Einhander (Retro Review)

“One of the absolute best games to ever grace the original Playstation.”

If, in 1997, I was told by someone that the makers of the Final Fantasy series would soon be releasing what would undoubtedly the best space shooter on the Playstation, I would’ve called them crazy. Well, in 1998, Squaresoft had done just that. Einhander is the best space shooter on the Playstation and perhaps even one of the best ever.

Einhander is a fantastic game that, in 1998, had it all. It looked awesome, had a stunning soundtrack, and had amazing gameplay. Twelve years later, and Einhander still plays and sounds like a gift from the heavens despite looking dated, though not at all ugly.

In Einhander, the player takes control of a ship belonging to the Moon’s military forces and must blast through several unforgivingly tough levels. Despite being an amazing game to play even by today’s standards, Einhander is not for the weak of heart. Don’t let the fact that it was made by Squaresoft, creators of the easiest RPGs ever, fool you. Einhander is tough as nails and doesn’t hold your hand at all.

As a space shooter, Einhander plays like many classic favourites such as Gradius or R-Type, but shakes the formula up a bit. The player is able to mount weapons onto their ship that drop off of enemies, and the position of mounting can be changed by the player at will. By default, weapons normally attach to the bottom of the ship. However, with the press of a button, the mounted weapon will swap to the top of the ship. This changes the firing arc of the weapon entirely. If the player’s ship has two mountings, then they can hold two weapons at once, which can also be fired simultaneously. It’s worth noting that no weapons that are picked up replace the default rapid fire gun that the ship comes with, with pretty much means that if you have two weapons at any given time, you can obliterate anything in your path by using all three weapons. Now that’s pretty badass.

Most enemies are pretty easy to get past. Lowly enemy ships and turrets are destoyed with ease, but the difficulty spikes dramatically upon encountering a mid-boss or level end boss. All bosses, regardless of whether or not they’re at the end of the level, are remorseless and will do everything they can possibly think of to destroy you. Most bosses have clever attacks that will catch you off-guard, while other bosses just rely on the old “spray the entire screen with dozens of bullets” routine. It’s worth noting that bosses can change their attack patterns as well if you destroy certain parts of them. That is one of the joys of Einhander, being able to destroy bosses in whatever way you wish since they are mostly all fully destructable. Few games offered this in 1998, so it was welcomed by many.

The graphics in Einhander were absolutely stunning in 1998, but today they are understandably outdated. Visually the game has stood the test of time fairly well. While most aspects of the game really don’t look impressive at all anymore, nothing stands out as being unpleasant to look at. As one of the original Playstation’s better looking games, Einhander simply looks “passable” in this day and age.

The music and sound effects have managed better than the game’s graphics and are just as good now as they were twelve years ago. Einhander’s soundtrack is mostly made up of “moody techno” sort of music tracks, which is really cool. For the most part, music takes a backseat and stays fairly quiet and in the background until players encounter a boss. It is at this time that the boss theme, which sounds freaking awesome, kicks in.

Click here to listen to Einhander’s boss theme.

Sound effects fit the mood just as well. Explosions sound gritty but muffled, and sounds given off by the heavy bodies of the game’s bosses are heavy and metallic. Most of the weapons sound pretty generic, but are anything but disappointing.

Overall Einhander is a truly awesome game that, despite not being a smash hit when it was first released in North America, has become one of the original Playstation’s most popular games over the past decade. If you’re a fan of space shooters, you should definitely get your hands on a copy of this game to enjoy on your PS3 or emulator.

Final Score


Destrega (Retro Review)

“A lost gem from the original Playstation’s era that more fighting game fans should be aware of.”

Back in 1998, I remember buying an official of the Official Playstation Magazine, the PS1 magazine that came with free demo discs. I remember skimming through the games on the demo disc, not finding a whole lot which I was interested in, but then I stumbled across a game on the rotating wheel of demos that had a peculiar name that stuck out like a sore thumb. Destrega. What an unusual name I thought at the time, but what’s truly unusual is how little known this gem is today.

Destrega is a fighting game by KOEI, a company that has never done anything truly remarkable for video games outside of Japan. I’ve always believed that KOEI usually had no idea what they’re usually doing, and Destrega is proof of that. The game is, as a whole, fairly competent and moderately enjoyable to play. However, the game received barely any marketing at all and, as a result, Destrega was released with pretty much nobody knowing it even existed and that’s a shame.

