‘F1 2012’ has noticeably improved visually on its predecessors and at times, especially during the end of race replay, you’d be forgiven in confusing the game for a race from the TV. It’s not leaps and bounds above each of its predecessors, but you can notice the gradual climb in visual quality. Obviously the centre of attention goes to the F1 cars and the circuit tracks and this attention to detail is pretty much as good as you can expect.
While ‘Codemasters’ do not have the same kind of budgets available to them in comparison to some of the other Microsoft supported titles, it just goes as added testament to all the hard work that the folks at ‘Codemasters’ put in to their yearly Formula One games. The cars have all the shine and detail that you would want as an F1 fan, to all the authentic sponsorships that are plastered all over the top F1 teams; this attention to detail is what everyone F1 fan craves and wants to see from a video game based on their beloved sport.
All 20 tracks of the F1 calendar year are here, with every hairpin, chicane, crowds cheering from the stands, the tracks are as replicated as any fan would ever want. In fact it’s hard to come by any racing game that has this amount of accuracy and attention to detail or for that matter it’s as an authentic game as you can get in any genre. As someone that has played pretty much every racing game that the video game industry has to offer, it’s an odd feeling when you’ve played a racing game so much and got used to a particular in-game track, that when you see an actual real-life race on TV you know every upcoming bend and straight.
The accuracy of each and every track is quite possibly (other than gameplay), the most important element of ‘F1 2012’ and I’m so happy to say it is all totally spot on and any developer would struggle to do any better than the job that ‘Codemasters’ have done. On a personal note, I’m a little biased when it comes to my favourite F1 track and as an Englishman, it may not come to a surprise that ‘Silverstone’ is my favourite. Another personal favourite of mine has to go to F1’s newcomer in the ‘Singapore’ race track, there’s something truly special about racing during a moonlit sky and that’s whether it’s watching the real thing on TV or during the video game.
I’ll be perfectly honest, when I came to play ‘F1 2010’ I was very excited; for years I had been waiting for a top quality F1 game and finally it was here. In all honesty at the time, you could not get a more complete F1 racer, but the simple fact was that no matter how excited I was to play this game, I wasn’t ready for it. In more recent times I had grown accustom to games like ‘Forza’, ‘PGR’, ‘Colin McRae/Dirt’, ‘Grid’, ‘Need for Speed’ and so on. So because of this I naturally wanted to power through corners taking out anyone that crossed my path in the name of victory (which sounds like Michael Schumacher’s racing philosophy) and if you went into any of Codemasters F1 games, you are setting yourself up for an epic fail.
So fast forward to ‘F1 2012’, this time round I knew what to expect and I knew the manner in which this game needed to be approached. ‘F1 2012’ is not your typical racer, its race game of strategy, the closest you will get to a racing simulator on the home console. Never the less, unless you’re a seasoned pro, ‘F1 2012’ needs a little getting used too, so thankfully we have the ‘Young Driver Test’. I would advise most gamers (including myself) to give the ‘Young Drivers Test’ ago, before you jump straight into the deep end. During this test, you will go through some of the basic trials of driving a F1 car and it will give you a little preparation for F1 2012’s more competitive modes.
‘F1 2012’ is a very unforgiving game, but at the same time it is just as rewarding. Cut corners and repeatedly bump into other cars and you will be penalised. But after you’ve finished that tough, gruelling race, you have a great sense of pride and achievement when you see your character celebrating on the podium. Though don’t get me wrong, ‘F1 2012’ is a very testing and rewarding game, but it will also test your patience on many occasions. Like when you carefully drive round a corner for a car straight in front of you to slam on the breaks and then you get a warning when you hit the back of them. Don’t let this put you off, because as long as you drive statically, this will only happen on the odd occasion.
