Series veteran Murray takes a hotlap around a rapidly cooling franchise.
By Murray Hibble on October 2, 2013 at 3:54 pm
A thousand laps and more. Loosely calculated, that’s how far I’ve travelled with the Codemasters Racing F1 series since its 2010 inception. That doesn’t necessarily make me an authority, but it has turned me into a slightly obsessed fan. Imagine then my utter delight at the offering of a whole new era of F1 racing — and then my crushing disappointment at the shallow, annually-incremented reality.
To be fair, this is still the same gorgeous looking, immensely involving game as before. The colour might be more dramatic this year and there’s a little extra flash to the on-track presentation, but underneath the hood lies the same incredibly slick racer that easily caters for beginners, right up to the truly hardcore simthusiast.
This year, the newest drawcard for your dollars is F1 Classics, a recreation of 80s and 90s F1 motorsport with some of those decades’ biggest names. After a brief introduction by Murray Walker (from whom you’ll barely hear again) you’ll be able to experience the authentic sounds and handling of a past Formula One era set against an exciting backdrop of, well… nothing, really.
Without a binding theme, the Classics mode is just two tracks (four if you bought the more expensive edition) and a handful of cars and drivers. The VHS screen-overlay suits the near-ancient level of technology in these beastly old go-karts, and the bare-boned, sepia-toned landscapes offer some variety to the rarely changing line-up but these can get boring very quickly and it’s a shame that more tracks weren’t produced… and an even greater shame that some of the still-raced modern courses didn’t receive the ageing treatment. The car handling is appropriately wild and woolly which is fun at first, but not in a way that’s significantly different enough to present a real challenge.
Grand Prix mode is where you can really bring eras together by choosing any car and any selection of tracks to make your own season and it’s here where I strangely became frustrated with the poor voice talent. Your race engineer is the same boring voice who has accompanied you since the F1 series started and he’ll talk at you you no matter what vehicle you drive; it’s disappointing to not have an alternative this many years in. Unlike the serious modern career path, there’s an opportunity with the GP mode to do something different, something whimsical that would offer a proper alternative to the serious modern career.
What could liven up the proceedings would be commentary from Martin Brundle and the BBC team. I would normally never hold a game accountable to my own personal fantasies but there’s such an opportunity here to bring a race to life and really connect you to what’s happening around the track; even at ludicrous F1 speeds, each lap falls into a simple rhythm leaving plenty of brain space to enjoy their banter.
Looking past that, so much more could have been made of the licenses that enabled the classic content and perhaps rather than faded pit lane photographs in load screens we could have had a snippet of an interview with Emerson Fittipaldi, choice quotes from Damon Hill, or even just info-bytes about the sport itself.
Rounding out the primary modes are a rehash of last year’s activities. There’s a slightly extended version of last year’s Young Driver Test which forms an introduction to motorsport for new drivers but this disgracefully occurs at the same venue as F1 2012. The Scenario modes have been extended and offer fresh and fun snippets of gameplay that are more successful at connecting you with the sport than any of the career modes. Time Trials, Time Attacks and various (unplayed as of the review date) online modes are present and boringly accounted for. Throw in Codemasters traditionally unskippable introductory elements and I cannot recommend this to anyone who owns F1 2012.
I suspect that every issue I’ve put forth here comes back in some way to the fact that this is an annual title and as such, consideration has to be given by the developers to the line between player enjoyment and the need to save content for next years title. Codemasters have the balance wrong this time around, and the Classics mode is so poorly mishandled that this may well be one title in the series that you can comfortably miss.
Codemasters Racing’s F1 2013 is without a doubt the recommended starting point for anyone new to the series, as the presentation and gameplay is exceptional and is simply the most faithful representation of the sport ever seen. Fans of the series however will quickly recognise how little the chassis has changed and that they’re paying far too high a price for what should have been F1 2012′s DLC.
- Slick presentation
- Classics Mode is a brief diversion
- Did you like F1 2012? You’ll like F1 2013
- Classics Mode is ultimately a missed opportunity and a waste of time
- Almost no improvements at all over previous games
- Should have been released as DLC for F1 2012
F1 2013 will be available on Steam from October 4 for $69.99.
This review copy supplied by the publisher.
Screenshots in this review also supplied by the publisher.