By 1998 standards, Destrega was a bit behind the competition in terms of roster size and rewards/unlockables. The game has a mere twelve characters and the only unlockables in the entire game are a few unlockable outfits. The available game modes are typical fare, such as arcade, versus, story, and practice. There is little to do in the game besides just fight or play the painful story mode. Still, I love this game an awful lot. How can a game that is apparently lacking in so many areas be loved by me? Well, it’s time for me to explain that now that I’ve mentioned what this game lacks.

Destrega has perhaps only one feature that is well above average, and that is the fighting system itself. The presentation is awful, the music is laughable at best, and the graphics are mostly just decent, but the core fighting system is enough to look past all of this game’s shortcomings. So how could a game with so many faults still be considered awesome solely for it’s fighting system? The answer is simple. Destrega’s fights are not just innovative, but they are also incredibly strategic. While a lot of fighting vets and tournament junkies will be obsessing over Street Fighter’s frame data and such, they are overlooking a game in which conventional fighting game logic and strategies are thrown out the window. This fighting game is, honestly, the video game version of chess.

Destrega is played on a 3D field that players can freely roam. This is usually hell in fighting games, but because of the strategy involved in Destrega, it works out well. You see, this game isn’t your typical hand-to-hand fighter and most of the actual “fighting” between characters will take place dozens of feet from one another. Destrega abandons movesets and special attacks and instead adopts a creative magic projectile attack system that operates using three buttons. To throw a quick projectile, the player simply presses square, while triangle is used for power attacks and circle executes ranged attacks. The X button? Why, that’s used for jumping! The shoulder buttons are also used. You’ve got a button for dashing and a button that functions as both a block for both physical attacks and magic projectiles. By pressing X to jump and then pressing the block button, a magic shield is erected around the player that repels any and all incoming projectiles.

The object of Destrega is to utilize the speed, power, and range projectile attacks, as well as the magic shield, in a way that will enable you to outsmart your opponent. Deciding what attack to perform is always the most important decision. Speed attacks will zip across the screen and hit the opponent almost instantly, power attacks travel relatively slowly but pack quite a bunch, and range attacks are a bit of a balance between power and speed but, as the name implies, only have a limited range. Below the player’s health bar is a stamina bar which ulimately decides what the player can do and when. You see, performing any attack will take a chunk of your stamina bar off. It regenerates automatically and rather quickly, but performing too many attacks and draining it completely will leave the player fairly helpless for a few seconds.

Adding even more strategy to the combat is a type of attack I haven’t mentioned yet, and that is the combo attack. Players can chain attacks together before they are thrown at the enemy, resulting in completely new attacks. Pressing the speed and then the power button will result in an attack that covers ground quickly and also hurts quite a bit, which automatically makes it more effective than the default range attack even though it is more costly to use. Players can also “power up” the default attacks by pressing the attack buttons three times in a row. Pressing square (speed attack) three times results in several fast moving projectiles while pressing triangle (power attack) three times will more often than not launch a huge wave of devastating projectiles at the opponent.

Each character also has what I like to call an “ultimate attack.” To perform one of these attacks, the player must simply wait until their stamina bar is full and then press square, triangle, and circle in any order. This will completely deplete the stamina bar, but it unleashes an attack that literally maximizes power, range, and speed. These devastating attacks will tear through any defense, forcing opposing players to run for cover.

There is so much potential and so many different attack combinations with each character that checking out each character becomes a lot of fun. Each character has their own element or attack type, which guarantees that no two characters feel the same. For example, the character named Gradd, who looks like Jin Kazama with a haircut, attacks with fireballs. Another character named Tieme, who appears to be a knight, shoots laser-like air attacks with his swords. Other characters attack with ice, rock, and shadows. A few others even use more obscure and unusual attacks. There is a ninja character who attacks exclusively with shurikens and large pinwheel-like “things” while a little girl character quite literally attacks with colourful neon shapes such as an X, a triangle, a circle, and a square. Hey, wait second… Those shapes seem awfully familiar!

