or in cockpit, or as I like to call it, the track level view. Bracing indeed! Replay value, well that's a dead cert. You can go through it again and again, aiming to get to teams you have not raced with before, and out of career mode there is the Grand Prix mode, where you take an established driver from anywhere in the rankings from Buemi or Kobayashi right up to Vettel, Button, Hamilton or the legendary Michael Schumacher and either steer them to glory or royally mess it up for them, the choice is yours! There are also single player modes like time attack and sprint mode which is a very short race indeed but intense. This last option can be taken online as well.
Pit stops are easy to handle. When you are required to make a pit stop you drive automatically into the pit lane and let the crew do their stuff. It may be a case of having to drive in yourself on higher degrees of difficulty, but you guys can find that out for yourself.
Now I know it reflects the real sport but the penalties do seem a little harsh at times. In one race, I got clipped from behind and spun round sideways. I clipped another car, so one penalty applied for causing a collison (surely not my fault?) and then incurred another for illegally blocking the circuit. Now being turned sideways would block the track but as there was nowhere for me to drive onto a run off area to turn around the right way, I got clobbered again with a dangerous driving penalty. Such are the perils of a street circuit I guess but even so it did seem somewhat unfair and harsh? At least I could continue and finish the race but had got a 30 second penalty for some things that I felt were not entirely my fault. I don't know if the drive through penalty is there but I suspect it may be.
The track interview side of things has been left alone with no tweaking that I can see from the 2010 incarnation which is a shame. More of a RPG type element could have perhaps been added. A missed opportunity maybe.
A slickly presented game and one that I will be coming back to again and again. It's a strong contender for me as being one of the best F1 simulations I have played to date. As the years have progressed they have become more and more playable. I remember with dread the nightmare that was Formula 1 2001 with very twitchy controls and nigh impossible to finish races. That has been improved thanks to Formula 1 championship editon that was released in 2007 leading the way, and has since been built on until we have this addition and last years iteration. I will admit it's unlikely to sway some away from the likes of Forza but as the popularity of F1 continues to grow, then I hope the game follows the same upwards curve and with time more and more people get on board with this gaming franchise. Nice Codemasters Birmingham, give yourselves a pat on the back.