F1 2012 PC Review

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For the past two years Codemasters have done a great job bringing back the exhilarating feeling of F1 to the video game world. Let’s be honest here: Is there really anyone else you would want handling the F1 licence right now? Codemasters have proven to be the company that can make exciting and compelling racing games that manage to blend together a mixture of realism, simulation, and arcade, for both novice and pro racing fans. F1 2012 continues the growth of the franchise with new modes and several improvements that make this the best F1 game yet, but is the yearly release starting to come with a sense of déjà vu for the series?

F1 2012 aims to teach players the basics from the get-go with the Young Driver Test mode, a required tutorial that places new race drivers on the Abu Dhabi track to learn and adapt to car control, weather conditions, and race lines, as well as understand what DRS (Drag Reduction System) and KERS (Kinetic Energy Recover System) are and how to correctly use them. The tutorial is very well put together and should give any newcomer to the game a great start to understand the mechanics and gameplay. Veterans will wish they could skip it, but the tutorial is compulsory and must be completed before you can jump into the game’s career mode – a strange design choice, but thankfully, the tutorial is on the short side.

Career mode is basically identical to F1 2011; it is the only mode that has not received any sort of upgrades or changes. Players enter their details and then pick a low-level entry team to race for, taking part in qualifying and Grand Prix races against the best to prove you have what it takes, eventually gaining promotion to join the bigger teams, such as Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren. Each of the 20 race tracks are officially represented in the game, and all 24 racers from the 12 teams are included.

Season Challenge is one of the new modes that surfaced after Codemasters received feedback from fans wanting a shorter campaign than the main career mode. Season Challenge does so by cutting down the gameplay to shorter chunks to allow for faster progression through a season. The idea behind the mode is that you pick a team (teams are limited by what difficulty you choose, with Easy giving access to all) and a rival, and players must beat the chosen rival in a best of three during the 10-race season. Defeating the rival allows you to join their team. Players keep doing this till they are racing for the best or their favourite team. A race in Season Challenge consists of single-lap qualifiers and five-lap races, and in no time you find yourself completing the 10-race season. The problem with the mode is that once you hit the higher teams you still need to pick a rival, but the rival loses its purpose once you have arrived at your team of choice as you will not want to move to their defeated team.

Slotted in the Proving Grounds mode is a new challenge called Champions, a small section that features a series of challenges against some of the finest F1 Grand Prix racers at the moment. Targets include staying in first with worn-out tyres while Lewis Hamilton hunts you down with a set of fresh tyres, or trying to get in front of Jenson Button in horrendous rain conditions after a safety car situation. The last one is a race against all six F1 stars in the brand-new race track that is set to be the stage for the American Grand Prix. A selected few of these challenges are hard, and I often found myself having to retry to find that perfect race line, making sure I was gaining my positions in a quickly manner. It’s a mode that is aimed to push and challenge the more serious racing fans. Proving Grounds also includes the Time Attack and Time Trial modes, which pit you up against ghosts and other ranking players on the global leaderboards.

These new modes help flesh out F1 2012, but I cannot help but wish there was more. There is a huge history in F1 motorsports that has yet to be tapped in the games. Just imagine being able to race with the greats of the 90s or taking a 60s F1 car for a spin around an old, classic race track. That is something I would love to be able to take part in, but from what I hear, Codemasters has trouble being able to do this because the F1 licence restricts them to the current time. Codemasters have said that in the future they will try negotiate terms to include such classics. Fingers crossed that the upper lords of F1 allow them to do such an inclusion.

The licence agreement has caused uproar with fans because it has triggered Codemasters to remove the Grand Prix mode, a feature that allowed players to pick their favourite F1 race driver and create a custom season. Now you are limited to playing as your F1 stars in Quick Race. It is a bummer that Grand Prix is absent, but it’s not the be-all, end-all for the game. I just hope the licence becomes less regulated as Codemasters keep proving why they are the studio to make the official F1 video games. Developers want to make the games the best they can be, and removing modes is not the most ideal way to go about that.

Moving to the track, people who have played the last instalment will see the familiar and deep controls options. Not so good at the game? Then turn on the racing line or braking assistance until you feel comfortable. Pros at the game can just turn all this off; doing so requires you to become a master at breaking and accelerating. If you have not got a handle on the controls, then prepare for spin-outs, crashes and worn out tyres. The rewind feature is here, so you can save yourself from disaster or a turn gone wrong by placing yourself a few seconds before hand. They are in limited supply, though, so you will have to learn the tracks to rely less on the rewind mechanic. F1 2012 manages to be a racing game that anyone can play. Gameplay feels arcade-like when you turn on all the supportive options, but acts like a simulation with they are off. Codemasters have hit the middle spot with their control options, allowing entry from any racing fan.

Even though the weather system was already beautiful to behold but dangerous to drive in, Codemasters have improved it by having tracks that aren’t just wet or dry but can contain diverse amounts of rain due to the track elevation, simulating close to how the rain would gather up in spots of a real race track. This means rain could pass over early in a race, but when the track is drying, all but three corners could be wet, meaning you have to be extra careful when approaching them in the car’s dry tyres. It’s a small detail, but it adds that extra dynamic to the racing. AI received an upgrade as well. Race drivers seem to react more natural to cars nearby, leaving space when there is danger of collision.

Multiplayer returns with split-screen, LAN, and online play. A cool feature with online play (and is available offline) is the cooperative career mode, where you and a buddy can join a team and race throughout a season together. The rest of the online is just standard races that you have already experienced before.

Visually, Codemasters has always made great-looking racing games, and F1 2012 is no different. The game is a minor improvement over last year’s visuals, but the lighting system in place is much better at giving off a sense of real-world illumination. Gone are the dark filters that were implemented in past titles. If you have a PC that can maximise performance then you are in for a nice-looking racer with great weather effects.

As with a lot of yearly franchises, there often comes a point where the next instalment does not seem worth the asking price. F1 2012‘s upgrades, new modes, and thrilling races just about make it worthwhile to jump into a 700+ BHP racing machine again, but if the licence limitations are still in place next year then it is going to be hard for Codemasters to do something different with the series – and that is my biggest worry. As it stands, F1 2012 is the best F1 game I have ever played, and for anyone who is interested in the sport, then you really owe yourselves to check out this great representation of F1.

[Gameplay of PC version below.]

8/10

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Version tested: PC

Also available on: Xbox 360, PS3

Developer: Codemasters Birmingham

Publisher: Codemasters

Genre: Racing