Overall, the gameplay is incredibly solid and is very strategic. Out of all the fighting games I have ever played, reading your opponent was most important in Destrega. In fact, if you don’t read their movements and predict their attacks, you will most certainly lose.

So, while the presentation of the game isn’t the best and there are extremely few unlockables in the game, Destrega can still hold it’s own due to it’s fantastic fighting system that I fear was ahead of it’s time and went to waste. Had Capcom or Namco adopted a fighting system such as the one seen in Destrega, we would’ve seen the birth of a new famous franchise. I bet on it.

Destrega is available online from various retailers such as eBay, though I can’t always guarantee that you will find a copy. I was quite lucky to end up with a copy of this ultra rare game myself! So if you’re curious and want to check out this lost gem from the Playstation era, then I wish you happy hunting!

Final Score


Sonic the Hedgehog 4 – Episode 1 (Review)

“A decent game, but a huge disappointment for Sonic fans.”

Before I get this review started, I feel the need to say that I’ve never been a huge Sonic fan. I’ve enjoyed the Sonic games, but I am anything but a nostalgic fan who looks back on the past with rose tinted glasses. I enjoyed the previous Sonic games and, oddly enough, Sonic 2 on the Game Gear was my favourite. All I want to say here is that my views on this game are not clouded by nostalgia. With that out of the way, let’s begin.

It’s been sixteen years since Sonic & Knuckles, which is an awfully long time for a series to go before getting a proper sequel. Sonic’s rival, Mario, even had a rocky return to 2D platform with New Super Mario Bros. on the DS, but the Wii version was significantly better and felt like a proper Mario game. It’s expected that Sonic 4 would be a little rough around the edges, just like Mario was on the DS, but that in no way justifies the quality of this hollow husk of a Sonic game. Sonic 4 suffers from many glaring problems that keep it from being a decent platformer. Pretty much all issues I have with this game are gameplay related, so let’s dive right into what’s wrong with it.

For starters, the graphics are not terribly impressive. I can tell that the graphic artists spent a fair amount of time on them, but the fact of the matter is that the graphics in Sonic 4 lack character, personality, and soul. The graphics look fine, but they evoke no emotions from me. They are remarkably generic looking, which isn’t good for a game that is supposed to be a triumphant return for Sonic the Hedgehog.

To accompany the fairly bland graphics are overly long levels that, honestly, go on longer than they should. I found several levels to be somewhat interesting at the start, but when they drag on for several minutes at a time with no interesting changes? Well, that just gets very dull and repetitive. Some levels made me want to turn the game off because they were so long and boring, but I forced myself to carry on.

What really makes these long levels unenjoyable is the poor level design. Everything just feels really uninspired and mashed together. There’s no coherent point or purpose to anything in every level, and the same obstacles are repeated over and over again. Poor pitfall placement hampers the levels even further, as it is difficult to tell when a hole will lead to another path or to Sonic’s death. There are far too many gigantic, open gaps. Once you are out of the tight corridors, the levels just feel really barren and lifeless.

The difficulty is a bit of an interesting subject. Overall, Sonic 4 is very easy most of the time. I would rack up tons of 1-UPs only to encounter one spot in almost every level (outside of the first zone) that made me lose several of the lives I had earned. I’ve breezed through a few levels only to get through about three quarters of each before I hit some kind of bizarrely difficult spot that kills me several times. It seems unusual to have these difficulty spikes.

Working hand in hand with the difficulty spikes are the game’s enemies. They enemy placement in Sonic 4 is positively dreadful. Many enemies are placed so that you will slam into them at high speeds and lose your rings. Taking into account how fast Sonic moves at times, it’s almost impossible to dodge a lot of enemies your first play through because they literally come out of nowhere. Sonic 4 does not make itself difficult by presenting you with legit challenges that require skill, no. Instead, Sonic 4 makes itself harder by placing enemies and obstacles in unfair locations. The fourth zone is the worst offender, constantly putting things in locations that makes Sonic getting hurt an inevitability.

A few other minor things bother me as well. First is the lack of Knuckles or Tails, which is very unusual. Tails, at the very least, should have been in this game. Instead, all we get is Sonic. Second, the non-linear level select makes Sonic 4 feel like an ordinary budget game by indie developers. You can essentially play any level whenever you want, rather than being forced to play through each level one at a time like in a regular platformer.

