It is no secret that as a fan of Formula 1, I have played a great many of the games based around the sport over my years as a gamer. Unfortunately they have all fallen by the wayside as games that could not hold my attention, like so many other racing tiles were able to. I could never put my finger on the reason why these games became run of the mill racing games that soon lost all their appeal to me rather quickly. Even the sports first outing on the PS3, Formula One Championship Edition, which I picked up not long after purchasing my first PlayStation 3. Although it was a fun game, like many games based on the sport before, it was soon just not as enjoyable as other driving games available. So it was with some trepidation that I went into the latest F1 game, Formula One 2010.
The one thing that had me thinking and hoping that this could be different from the other games was the developer, Codemasters, the company behind some of the most popular motorsport game series currently availble, including Dirt and Grid. With high hopes I went into the game to see if using the experience and techniques involved in making their previous impressive driving games can be used to create a Formula One game that is just as much fun.
As with most sport games, there is not much to say about the story of the game as you already know what is involved. However, in this case the main chunk of the single player game is a pretty deep career mode. At the start you create a player profile choosing either a three, five or seven year career and one of the smaller teams, you know, the ones that you normally see finishing at the back during the real races. From there you begin your career and the long journey to becoming world champion by attempting to win races, get promoted to better teams, and take part in research and development tests to improve your cars. The depth of the career mode for a racing game is welcome and goes so far as having you interviewed by the press after impressive qualifying and racing sessions. With a choice of predetermined answers, choosing the correct responses goes a long way to keeping your team happy and therefore keeping you around for a bit longer. The game tries to show the player a little of what it is like to live the life of a Formula One driver.
While playing the career mode you can of course customise the length of the race weekends from a short race only, all the way up to what I as a fan have been playing, full length race weekends which involveÂ practice sessions, qualifying and of course a full length race, some of which can be almost two hours long. This is, I think, more aimed toward the hardcore simulator fans. For those looking for more of a quick fix, there is the custom Grand Prix Mode in which the player can set up a personalised Grand Prix selecting tracks, race weekend length, race length and weather amongst many other parameters. The other single player mode in the game is the customary Time Trial mode, with a little more to it. Instead of the one ghost car that you can normally have on the track, you can have around six at the same time. Along with your own personal best time, you can load in any player from the online leader boards ghost car, which gives you a target to beat and therefore helps you progress up the boards yourself. Another nice addition to the time trial mode is a party mode where you can invite your friends to a time trial session, racing on the track at the same time, attempting to better each others times.
There is also a fun multiplayer mode which, like time trial, has a few different modes such as single races or even a full series of races with players earning points for winning as they would in the single player game. Single races are perfect if you are just looking for a quick blast around a track with a few other people. There is a levelling up system present, but it does not really serve any purpose or unlock anything special. At the start of each race you are randomly assigned a team and car, but players need not worry about being stuck in one of the slower teams as it appears that during competitive online races all the cars seem to be on a level playing field, making the races a much more balanced affair. As with many online racing games you need to be aware that during races you will, on occasion, run into players who have no morals and will gladly bash and smash their way round the track. The developers have tried to handle this with a time penalty of ten seconds for players deemed to be using unsportsman like conduct. So although they may still finish ahead of you, they may place below you when the penalty is added. It is a new way of combating this kind of play and although it usually works, sometimes it just is not enough.
When it comes to gameplay I find it pretty hard to fault the game as the racing action is just as much fun, if not more so, than many of the current racing games around today. Car handling has the perfect mix between being a simulator and a fun arcade racer. Don’t get me wrong, you need to have a little knowledge. You can not just cruise round the tracks and it is all to easy to spin or put your car in a wall. The game does offer those looking for a more realistic game the chance to adjust many of the driving aids, included making the cars much more lively, behaving a bit more like the real thing would. What you do get a sense of playing the game is the speed, especially on some tracks where you are walled in, like Monaco and Canada to name a couple. You get the feeling you could all to easily smash your car into the wall at any second and the only thing that could make it scarier is if you were doing so in the rain.
The dynamic weather system is one of the best I have seen in a racing game yet. Most games that come with wet weather racing involve starting a race and choosing either rain or clear skies. In F1 2010 you can start a race with bright blue skies but quite easily end the same race in a torrential downpour. The cool thing is that while you are racing you can see the skies getting darker as the storm approaches and it is left up to the player to decide when to pit in and change to wet weather tires, or risk that it is just a small shower and stay out. The handling of the cars also changes dramatically on a wet surface and it has to be said the rain effects are some of the best I have seen in a game in a long time.
Up until now it has all been good, but I do have to say the game does have a few flaws that could have been improved upon or been handled in a different manner. The first, and probably most important, is the AI of the opponent cars. In general it’s pretty good and they offer you a decent race, being tricky to pass and, if you do, they are ready to pounce on you should you make a mistake at the next turn. The problem I have with it, is that on occasion they will make quite ridiculous blocking moves, such as suddenly moving directly in front of your car just as you are about to pass them. this is bad enough, but when they do the same midway through a turn, it is a little silly. Another problem with the AI is that when you have a spin or accident coming to a stop on the circuit itself, many times the AI cars will not try to miss you, instead ploughing right into your car.
In a way this leads me to my next problem with the game, the penalty system. When you cause a crash or cut a corner you will generally be given a warning. Doing so againÂ will result in you receiving a ten second penalty ,which is added after the race, losing you places and such once the chequered flag is waved. Problem one that I have with this system in the career mode, as it works fine in multiplayer, is that the game seems to hand out the penalties rather freely. You hit a car hard from behind and quite rightly so you shall and should be penalised. But surely if you are hit from behind by another car, they should be getting the penalty and not you. My second problem with this system is that it is not very realistic when it comes to the sport. I would much rather have had a more lenient dishing out of the penalties, but on being given a certain number of them the driver would be issued a drive through penalty, costing time and much more in line with the sport.
The game presentation on the whole is more than acceptable, but like the gameplay does suffer from one or two small problems that could have been improved on or ironed out. The game itself looks pretty good, with both the cars and tracks all well created. The cars are especially beautifully representations of the real thing. It all looks as good as most other racers out there and, like I mentioned before, the weather effects are incredible. But on occasion you can and do notice something that could have been improved on. My biggest gripe with the games graphics is the damage modelling. Having played the Dirt series and Grid, both of which had fully destructible cars models, I was expecting the same when it came to F1 2010, but unfortunately it was not to be. Although your car can take damage, the problem is that when I loose control and my car smashes head long into a wall or barrier I expect the front end of it to be destroyed. But rather, what you get is your front wing disintegrating in a shower of carbon fibre, which initially looks spectacular but then you realise that this is the extent of the damage. It’s a little bit of a let down. Other than that, the game looks pretty damn fine.
When it comes to the sound, I can find no fault whatsoever. Music is kept to a minimum throughout the game. This is a good thing, as the developers have nailed the engine sounds and it begs to be turned way up as you are playing, so you get the full effect of a screaming formula one car hammering down a straight section of track, followed by the barking of the engine as you quickly shift down through the gears and power away again. To fans of the sport, that is like music to our ears.
Bringing things to a close, looking at Formula 1 2010 as a whole package I have to say that of all the F1 games that I have played in the past years, this is without a doubt one of the best. It is still hard to say at this point whether or not the game will remain as playable for longer than most other F1 games for myself at least. But so far, the prognosis is good. What you get here is an enjoyable, fast paced racing game that is a lot of fun to play. It does have a few small problems but the pros by far outweigh the cons, making this a must buy for fans of driving games and for fans of the sport itself you really can’t go wrong. Check it out now for some high speed on track action.