Codemasters F1 2010 game review

Thursday 18th March 2010, 12:20  

Codemasters made a rather bold claim today that this will be, put simply, the greatest F1 game ever seen. After playing the game for roughly 18 laps, they are profoundly right.

I know everyone has something they want clarified about the game so let’s get started with the all important handling.

Handling

The handling for F1 2009 disappointed, basically, and early screenshots on the Codies forum suggested this might too, but I can confirm that it doesn't, it's the total opposite.

Senior Producer Paul Jeal promised the most “authentic, realistic experience” of driving an F1 car, and that is what you get. If you clunk a kerb too much and put the throttle on far too early to counter-act that, you’ll end up in the wall.

I sampled a pre-Alpha, or early version to you and me, version of F1 2010 and despite this being a premature version shall we say, the handling was well-advanced. It is not as clinical as Gran Turismo, but they do put many years into those games, whereas Codies will only ever be able to put many months and a lot of sleepless nights into their games.

The game is not punishingly difficult with all the aids turned off, providing you do not push to the extreme for any reason. If you do push unnecessarily hard, you’ll find yourself in the wall. If you apply a smooth, gentle rhythm to your driving, you’ll find it easier to learn and you’ll be able to chop a little bit of time of per lap as your confidence grows.

The realism of following another car has been toned down a touch as you can follow a car and get some slipstream, but not the awful amounts we have seen in past games. Overtaking requires expert braking, if you have ABS off, and the right timing so that you do not simply slid off the circuit by touching the marbles off line. Overtaking is always a good thing.

Weather and Rubber

Codemasters are immensely proud of something they call “active track technology”, which is a system that calculates the effects of the progressing weekend and race on the track itself.

At the very beginning of a race-weekend, the track will be “green”, meaning that there is no rubber laid down by other cars and therefore very little grip. Codies say that you could do a hot lap right at the start of the weekend, then compare to you Q3 time and see just how amazing the development of the track is throughout the weekend.

Off the racing line, there will be balls of rubber, like marbles, that will dramatically affect your grip and balance if you stray on to them. If it rains during the weekend, all of that rubber will be washed away, leaving the track green once again.

Running wide off the circuit could have rather dire consequences as the gravel flies up into the air, allowing some of it to get stuck in the sidepods of your car. There will be someone ready to clear out your sidepods of any debris, whether it is gravel, carbon fibre or leaves. If you run wide and your tires become dirty, you will have to brakes earlier to avoid running off again, and you’ll have to be very careful at somewhere like Monaco or Singapore where mistakes are punished severely.

If you lock your brakes, you’ll flat spot a tyre, leaving it to vibrate and unbalance your car and unsettle the rigidity of the suspension, and if it gets too bad, the team will call you in to change the tyre, costing you time. You could decide to stay out on the track and nurse the car home, but it will probably lead to a huge loss of grip and an eventual tyre blowout, and if that is at high speed, kiss the race goodbye.

When it starts raining, the track does just fill up straight away like other racing games, it will slowly go from being greasy to slippery to holding many puddles of water. Areas where lots of standing water is likely to be have been identified by Codies, such as turn three of Interlagos. Anyone who watched the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix will know what I am on about.

Races can start with part of the track wet, and part dry, like the 2008 Belgian Grand Prix, it will be about choosing the right tyre at the right time.

I played about nine laps in the wet, and starts are crucial, and difficult to get spot on. Push too hard out of a corner and you’ll know about it, brake too late and the same will happen. Wet weather driving has never really been easy, but in F1 2010, it has been taking to an all new level.

Driving in cockpit view, closely following another in the rain shows just how much effort has gone into the game, with visibility becoming virtually zero, which is until you pull out from behind your rival. As the marbles have been washed away, you will be able to be a bit braves off the racing line with overtaking manoeuvres, but getting the timing and strength of your braking right is vital.

As the rain stops, a drying line begins to appear, and unlike games of the past it will not dry up after seven laps, it will take some time, with the driver having pull over to the wetter side of the track to cool down his tyres as he runs in the dry line.

Staying out too line on wet tyres on a dry track will cause you to lose time, grip and result in a big delamination, like Hamilton in China, 2007.

Damage

Codemasters have promised the most sophisticated damage model in gaming history, and the early signs are promising. Debris really does shatter into thousands of pieces, and running over debris in the game will give you a puncture, forcing you to nurse the car back to the pits.