That’s a lot of strikes against Sonic 4, and it’s probably very evident that I don’t like this game much. There are a few good things worth mentioning, however!

Boss battles are very simplistic, but I found them to be pretty enjoyable. Last boss aside, they’re not horribly difficult and are somewhat based on older Sonic bosses, so you should have a basic idea as to how to defeat them.

Equally enjoyable are the Lost Labyrinth levels. I can’t say much against them and they were really quite fun, easily standing out against the rest of the zones. The second level of Lost Labyrinth was a little bit on the long side, but overall it was pretty well made. I enjoyed the wealth of puzzles, and it was nice being able to control Sonic more than 40% of the time, since in other zones it seems that Sonic is usually always being pushed, propelled, or shot in various directions. Lost Labyrinth gives the player lots of control and feels more like the classic Sonic games.

Several levels are very replayable for speed runners. In fact, it is encouraged since there is even an achievement that requires you beat the first level in under one minute. I’m not much of a speed runner, but the game has plenty for gamers of that sort to do. That’s definitely a plus for them.

Overall, I feel that this game suffers tremendously from several glaring issues, and I’m shocked at how few innovations there are between Sonic & Knuckles (1994) and Sonic the Hedgehog 4 (2010). If anything, it feels like Sonic 4 took a few steps back. However, there’s still a bit of fun to be hard here, and diehard Sonic fans from the 1990s should enjoy the game.

Final Score


Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (Review)

“Lara Croft’s brave new adventure is certainly one of her best.”

First off, I’ve never been a huge Tomb Raider fan. While the Tomb Raider games are fun to play, I’ve never really considered them to be really noteworthy games that deserve high amounts of praise. If anything, I think that the Tomb Raider games have worked best as diversions for gamers while waiting for more high profile games to be released. Because of my stance Tomb Raider, the fact that I think Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a stellar game says something.

Released this year by Crystal Dynamics and Eidos (as well as publishers Square-Enix), Guardian of Light features everyone’s favourite female Indiana Jones in a brand new adventure that is told from a perspective that’s the furthest thing from the standard Tomb Raider formula. Rather than being a third person puzzle game with a bit of endangered animal slaughtering on the side, Guardian of Light is played from an isometric camera angle and is overflowing with intense action. This is not the Lara Croft that we grew up with! A lot of series have received reboots or reimaginings lately, and they’ve worked brilliantly in all cases. Guardian of Light is no exception as Lara fits comfortably into this new action oriented platformer.

First off, there’s the story. In all honesty, there’s not a lot here that is worth talking about. Lara is checking out a temple when some bad guys storm in and accidentally awaken an evil demon who quickly lays waste to the invaders. Lara on the other hand teams up with Totec, a guardian who is tasked with sealing away the evil demon once more. That is the gist of the story so, like I said, there’s not a lot worth mentioning there. It’s basically the sort of story you’d expect to find in a cheesy Hollywood adventure film.

The gameplay is what is strongest in this game, and it certainly does not disappoint. Guardian of Light plays a like a mix between Diablo and Tomb Raider. While the puzzle solving is pretty much all standard stuff for Tomb Raider veterans and isn’t much of a surprise, the constant action is. The Diablo vibe that I get comes from the isometric camera and the constant barrage of demons who are out for Lara’s blood. Lara is frequently confronted by a dozen creatures all at once, but fortunately most of them are easy to dispatch. There are a few larger demons who are pretty tough to take down, and they bring a lot of excitement and tension to the fast paced action. The boss fights are even better, especially the one with a firebreathing dinosaur. I won’t spoil the fight, but it’s really awesome and stands out as one of my favourite boss fights in recent memory.

The puzzles are pretty much exactly what you would expect from Tomb Raider. Lots of rooms that cave in on you, falling platforms, spike traps, and tons of “fetch item A to unlock to door A, then proceed to find item B for door B” scenarios. That’s the great thing about this game, the puzzle aspect of the game will feel very familiar to many players.

