I’ll admit it, I’m a huge Formula 1 fan. When I first got an Xbox I searched high and low for a Formula 1 game for it, only to discover that the F1 franchise was only available for Playstation.
Last year the Codemasters took the F1 game reins and I was excited by the prospect of finally getting to enjoy my favourite sport on my, now, Xbox360. Sadly F1 2009 still wasn’t available for the Xbox360, but I did play it on Wii and iPhone.
This year, however, the moment has arrived. F1 2010 is out on a variety of formats, PC, PS3 and, yes, Xbox360! So what’s it like?
Is that computer generated?
I’m a very visual person – I like things to look good – so the first thing I notice about a game is the graphics. F1 2010 has that hyper-realism look that always tips me off that it’s computer generated, but it does look awesome. In fact, some people I’ve shown the game to have commented that it’s almost like watching the real thing. The weather effects, puddles on the track during rain, water streaming over your visor, spray from the wheels, all look amazing and make me wonder how the real drivers cope in the wet. But even during a normal race the track and other cars look wonderful.
One thing I really like doing is having a few laps of whatever track the real F1 is visiting next. So far that’s been Singapore and Suzuka, and the Korean track is looking like it’ll be fun. The level of detail in-game is so good that having those laps gives me a much better idea of what’s happening in the live race. I understand better how the track fits together and why the drivers are taking a particular line through a corner. Codemasters have done a great job at making the tracks as accurate as possible.
Have a look at the trailer to get an idea of how F1 2010 looks.
What’s it like to drive?
There are a load of driver aids you can switch on and off to customise the difficulty level, such as automatic braking, a visual racing line, ABS, traction control, and even how clever your opponents are. By tweaking those settings you should be able to find a level at which you can enjoy the game no matter what your skill. Driving with the controller is simple enough – I managed to stay on the track most of the time – but F1 2010 really comes to life when you use a steering wheel controller. The fine control available and the illusion of actually driving helps improve the gameplay immensely. Having said that, I occasionally play online against a friend who swears by his Xbox360 controller and usually beats me too. I wouldn’t rush out and buy a steering wheel just to play F1 2010 – try it with your current controller first and see if that suits you.
Am I living the life?
The official Formula 1 website talks about being the driver, living the life. If F1 2010 is designed to give you the whole experience of being an F1 driver, well, it just can’t. The press interviews after the race are necessarily scripted with you choosing from a few available responses. The other teams are very formulaic in how they respond to you, reacting to your press comments more than anything else while, in the real world, if you started winning races in a Lotus car you’d soon be approached by one of the other teams. But then, that’s not why I bought the game really: I bought it to race and the on-track action is just brilliant.
Sure, there are things that could be improved. I’ve picked up on discussions that the qualifying times for the other drivers are all generated rather than taken from actual lap times. It would be nice to see that, if I (accidentally) blocked a driver on the track his lap time suffered. There are times that my team tells me a driver is five seconds ahead of me when I’m actually right on his tail, and I’ve read (but never experienced to my knowledge) that if there’s a chance of rain some of the other drivers might not pit at all. These are all niggles, though, and haven’t really affected my enjoyment of the game.
What has affected my enjoyment of the game is the over-enthusiastic penalties handed out by the stewards. Fair enough, if I charge into another car I get a penalty for causing an avoidable collision. The weird thing is that if I’m in front and brake for a corner, and a car hits me, I still get the penalty! Fortunately there’s an action replay system that lets you go back in time a few seconds and have another go, but I’m starting to think this must have been what it felt like to be a McLaren driver a few years ago.
Overall I have to say F1 2010 is a fantastic game. I’ve been playing it every day since I got it and while there are issues and annoyances, the joy of driving round familiar tracks in-game, pretending to do what I’ve seen on the TV so many times, is intoxicating. I’m loving it, and I can see F1 2010 being played in my house for a long time to come.