Saturday, October 13, 2012

Another year another F1 console game – A review of F1 2012 on XBOX 360


Every year I contemplate not buying the new Formula One game. Yes, I am a F1 fanboy but I always wonder if I’m slowly accumulating a collection of games with last year’s models that I won’t play once the new season edition arrives. Do you ever wish they would just release a basic definitive game and then just release updates every year with new cars, drivers et cetera?  (If anyone in the games industry is reading this then please consider it. I’m running out of room on my games shelf.) I doubt it will happen given the massive success of yearly FIFA titles but it’s a thought.

So, what does F1 2012 have to offer to racing fans?

To start with you are introduced to the gameplay and feel of the car with Young Driver Test mode. Now, whilst this is a nice edition to newcomers and people getting to grips with the handling changes from 2011, it does feel slightly patronizing.

"You can drive a real F1 car only when you prove you are responsible!"
You buy a new game with the intention of getting your hands dirty with a quick race as your favourite driver and after realizing you don’t know your arse from your elbow in F1 terms you run with your tail between your legs back to the tutorial pleading forgiveness. Instead you are met with a mandatory half hour segment (at Abu Dhabi one of the least popular tracks amongst drivers and fans!), where you are taught how to turn left and right at one point. Don’t get me wrong it’s a good edition and it does add a level of F1 world immersion to the game but it feels heavy handed.

Once you get past F1 101 however you can dive in and explore the main game modes which include favourites such as Quick Race, Career Mode, Time Trial and, new for 2012, Champions mode. This  addition is actually a really good idea and adds an element not seen in an F1 game since Challenge mode in F1 World Grand Prix II on the N64. The task is to race each of the respective champions racing in F1 today and to beat them, for instance against Kimi Raikonnen you have to race and beat the rest of the field on a new set of tyres. It’s a nice touch that shakes up the formula of what is often a case of going through the motions with each new title. At least Codemasters seem to be trying to innovate.

There are a lot of other little tweaks to be found in F1 2012. For one the tyres, which have over the last couple of years proven to be a crucial factor for race victory, really make a difference and by god does the game punish you if slip a wheel off the track onto the grass as you get an immediate loss of grip for about half a minute following. The graphics also seemed to have been turned up noticeably since last year with the cars gleaming like their real life counterparts.



Whilst F1 2012 does have a lot to offer there are still a couple of minor gripes. Firstly it seems as if the developers have removed some of the driver reactions that were in F1 2011. Now if you retire or are disqualified we are no longer treated to the driver shaking his head in disgust whilst talking to his mechanic as segue between loading screens. It’s a pity they decided to slot that in only one game as it added a nice feeling that you were participating in the sport for real and your actions had consequences. Additionally the brilliant paddock-based menus of the game’s predecessors have been replaced with a much more conventional style text menu. It’s curious to see Codemasters abandon their immersive tone in this respect.

Perhaps it’s because this is the third in a growing list of games but something feels a little limp about F1 2012. This is a shame because it’s no poor effort. Codemasters are still one of the best racing developers out there with unmatched interaction with real fans. You also get the impression that an enthusiasts hand is behind the creation. However, there’s something missing and maybe it’s that the room for innovation is growing cramped. Also you increasingly feel that the makers are trying to pander a little to newer fans to avoid alienating them from the franchise.

As long as the game is not prohibitively difficult there is really no reason to fear that person new to F1 won’t get what’s going on. In fact, that’s how I got back into the sport back in 1997 with the brilliant Formula 1 97 on the Playstation. Hopefully it’s just a one year blip.

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