• F1 2012 review

Cracking the code

Laurence Edmondson October 1, 2012
F1 2012 features this year's cars and drivers © Codemasters
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When Codemasters brought out F1 2010, the F1 gaming community breathed a collective sigh of relief. It had been four years since the last proper F1 game and eight years since Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix 4, the final instalment in what is often referred to as the best Formula One gaming series ever. Now, in 2012, Codemasters has released its third offering under its F1 franchise, complete with this season's cars, drivers and circuits.

Those who have played the previous two F1 games from Codemasters will feel immediately at home, but may also feel a little disappointed. The game has not moved on significantly since F1 2011 so it can seem more like an update pack rather than something genuinely fresh. It is the occupational hazard of taking on a year-by-year deal to produce the official Formula One game, and part of the reason the aforementioned Grand Prix series was so impressive was because each game had an extra bit of development time with at least two years between each release.

But that's not to say there is anything wrong with F1 2012. In fact many of the glitches that were still present in F1 2011 appear to have been fixed, and the graphics and driving simulation remain top quality. But play it back to back with last year's game, and aside from the new liveries and stepped noses there's not a huge amount to get excited about.

New features include a challenge against each of the six champions on the grid, which is a fun way to pick up the game and instantly play but hardly anything groundbreaking. However, most serious gamers are likely to go straight into the career mode and get stuck in with one of the lower teams in the hope of progressing through the ranks to become world champion.

In this respect the game still offers a pretty immersive F1 experience, with the potential to play several back-to-back seasons. The new Young Driver Test feature offers a series of challenges before you get started, with more teams willing to sign you the better you do. It's a nice idea in principle, but in reality it offers very little unless you really are a newcomer to the gaming series. If not, you may find yourself a little frustrated while all you want to do is get started in Free Practice in Melbourne.

But before you do any of that it is highly recommended you check out the Circuit of the Americas first, home to the US Grand Prix. Last year F1 fans were able to drive the Indian Buddh International Circuit before the cars actually took to the track and the same is true with the Austin circuit. Codemasters are incredibly faithful to the information they have available on each circuit, and while it is hard to get it exactly right, if last year's efforts on Buddh are anything to go by, the virtual Circuit of the Americas in F1 2012 will be pretty close to the real thing.

At a recent track inspection, FIA race director Charlie Whiting labelled turn one at the Circuit of the Americas as "awesome" and playing it on F1 2012 you'll be likely to agree. The rest of the track has features reminiscent of other circuits, such as a Maggots-Becketts-Chapel style complex from Silverstone, and there is definitely a hint of Istanbul Park to the layout.

But are the extra circuit and up-to-date liveries really worth the recommended retail price of £39.99? If you're a big fan of F1 and gaming then it probably is; the new version appears to have eradicated some of the annoying aspects of the old ones (you are less likely to lose several position by getting blocked in in the pits) and the cars and circuits do look a little more impressive. But there is a nagging feeling that this is more of an update pack than a brand new game and those wanting a step up from F1 2011 may be disappointed.

The fundamentals of the game (the driving simulation) remain at the high standard they were before, but mix up the liveries in a blind test and you might be hard-pushed to tell the difference. There are also better all-round driving games on the market such as Forza and Gran Turismo, but it's always going to be difficult for an F1 game to compete with those. Put simply it does exactly what you'd expect of an F1 game in the Codemasters series, just don't expect much more.


Title: F1 2012
Published by: Codemasters
Price: £39.99
Avaliable: Now
Formats: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC

Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor on ESPNF1

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Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor of ESPNF1 Laurence Edmondson grew up on a Sunday afternoon diet of Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell and first stepped in the paddock as a Bridgestone competition finalist in 2005. He worked for ITV-F1 after graduating from university and has been ESPNF1's deputy editor since 2010