Over the last few years the license for F1 games has been a bit of a mess, with Sony and EA’s brief periods of ownership being poor at best, which couldn’t be more of a contrast to the fortunes of the sport itself which has positively boomed in the last few years with two British champions in two years, championships being won on the last corner and of course the return to BBC leaving advert breaks firmly in the past.
However two years ago in 2008 Codemasters have taken over the license for official F1 games, and after the F1 2009 outing on the Wii and PSP last year (which was aimed very much at the casual market) F1 is now well and truly back on the gaming scene with F1 2010 has a release date for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC of 24th September 2010.
F1 is a sport which tends to very quickly divide opinions: some people see it as incredibly boring and tedious and see no fun in watching cars go round a circuit 50 odd times over 1½ hours, but others (like myself) can’t get enough of it and love the combination of the technology and sheer hard graft of the team along with the immense competitiveness and talent of the drivers, and it is really for the second group that this game is for.
The list of improvements and developments that Codemasters have made is quite impressive, and we’ll start with the one that will affect people the most: AI. Rather than simply tow along the racing line a lot of work has been put into the AI to ensure that they create a much more realistic challenge to gamers: the AI will now be a lot more intelligent with their positioning on the track, and will stay off the racing line to defend corners and even edge to towards the edge of the track should they have the advantage out of a corner.
They will also have their own specific driver personalities which will affect both their racing style (such as Button’s ability to conserve his tyres well, and Schumacher’s very aggressive nature) and how well they perform in certain conditions, such as both of those just mentioned who are notoriously good in the wet.
A lot more work has also been put into ensuring that the actual driving of the cars is a lot more realistic and the development team have been working alongside former F1 driver Anthony Davidson to try and get the mix just right, and you will find that unlike previous games where the car will often drive itself except round corners, you will have to be aware the whole time concentrating on things like staying on the ‘rubbered-in’ racing line and not be able to rely on the run off areas where not only will the gravel halt you short term, but also stay on your tyres for the next few corners.
The latter is in fact more impressive than it sounds: rather than just having a different tyre skin the F1 2010 team are rendering each little fleck of the sand and gravel and then dispersing it with active physics, something that is also present with the very impressive sounding weather system that aims to be as crucial in the game as it is in real life.
As anyone who watches F1 knows the weather can change a race dramatically and that is something that Codemasters have attempted to replicate in the game; there are dynamic forecasts that change as the race progresses, topology and cambers are taken into account to recreate the puddles and pools that you see on the real tracks, dry lines are created after laps of cars following the same line, tyres are cooled by the water leaving them more prone to loosing grip but still retain their integrity… the list really does go on, and it will almost definitely become more than just a novel feature but an integrated part of the game.
Another part of the game that Codemasters have introduced is the “Live the Life” idea which adds depth to the game and makes it that bit more realistic: you will have expectations within your team with objectives that you will be expected to complete by the end of the season: for the likes of Lotus and HRT that may be a certain number of finishes, but for the likes of Ferrari they will want a championship win.
There will also be a level of progress in the game (at least in the 5/7 season career modes) where you have to start as a lower team and work your way up, with offers being given to you by other teams dependant on how well you perform. Your team-mate will also a key person in the game as any achievements you make will be compared to the person in the same car, and you will be able to talk to the media and answer questions that will effect what happens in the rest of the game.
Finally we have the online multiplayer which I’m sure will be a massive part of most peoples experience of the game (at least it will be for me!) and whilst there is the disappointment that licensing only allows for 12 non-AI cars at a time the possibility to have race weekends with your friends and people across the globe should (internet connections permitting) be brilliant.
There are a few more disappointments and things that Codemasters are saving for F1 2011 (such as the safety car which I for one would have loved to have seen) but on the whole it looks very impressive, and I can’t wait to have a go!
Of course I haven’t been able to cover everything about F1 2010 here, so you can head over to the official F1 2010 website as well as Eurogamer’s hands-on preview which show you a lot about what the game will be like, or wait a couple of weeks till I can give you a full F1 2010 review, hopefully it’ll be a brilliant game!