The controls work pretty well in Guardian of Light. Combat is a breeze with a keyboard and mouse combination and I had no troubles fighting anything in this game. Puzzles were a little different though, as I found that the game is little stubborn and does not like to register a lot of actions if you are pressing too many keys at once. For example, you cannot run diagonally and jump at the same time on the keyboard. Lara will run and the jump will not register. Because of this, I had to remap my controls frequently to get around that problem.

Guardian of Light has some fantastic level design. Each stage is brimming with exceptional detail, and there are many side quests and achievements to unlock in every stage. Some of them are fairly easy and just involve navigating Lara through an obstacle course, while others are so challenging that you will question whether or not they are even possible. Some achievements ask you to beat the levels in five or ten minutes each, which blows my mind because I had trouble completing some in under half an hour! There is a lot to do in this game in terms of optional content like that. Each level will have about four side objectives to complete, and there’s no way that you’ll be able to finish more than two (and that’s if you’re lucky) in a single run through a level. Finishing a level’s objectives will award Lara with new weapons, relics, and so forth. This makes replaying levels and completing the objectives very beneficial to the player.

Speaking of relics and weapons, Lara is now able to hold four weapons at a time. They can be assigned to the 1, 2, 3, and 4 keys. The weapon I found myself using the most was Totec’s spear, which not only kills foes easily, but can stick in walls and allow Lara to jump up to higher ground. Relics are interesting as well, as they provide Lara with interesting combat bonuses when equipped.

Online play has been promised and should be available soon, so I can’t comment on that. The only multiplayer available at the moment is local co-op, and I don’t think that I’m going to bring a friend over so that we can both play the game on the same computer, especially since my friends have already played the more multiplayer-friendly PS3 version. I have heard great things about the co-op though, with many professional reviewers claiming that it is absolutely essential that both players work together.

Overall, this is a pretty great game. It looks and sounds great, and the gameplay is possibly the best ever featuring Lara. This game is fantastic for fans of platformers and puzzle games. Tomb Raider fans should also find a lot to enjoy here. The big surprise, however, is that this game also should appeal to hack n’ slash fanatics. Like Diablo or Sacred? Despite this not being an open world RPG, I still recommend it as the combat system is very similar. In short, this game should have mass appeal and it’s very well made. Possibly Lara Croft’s best game ever. For about $15 on the Playstation Network, Steam, or XBox Live, you really can’t go wrong with this high quality game.

Final Score


Fallout 3 (Review)

“Bethesda’s fall from grace is as depressing as this game’s setting.”

I once said that I would never review Fallout 3, but with a lack of games to review at the moment (I need to buy more!) I’ve had to dip into my collection a bit and pick something to review. Fallout 3, a game that I’m not afraid to express my dislike for, stood out over quite a few other games. So now here I am, ready to review a game that an overwhelmingly large portion of gamers like. This is going to be good!

Before its release, I didn’t really pay much attention to Fallout 3. I had played Fallout 2 and couldn’t get into it at all, mostly because the combat system felt far too dated for my tastes. That dislike for Fallout 2, along with the “wasteland” setting that the series is set in, was all that I had to go on with Fallout 3. The fact that Bethesda, the developer of the Elder Scrolls series which I have a love-hate relationship with, was in charge of the new Fallout was enough for me to ignore what I knew about the series from Fallout 2 and focus on this brave new installment in the popular franchise.

A lot of people pegged Fallout 3 as “Oblivion with guns” before it was released, a view that the diehard Fallout fans did not appreciate to hear. I was in the “Oblivion with guns” camp, which is interesting since I wasn’t a huge lover of Oblivion. I still looked past my feelings for Oblivion though, because Fallout was very different overall from the Elder Scrolls, so I assumed that the game would play very differently overall. Boy, was I ever wrong.

When I picked up Fallout 3, I was actually very impressed with the opening sequence for the main menu. The subdued music, coupled with the projector slide-like presentation, had me sold. It gave me a great feeling for this game, as I felt that Fallout 3’s main menu was the coolest I’ve ever seen in a Bethesda game.

