“The best F1 game on consoles in several years.”
The 2010 Chinese Grand Prix was, quite possibly, the most exciting race of the year. I will not forget how the race started bone dry after a qualifying session filled with torrential rain. The precipitation allowed the grid to be fairly jumbled come race day, resulting in Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus qualifying an impressive 7th.
The race was fairly processional until, only five laps from the end, the rain started to fall! It was only a trickle at first, and few drivers seemed bothered. However, within the next lap, the trickle became a massive downpour. Most of the field scrambled for the pits to change to wet weather tires. One brave man, however, decided to remain on slicks. That man was Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus. By staying out on slicks, Kimi was able to assume a very risky race lead.
The rain intensified, and Kimi’s Lotus had trouble staying on the circuit. Sebastien Vettel in the Red Bull was closing extremely fast from second position. It looked as if Kimi would not have enough time to clinch the first win for Lotus, but luck was on his side as he kept his head down for three more laps, winning the monsoon-struck Chinese Grand Prix on slicks!
Of course, the race I just narrated did not really happen. It all took place in F1 2010, the latest Formula One game and the first developed in-house by UK developer Codemasters. It is the first licensed Formula One game to appear on the current crop of consoles (excluding the Wii) in several years, and is arguably one of the best F1 games ever made.
Upon loading up the game, the player will be treated to a press conference in which they get to choose their name, nationality, and team they will initially drive for in the career mode. You can specify three, five, or seven seasons. Which teams you can initially choose from depends on how many seasons you want to race. I chose seven seasons, and could only pick from HRT, Lotus, and Virgin. As you may be able to guess, I selected Lotus. Since my favourite F1 driver, Kimi Raikkonen, isn’t around in 2010 for some pretty shoddy and stupid reasons, I named my career driver after him so that Kimi could, hopefully, bring glory to the Lotus brand.
After the press conference, you are free to basically do whatever you want. Your agent for career mode will show you how to navigate the game’s menus, which are so similar to DiRT 2’s menus that you will get a severe case of deja vu. In DiRT 2, the menu was fully 3D and took place in the player’s trailer, as well as outside in the locale that the last rally event took place in. F1 2010 copies this by plopping the player down into a motorhome located in a Grand Prix paddock. Players can navigate several menus inside of their motorhome (talking to your agent, career mode, changing your helmet, or checking out the championship standings). If you choose to exit your motorhome, you will find yourself in the paddock of whatever the current circuit is that you are racing at in career mode. From here, you can choose Grand Prix or time trial modes, tweak your game options, or go online. During your career, you will also be interviewed by BBC’s David Croft outside of your motorhome. He has a continuous presence outside of your motorhome, as well as a camera man, two grid girls, your team-mate, and two team engineers. It’s pretty cool, and the immersion is certainly there. My only complaint is that the immediate area outside of your motorhome feels very sterile. Aside from the few characters lingering around who I just mentioned, there is a sort of empty feeling as if something is missing. I guess I just expected it to be busier in the paddock?
If you choose to jump head first into the career mode, you will have to race the entire calendar of the 2010 season. Nineteen races, complete with practice and qualifying sessions, can certainly be daunting. Thankfully several new circuits, as well as revisions to older circuits, keeps things fresh. The new infield section of the Bahrain Grand Prix changes the experience of the circuit drastically. Unfortunately, the Bahrain International Circuit is just as boring in the game as it was on television this year. I didn’t enjoy the new slow section, and I doubt that anybody else will. Other circuits such as Abu Dhabi, Singapore, South Korea are interesting to drive on. Valencia, predictably, is not very enjoyable. Throughout career mode, you will be interviewed by the media. This will have a direct affect on your relationship with your team, team-mate, and rival drivers.
For the most part, the graphics are really stellar, and the sights and sounds of each individual course was enough to make me enjoy the career mode. All circuits look very impressive, especially Monaco. Unfortunately, Monaco seems to be very difficult for me to play in this game. While I secured a win in China, I found that even qualifying within three seconds of 23rd position in Monaco to be next to impossible! Bizarre, since Monaco used to be one of my best tracks in older games. The game sounds just as good as it looks. Some diehard sim fans may not be impressed, but to me the cars sound exactly like they do when I watch a race on TV. This is an awesome accomplishment. Your engineer Rob, who is always giving you tips and updates, never shuts up and can become slightly annoying after hearing him comment on every single minute thing that you do. His voicing isn’t bad at all, he just talks far too often for my liking.
I found the controls to be pretty decent. Adjusting to dry weather driving took me approximately an hour and a half. When I began, I was flying off of the Bahrain International Circuit at almost every turn, but by the end of my first race on that circuit, I was smashing the lap records set during the race. I thought that I had things all figured out until the game threw wet weather driving at me, which is an entirely different beast. While your car will handle surprisingly well in the wet most of the time, I’ve found that cars like to try to spin out when taking sharp corners. The Turkish Grand Prix ended up being wet for me, and a few corners were exceptionally difficult for me in the rain. Visibility can also be a problem. Rain drops will land and splatter all over the screen, obscuring your vision. The opposition will also kick up lots of spray as they drive around. If you end up directly behind another car in the rain, your visibility will almost be reduced to zero. It sounds like it could be frustrating and very harrowing, but I personally loved it. Having such detailed rain effects helped the immersion immensely. I’ve found myself to be more impressed by the weather system in F1 2010 more than in any other game I have ever played.
Now for a few bad points. First off is the time trial mode. Quite a few “hardcore” players have complained about this, so I know I am not alone. When playing time trial mode, you will find that setting an actual lap time is the greatest challenge there is! If you even so much as touch the grass with your wheels, your lap time will be invalidated. Touch the grass again on the same lap and your lap time for the next lap will be thrown out before you even start it. It’s a ridiculous system, and it took me almost ten laps as a beginner to even set a timed lap. As a whole, time trial mode is just a lot of unnecessary frustration.
When you are actually racing, however, something else peculiar happens that is just as frustrating. It seems that the AI sets “false times” when in qualifying and during races. Essentially, AI opponents will just chug around the circuit at whatever speed they wish, and the game will generate a time for them when they cross the line. There is also a strange bug that forces the AI back onto course when something bad happens. I have not encountered it, but somebody was kind enough to share it on YouTube.
Unusual to say the least! It makes me wonder how many strange shortcuts Codemasters took in programming this game. However, I’ve found that as long as you don’t actually witness any bugs or strange happenings such as what occurs in the video above, the racing feels fairly realistic for the most part. Some are accusing the game of having rubberbanding as bad as what is in Mario Kart. I’ve had trouble losing many AI opponents myself, but I blame this on the Lotus that I am usually driving, since it is one of the slowest cars.
All in all, the game is quite good. For the casual F1 fan, or for fans who aren’t expecting a miracle in game-form, this is probably the best console F1 game since F1 Championship Edition on the original Playstation. That was 1997, folks. If that doesn’t say something about this game, then I don’t know what does. Aside from the glitches and programming shortcuts taken by Codemasters, this is a very solid Formula One game. If you have the cash, give this one a go.
Since I have this game on my PC, here are two videos of me driving in place of the usual four screenshots.