Six champions. One new track. Another year brings another game and as with any yearly sports title there’s always a challenge to bring something new to the player, but have Codemasters delivered?
The first change you will notice is to the main menu which has been given a fresh coat of paint. It is only of an F1 car under lights but combined with the music, it is a simple yet effective representation. I have to say it’s very slick and suits the whole image of F1 quite well. In general the graphics and sounds are both fantastic in this game and it’s nice to see a high standard has been kept.
Alongside the standard difficulty settings setup from the previous games, there are also three standard difficulties – easy, medium and hard – for some modes. The interesting thing about this is you can still choose your assists. When compared to the previous games, if you raced on the hardest difficulty you also had to accept the settings for the assists on that difficulty as well, but now the choice is there for your difficulty to be customised in a new way.
Some other enhancements include the changes to Qualifying. Instead of the previous 20 minute Qualifying session, there is now the option to set Full Qualifying (all three sessions), Short Qualifying (a 15 minute session) and One Shot Qualifying which is a throwback to the way qualifying once was in the mid-2000s. Basically you have but only one lap to set a time. Can you handle the pressure?
So much more variety
First on the agenda is the brand new Young Driver Test mode which is a very helpful tutorial for new players to the series. It is definitely a most welcome feature as it does explain the basic setup to get you started. Either way you have to complete this to gain access to the main campaign of the game, and this has also undergone a change. The traditional Career mode has now been split into both Career and Season Challenge.
Career is still the same in that it features all 20 race tracks in the season and as the player you have to race through a season performing objectives along the way to further better your car against your rivals in order to win the championship. Unlike the previous two games where the shortest race distance was 10% in F1 2010 and then three laps in F1 2011, the most significant change is that your minimum race distance is now 25% of the number of laps at a given track. I can’t say I’m in favour of the new change – I would have preferred to have the option of what distance to do.
Season Challenge is the opposite of Career in terms of length. You will still race a season but it will only be ten races and you will only have to do a One Shot Qualifying followed by a five lap Race. You also have an objective to select a rival and then beat him. When you beat that driver you then have the option to move to that team during the season. So yes, by your third race, you could have started in a Caterham but are now driving in a Williams. On the easy difficulty you have the choice of starting from one of the top teams so this doesn’t really matter, however, on the hard difficulty you start from the bottom and have to work your way up. I have to say this was my favourite mode because of how quick and challenging it is, especially on the higher difficulty.
The other single player modes includes Time Trial and Time Attack which are still just the usual race here, do this challenge, beat this time events, as well as the standard Quick Race mode which simply allows you to race on each track individually. The newest addition to these side modes is one called Champions Mode. Unless another non-champion driver wins this season in F1 (which is highly unlikely), 2012 will be the only F1 season in which there were six champion drivers racing in the one season. Champions Mode is a tribute to these six drivers – Raikkonen, Button, Hamilton, Alonso, Vettel, and of course, Schumacher. You have seven scenarios, one for each driver, and then the last one being a race against all six on the brand new Circuit of the Americas track in Austin, Texas. For each individual scenario, it seems to be based on an event in which the driver was in his moment so I have to say that I felt really pleased that about the effort that went into this idea for that alone.
Similar to 2011, the Co-op mode allows you to go online with a friend and compete together in a season. There is an option here to do varying different Qualifying sessions along with a three lap, a five lap, 25%, 50% or 100% Race distance. Out of the two multiplayer modes I much prefer Co-op over the standard multiplayer simply because there are no rules in place to deal with overly aggressive drivers. Every race I tried usually started with someone bumping me off the track so I have to question why there are no penalties for the players who do this to gain an advantage.
It’s not all victories and champagne
For me there have been some disappointments with the game and they come from the handling of the car along with the penalties system. The handling of the car is mostly alright but there are times I find when the back end of car will just spin out – and this is with full traction control. The whole idea of traction control is to allow maximum traction under acceleration without wheel spin. I feel this idea is not there based on the amount of spins I’ve had from braking into a corner to accelerating when maybe the car wasn’t that straight. It feels random at times as well. I realise F1 drivers don’t have traction control but at the same time this is just a game – I want to have fun with it and not worry about losing the car when turning. Let’s not even talk about how more worse it is in wet conditions although frustrating is a good word for it.
My other grievance is with the penalty system. This annoyed me in the previous games so I’m not exactly thrilled that the same problems have carried over. I just find that the penalty system is far too harsh on the player – and this is on a reduced setting. One time I didn’t even notice that I had “collided” with another driver but apparently they tapped me from behind and I’m the one who gets penalised for “causing a collision”. In F1, drivers have minor incidents with each other but a lot of the time they get put down to racing incidents and nothing more is done. Another time I accidentally cut a corner. It was my first time, I wasn’t near anyone and yet I still get a ten second penalty added onto my time after the race. In F1, drivers are given multiple chances before anything is done if they do a similar offense. The only good feature that was implemented in this area is to do with illegal overtaking. If the game detects you have performed one, it gives you five seconds to give the place back or you will get a penalty. That’s completely fair and I accept it but something has to be done about the other issues because it does ruin the experience somewhat.
I have to praise Codemasters for being able to add new and fun modes to keep the series interesting but at the same time there’s a few fundamental issues with the car handling and penalty system that needs to be addressed. For the most part I still enjoyed the game but it wasn’t the perfect experience I was hoping for.