If you have a low-speed crash at, say Monaco the tyre will remain attached to the car by a wheel tether, but if the crash is at high-speed, the tyre will be separated from the car. The damage model has been based upon the visual explosion that was Robert Kubica horrific crash in Canada, 2007.

Codemasters studied over 500 pictures of that one crash and saw how the pieces of the car would separate from a different area of the car, and the huge crash at the start of the 2009 Spanish Grand Prix was also studied for how the carbon fibre did literally explode on that occasion.

Drivers will be able to turn the damage off, or have it at varying velocities, ranging from 5% all the way to the brutal 100%. Mistakes will not be tolerated.

Pitting

Pitting is not fully controlled by the player for fear that some fools would just run over the mechanics of other teams for fun, so instead, you have to brake on time and set the pit limiter as you enter the pits.

You will be steered into your box, but it will be down to you to get the timing of your braking right. Too early and the crew have to push you into your box, too later and the front jack-man needs his feet attended to. Getting the timing spot on is something that will take some learning for all.

Artificial Intelligence

One low point for a lot of racing games has been the AI, the drivers that you are racing against. They very rarely defend their positions, and if they do, you feel the consequences.

I’ll start with my biggest beef with F1 games, lapping another car. Unlike in F1CE, where the cars slow down rapidly in-front of you, in F1 2010 they will move off the racing line at the best opportunity, like a very long straight, and wave you through. That is how it should have always been.

When a driver is defending their position, they will move across the track no more than twice, as the sporting regulations permit, to break the tow you are getting from their car. The tricky thing will be getting on the marbles and allowing you to go through, but overtaking will be tough on hard mode, so I have been told.

Speaking of hard mode, it didn’t really mean anything in past F1 games. At Monaco, I could lap a second quicker than Alonso, who was in a Renault, whilst I was in a Super Aguri. This time round if your in a Lotus, you'll probably match, if not slightly beat your team-mate. Much better, if you're in a slower car, it will be near impossible to keep up with the top cars.

As we all know, some drivers are more adept to certain tracks, like Felipe Massa at anything anti-clockwise. This will be the same in F1 2010, with someone like Massa really excelling more than usual at Istanbul, Interlagos, Valencia, Bahrain and so on.

The relationship you have with your team-mate is also critical in this game, as in career mode, if you out-perform your team-mate on a regular basis, you will receive the car updates before him, just like in real-life.

Career Mode

The career mode concept has been around since F1 04, where I think Sony actually did a fine job with it, but it could always be better. Codemasters have created a fully integrated paddock into the career mode, with your choice of avoiding the press at all costs, or talking to them and blaming a bad performance on yourself, a rival, your car or tour team-mate.

How well you are doing as a driver will be reflected by how many journalists turn up to question you, and how many fans turn up at autograph sessions looking for you. The journalists chasing you will be headed by 5LiveF1’s Holly Samos. After the race, if you are on the podium, you will be interviewed in the press conference by David Croft.

The career mode will last seven season, and could not last anymore seasons for the simple reason that some poor soul is going to have to play through all of those seasons nonstop to test for bugs. There is simply not enough time to test ten or 15 seasons.

The team trucks, motor-homes and garages have all been fully modelled, something the team were particularly excited about when told so by Codemasters.

Tracks

All of the tracks have been modelled to excruciating detail, with the development team telling me that they are most proud of Monaco, with humps, bumps and drains in all the right places. Abu Dhabi will be a fully day/night race, with that one race apparently being the hardest race by some margin to develop.

Singapore’s night race will be included, and the new Korean circuit will be in the game before the drivers race on it, as happened when Turkey and China were introduced a few years back.

What's missing?

Well, the safety car is, but I was told that if they took time to get that right and de-bug it fully, the game wouldn’t be coming out this year, and the same goes for the formation lap. We’ll be starting on pre-warmed tyres so no worry about reckless starts. There will be no reconnaissance lap after the race, just a cut-away to your best moments off the race, followed by a video of you walking to the press conference past all the models. No champagne will be sprayed as the game is appealing to families, and as no alcoholic sponsors will appear in the game, neither will the champagne.

Online gaming, which does not interest me, will be accessible to 13 drivers.

Overall (Conclusion)

I am going to be short and sweet with my final opinion on this. This is the greatest F1 game ever. Maybe the best racing game too, GT5 has to be super-epic to beat this.

Images

 
 

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Video

This review was written by Michael Griffin.

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