There is a nice little safety cushion to keep you company in ‘F1 2012’, just like in previous F1 games, ‘Dirt’ and ‘Grid’ from Codemasters, you have a function called ‘Flashback’ which technically allows you to rewind time and correct that car that spun you off the track (I’m looking at you Michael Schumacher). Though this may be off putting for some purists, for me this is a complete god send as I will crash a lot, but be warned, you can only use so many ‘Flashbacks’ per race. There are some other tools that will give you a helping hand in each race, such as ‘KERS’, which works in a similar way to nitros as it will give you a little speed boost, but you are limited to one ‘KER’ per lap. We also have ‘DRS’ which is a rear wing activation that helps you reach top speeds and I found it particularly helpful when coming out of corners as well as the straights, but you can only use the ‘DRS’ during certain parts of the race, such as when there is a 1 second gap with the car ahead.
There are various modes in ‘F1 2012’, forgive me if I’m incorrect, but I believe the 2012 instalment has more modes available, then any of the previous titles. But other than the various online and multiplayer modes, the two modes in which you are more likely to revisit on more than one occasion is the ‘Season Challenge’ and the ‘Career’.
Season Challenge: Pick any F1 team you desire and compete for the ‘FIA F1 Drivers World Championship’ over a series of 5/10 lap races in pre-set weather conditions. Pick your rival and aim to beat them over a 3 race duel in order to impress the boss’s and perhaps earn yourself a contract offer from a rival team.
Career: Compete in the full 20 race ‘FIA F1 Drivers and Constructors World Championships’ with practice and qualifying sessions over 5 seasons. Impress your boss and help your team develop new parts or even earn a contract offer from a rival team and work your way up the career ladder.
There are many other race events for you to compete in such as a ‘Quick Race’, which does exactly what it says on the tin, ‘Time Trials’, ‘Time Attacks’, ‘Champions Mode’ which pits you against a variety of different drivers, each with its own unique scenario and challenges and there are also a host of online modes that will keep you coming back for more, long after you’ve milked the single player modes. There’s so much that I could say about ‘F1 2012’, but I simply do not have enough dog years in me. But one thing that I will say that sums ‘F1 2012’ almost perfectly is that it gives you that ‘one more race’ feeling.
Every petrol head loves to hear the prrrrr of a luxury sports car or maybe a classic muscle car is more your thing? Well for every F1 fan, the roar of an F1 car at the starting grid is the sound that plays in the heavens. But when you hear the sounds of up to 20 cars roaring and purring before the driver puts the pedal to the metal, words cannot describe that noise that comes from multiple F1 engines.
There’s no fancy soundtrack here or neither is there a strong voice over casting, because the obvious and simple fact is that a game like ‘F1 2012’ does not need any fancy tricks in this department. All you want to hear as a fan is the sound of the F1 car revving on the grid, the sound of the F1 car power out of a tight bend and the sound of the F1 car reaching top speed down that tempting straight. The sounds of the F1 car simply could not have been anymore pure and as addictive as the gameplay might be with that ‘one more race’ feeling, just to hear that revving engine ‘one more time’ is just as tempting as any other.
‘F1 2012’ will last pretty much as long as you want it to. You have a host of various single player modes and challenges and each time you start up a career, if you pick a different team each time, each one will have their own challenges ahead, depending whether you choose to drive for ‘Red Bull’ or ‘HRT-Cosworth’. Then on top of that, you have compelling online modes that offer different challenges all together, like racing against 15 other gamers in an epic online ‘Grand Prix’. ‘F1 2012’ certainly has plenty of replay value to offer you, at least until the 2013 instalment.
I came into ‘F1 2012’ with an open and fresh mind, learning from my mistakes of 2010. I gave this game time to allow me to adjust as I was so use to how I approached other racing games in this genre, but simply put, ‘F1 2012’ isn’t just another racing game. It’s arguably the most strategic racing game on the market, certainly one of the most challenging and for that reason; it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But if you put plenty of time into ‘F1 2012’, then you will find one of the most rewarding and epic games in its genre.
‘F1 2012’ is an F1 fanatic’s video game wet dream and you will not find a more authentic experience, other than driving an actual real life F1 car. But if you’re a fan of the racing genre in general, there is a demo that is free to download now from the Xbox 360 Marketplace. So I urge any racing fan to at least give the demo try and you never know, you may just be the next ‘Fernando Alonso’.