Unfortunately, once I got to the character creation process, I was already starting to feel cautious. Everything felt like it was copied and pasted straight from Oblivion. The faces, sliders, and options all reeked of Oblivion. I also realized that like Oblivion, it was extremely challenging to create a decent looking girl or guy. Actually Fallout 3 makes it even harder, since you have to view your character on this ridiculous looking ingame computer screen which lacks everything from proper clarity to adequate contrast. Your character’s face in the computer screen looks much different from how they actually end up, which is simply because the visibility on the screen is so terrible. I’ve never seen anybody make such a crucial mistake with character creation, and it’s pretty shocking that Bethesda messed it up so much after the high quality of their character creation processes in the latest Elder Scrolls games.

I won’t even get into the part where you play as a baby, but I realized very quickly from playing through Vault 101 that Fallout 3 suffered from many of the problems which made me feel lukewarm towards Oblivion.

In Oblivion, facial animations were absolutely terrible and the voice work was cringe-worthy. I remember feeling upset over how poor the lip syncing was, and how the tone of the characters’ voices never matched their expressions. It was a little odd to see a character scream at me angrily while keeping a completely calm, straight face. Fallout 3 did not improve upon any of these and, in some cases, I actually felt that Bethesda took a step backwards and made these issues more prominent. Fallout 3 also copies Oblivions poor body animations and terrible physics, making the game’s characters behave and move like psychotic freaks on very wild trips.

While the game was overall fairly decent looking, at least outside in the Wasteland, a lot of problems with model animations and such really hurt the visual presentation of the game and if you ignore the game world and just focus on the models themselves, the game as a whole looks like a very amateurish experimental game.

The immersion is destroyed even further by the dull music in the game. I’m not sure who composed the tunes for Fallout 3, but it wasn’t even close to the high quality that I typically expect of music from Bethesda. Why didn’t they utilize Jeremy Soule, the composer of the awesome tunes in Morrowind and Oblivion? Those games were immersive from their music alone! Fallout 3’s music is boring, quiet, and lacks the depth needed to connect to me as a player.

The Wasteland, which is the wilderness you traverse through, is pretty decent looking. Unfortunately, it suffers from the same problems that Oblivion’s neverending forest was plagued with. The Wasteland, while cool looking at first, quickly grows fairly boring as a lot of things simply look the same, and like Oblivion, I found myself feeling a lot of deja vu frequently due to a nagging feeling that Bethesda used copying and pasting to an extreme level. The interior areas, such as the Vaults and city buildings, are extraordinarily boring. Maybe that fits the whole post-apocalyptic setting, but then perhaps Bethesda should have made that very setting more visually appealing. Even Oblivion had more interesting looking interiors.

The combat. Oh, how I hated the combat! Fighting baddies in this game was the most boring experience I have ever had to endure. The VATs system, which I hear was supposed to simulate the turn based battle system of the original games, made Fallout 3 an annoying trial of my patience. All VATs did was serve as a way to slow combat down drastically just so that we could get a few glimpses of body parts exploding. Yeah, no thanks.

The menu system in Fallout 3 is beyond horrible. The Pipboy interface, while somewhat cool looking, was just an awful mess. Having to scroll through so many different menus, all which did their damndest to keep themselves from being user friendly, was an absolute chore. There’s far too much clicking, scrolling, and navigating for the menus in Fallout 3 to be at all efficient.

There’s little that I wish to say about the story, other than the “searching for dear old dad” story has been done to death and, in many cases, has been done far better than what Bethesda has managed in Fallout 3. I never felt compelled to do anything in this game. The writing is dull and every character I met had the personality of a mattress. I didn’t want to help any of those people, and I didn’t really care about finding my father, either. Why should I have? Why should anyone have wanted to find him? Bethesda forced us to care about a character that we only knew for a few minutes, and then based the opening portion of the game around finding him. When you do find him, it’s not even any bit overwhelming. I couldn’t have cared less. Bethesda dropped the ball somewhere with the story here, and I couldn’t connect with it at all. Morrowind had a fantastic story and Oblivion, while being a pain in the ass in terms of gameplay, had a good story too. Fallout 3 does not.

I know that many people like Fallout 3, so I can’t say “don’t play this game” nor can I not recommend it. I’m in the minority, and I’ll acknowledge that few others share my opinions. Fallout 3 is a mainstream game with hugely mainstream appeal. If you feel confident that you will like Fallout 3, then give it a go.

Final Score


F1 2010 (Review)

“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.

Final Score


Since I have this game on my PC, here are two videos of me driving in place of the usual four screenshots.