F1 2010 The Game Review
When Codemasters obtained the official F1 license frankly we were a bit worried. After all this is the studio that released titles like Grid and Dirt, games renowned for unrealistic handling and an awkward emphasis on crashing. Then news came out and slowly we found ourselves excited about the prospect of having a terrific dynamic weather system, driver personality, the media and many more features new to F1 games. And now, after a wait of over three years, finally the F1 series continue on our favorite next-gen systems, but was it worth the wait?
The game starts with a press conference. Here you must answer a couple of basic questions to set up your racing profile. It’s a highly effective way of starting your career but looks kind of silly when a reporter is asking for your name. One would guess she knows the person she’s interviewing.
Once done you’ll walk towards the team’s motor home, which acts as the main menu in the game. Here you can select between the different modes including: Time trail, multiplayer, career and grand prix weekend, which also allows championship racing.
Career mode is where you’ll probably spend most time at. Here you start as a rookie driver for one of the new teams and, as you accomplish curtain tasks and beat your teammate, can work your way up in the team or accept offers from higher up teams. In addition players will also be able to develop the car or decide to put efforts into next years design. An important aspect in F1 not earlier implemented in a video game.
Also new to the series is the press. Finish in the top 3 and you’ll have to attend the press conference. Additionally after each race you can face the press and talk about your performance. It’s a great feature that brings additional authenticity and it greatly influences relations with the team and competing teams. But the way it was implemented leaves much to be desired. For example the questions always have three possible answers out of which the most right option is the safest. Also the interviews always take place in the motor home with the same person doing the interview, not very realistic.
Codemasters tried to bring in as many details as they could and they’ve nailed it. Every session starts in the pit box with the mechanics and engineer working on the car. Using the monitor you can see the session times, weather report or change the setup of the car. Surprisingly the option to see the AI cars is missing, so you can’t spy on competitors or view the conditions of the track prior to your first flying laps. This may not sound like much but makes it very hard to judge which tyres to go out on.
More bad news comes when working on the setup of the car, because the game only allows the most basic of adjustments. For example the front wing has just 11 angles to control the front-end grip, a far cry from the many variables enjoyed in real life.
Going round the track is more tactical than ever before. Likewise to real life drivers can now make small adjustments to the front wing or change the engine settings all while driving. It’s very important to nurse the car home and only use the performance when you need it otherwise you could end up in the barrier.
Luckily almost every F1 rule has made it into the game. Drivers only have a limited amount of tyres available to them and need to keep a keen eye on the engine to stay within the 8 available engines per season limit. Unfortunately we couldn’t select the engine before going to free practice 1, and changing during the session costs us too much time to go out again.
But otherwise these strategic elements have been implemented beautifully. Users can go on track with worn-out tyres or choose when to use that fresh engine. Hint: Monza.
The racing itself is a bit of a mixed bag. The car handles like we’ve seen on television. So you’ll notice the grip changing throughout sessions and sliding in the rain is all but inevitable. The grip also differs per corner and it makes a big difference on the traction.
Unfortunately not every element of a true simulator is present. We could hit the grass without losing control of the car. And even with every aids off there’s that feeling that the game is helping you keep control. This is most apparent in the pits because the game allows absolute no control in the pit lane apart from braking and a dodgy “not always working” speed limiter.
On the flip side every car has its own characteristic. The Mclaren is lightning fast in a straight line and the Red Bull can take sweeping corners at insane speeds. And while it’s realistic, they’ve rated the new teams a bit optimistically. The difference between the slowest and fastest car is about 2-4 seconds; we would’ve liked this to be 4-6 seconds.
In short the game is way too forgiving to match the likes of rfactor or even Sony’s last go at the series. But the funny thing is that you forgot all about it when you’re actually driving and pushing for the limits because driving a virtual F1 car has never been more fun.
The racing is where F1 2010 really excels. It starts in the pit box where last minute strategy adjustments can be made. After which the game cuts right to the grid, unfortunately skipping any form of race build-up.
During the race fighting for position can get pretty intense, especially with damage and car wear set to full. Helped by a terrific AI that jumps into every gap you leave it. The game meanwhile keeps you updated on the gaps and mistakes by your rivals.
The engineer helps you along the way. He keeps you updated about the race including the condition of the engine and the position of your competitors. But sometimes he says silly things and the phrases get repetitive fast. This however has bugged every driving game so far and is not a big disturbance to the racing.
More of a problem is the balancing. The AI, while great when racing them, are extremely unrealistic when not. It seems like the system calculates speed based on race position rather than actual car and driver. This means that a Lotus can suddenly match the pace of a Renault when it’s further up the field.
Enthusiastic followers of the sport will also learn that the smart pit light systems of the likes of Ferrari aren’t in the game. Talking about details.
Ultimately though the racing is an extremely tense and fun activity. There’s no better feeling than nailing lap after lap in Monaco in ultra consistency while stuck behind a Mercedes.
It’s even more exciting in the rain. The engineer will keep you posted about the weather but as a driver you can make the call to go on intermediates before the rain hits. And when the track is drying you can avoid the dry line and cool your tyres in the standing water. The dynamic weather system is absolutely amazing and light years ahead of any other racing game.
The game succeeds in making every point feel rewarding despite missing features such as the safety car, parc ferme or podium celebrations. But the racing is still the game’s strong suit.
F1 2010 is without a doubt the best-looking F1 game ever made. The cars and tracks have been recreated in absolute detail. Circuit height differences and scenery positions are textured in pinpoint accuracy. Spa looks absolutely amazing going through Eau Rouge and seeing the grandstand as you gentle press the throttle approaching La source. Monaco also looks stunning with the many flats and the sight of the harbor in the Nouvelle Chicane.
The graphics only get better with dynamic weather turned on. The changing sky and the puddle forming on track are unmatched by any racing game. And true to real life when behind someone only the red safety light is visible. Fantastic! We did however notice some texture popping and slightly blurry textures especially visible in the background. So there’re still some gains to be made.
Sound wise F1 games never really hit the mark for us. In general they’ve sounded very generic with some even approaching “lawn mower” noise.
Luckily F1 2010 is the best sounding open-wheel racer yet. The engines really have that deep revving noise and over-revving the engine sounds very genuine. In fact the only thing that keeps F1 2010 from sounding perfect is the difference between the cars. A McLaren sounds completely different from a Renault, but that isn’t very apparent in the game.
Users can drive online against mates or racers around the globe using the multiplayer feature. The game allows up to 12 racers (1 per team) with an extensive array of options including: full race distance, damage, fuel/try management, penalties and qualifying.
It worked great but we were disappointed about the server search options and the lack of chat in the lobby. Better buy a headset if you want to communicate in any way. Also for some reason users can’t join a session while the race is already on the way. This has been better implemented in the past when users were asked to wait.
The racing itself worked smooth and bug free. During testing we met many great racers and experienced very close battles. Be successful online and you’ll rank up XP points which gives you dips on your favorite car or allows access to games with a “minimal XP threshold”.
F1 2010 is a great game. Driving the cars is a lot of fun and the racing can be extremely tense and exciting. Combined with the terrific graphics and sound quality, Codemasters has a real winner here. However the handling needs some balancing. Finally it misses some features that every F1 game should have. But F1 2010 is a great start and has the potential to become part of the best F1 series of all time.
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