- F1 2013 review
Codemasters goes classicChris Medland October 21, 2013
Having returned Formula One to the gaming market with F1 2010, Codemasters is now on its fourth version of the series, with F1 2013 launching earlier this month. And it's suddenly got a lot more to offer…
Usually in these kinds of situations, we're reviewing an update; the latest teams, drivers, car designs and liveries have been included while the game has been honed and tweaked compared to the previous edition. But F1 2013 has added another string to its bow.
"We've been able to finally have the use of classic content," F1 2013 creative director Stephen Hood told ESPN. "We have the 80s and 90s and the classic tracks; having that's so good. We talk about Nigel Mansell in 1992, being able to be him in the game in the '92 Williams is awesome, and mixing and matching different cars from across the decades is great fun. I think a lot of people will just buy the game for that alone."
He's right, they will. The experience of driving the classics at Brands Hatch or Jerez is completely different to the way you have to drive the current cars, and so refreshing. I was quickly addicted to the engine note from the V6 in the Ferrari F1-87/88C, but you can also take out the Williams FW07B, the FW12, the Lotus 98T or the 100T. That's just from the original 80s pack, so you have even more to pick from with the 90s cars.
And classic cars need classic drivers, so you can choose from team legends or original drivers for each car. That means Alan Jones, Alain Prost, Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Mika Hakkinen, Satoru Nakajima, Gerhard Berger and Michael Schumacher are all immediately available to you.
Well, almost immediately available. The Young Driver Test remains tedious to all but the very newest gamers. The idea is good - using the test to get you up to speed to the complexities of KERS, DRS and throttle control - but having to accelerate and brake in a straight line in front a full crowd in Abu Dhabi just doesn't work. It's something you have to do to open up team options in career mode; complete it all to a high standard and you can start with Lotus, quickly do the bare minimum and you're stuck with Caterham and Marussia.
The other major drawback is the game has been released as two editions: F1 2013 and F1 2013: Classic Edition. Basically, if you want the 1990's drivers, cars and additional tracks (Imola and Estoril) you'll need to buy the more expensive Classic Edition, or download the content at an extra cost.
Obviously there are the usual refinements you would expect as well as a few handy changes compared to last year's game. For example, you're now able to save the game when and where you want. So if you've got to go out and you know you've got 30 minutes to play but want to do a whole grand prix weekend rather than a quick race, you can save it and return to it at a later time.
There's also a season challenge, in which you pick a team out of Force India, Williams, Toro Rosso, Caterham and Marussia and have a 10-race season. At the start, you pick a rival and the aim is to beat them over three races to steal their seat and move up the grid. It's a nice aside which gives you a target to aim for - as do the expanded scenarios; up from six to 20 this year - but it doesn't have the draw of progressing through career mode.
There are also areas where a lot of time and effort goes in to changing the feel of the game, even if you can't quite put your finger on it yourself as the gamer, as Hood explains.
"Other than the classic content of having the 80s and 90s, updating the 2013 season to incorporate the driver moves and things like that is to be expected. But actually, little things like improving the lighting model so it looks a lot more realistic, improving the textures on the cars, the way that we now texture them with the technology we've got available so they look at a higher resolution. People spend a lot of money on high-def TVs at home and it's terrible if you play your current generation console and it all looks a bit broken and misty and murky.
"So improving that brings a vibrancy to the whole event; it brings it closer to the sport that people are watching on TV. Right down to improving the models and the characters and their heads so that when you're sitting in the garage you don't look around and go 'Yup, I'm playing a video game', it's more like 'I feel like a driver in a real F1 experience'."
Such small touches include the driver waving his hand out of the car when involved in contact, but one which has disappeared is the paddock; you now automatically jump to the start of each session from the end of the last during a race weekend.
The criticism of F1 2012 was that it didn't offer a huge amount more compared to the previous version of the game, but Codemasters have clearly taken that on board this year. F1 2013 has retained the impressive graphics, realistic gameplay and challenge of driving a Formula One car, but expanded the alternatives to a straight career mode, and the classic content is always going to be a huge draw to every fan.
Unless you delve very deep in to the specifics the 2013 season is simply the update you would expect, but the classic content is such a departure from the rest of the game, this time round you're getting much more for your money.
Title: F1 2013
Published by: Codemasters
Formats: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Chris Medland is assistant editor at ESPNF1