Codemasters is back with another Formula 1 title, its third one in 3 years (fourth if you count F1 2009 for Wii in, well, 2009). But is it any good?
As soon as you start up your new copy of F1 2012 you are straight away thrown into one of the newest additions of this year’s game: the young drivers test. Codemasters has talked this feature up a lot in promoting the game and if you are a novice to either the Codemasters series or Formula 1 games in general, then this is the perfect tool for you to get started. You get to choose either to drive a McLaren, Red Bull or Ferrari and it allows you to get used to the controls in this years game as well as things like cornering, wet weather driving, overtaking as well as using DRS and KERS. You have a wide variety of tests spread over two different days, and the better you do, the better teams you will be capable of driving for when you start a career. At the end of the two days, you also have the option for a free drive in either wet or dry conditions which once again gives you a great chance to really get used to the controls and feel of the cars. As good as this is for novices, it’s a pain in the rear end for seasoned gamers who have been frequent players of Codemasters F1 series in the past. Does somebody who has invested countless hours in both F1 2010 and F1 2011 as well as other Formula 1 games in the past really need to be taught how to hit an accelerator and brake at the right moment and steer a car around a corner? Of course not. Even more frustrating is that you can’t start a career in the game until you have completed the first day of the tests. Admittedly it’s good to get you used to how the handling differs in this year’s version, but it’s more frustrating if all you want to do is start your career off and race around Albert Park for round 1.
Another one of the major additions this year is the Champions Mode, which is a nice little side game to try and beat along the way. Here you must face off against each of the six World Champions in the 2012 season in a different scenario before taking them all on at the new Austin Circuit. It’s a nice touch as you get a real sense of beating a ‘boss’ after each race, and you then have the chance to go back and do it again on a harder difficulty in order to test your skills.
The only other real ‘new mode’ is the Season Challenge mode. Here you pick your team, race in 10 GPs and make your way up the ladder of various teams by beating your rivals and team-mates along the way. It’s good for a change of scenery, but it’s at the expense of a full season mode which has already caused a lot of distaste amongst the hardcore fans. Why include this mode at the expense of a mode that has been a staple in Formula 1 games since they began? It doesn’t seem to make any sense.
And that’s the biggest thing I found with this years addition to the Codemasters F1 world: it’s the things that are missing, not that have been added. Gone is the ‘be the driver’ aspect from its first two F1 games that they put so much effort into perfecting. Yeah they were a bit of a pain answering meaningless questions after each race, but it was something that really could’ve been developed into something amazing. It added something fresh and new to a Formula 1 game and without giving up on it so soon it certainly could’ve attracted a whole different world of gamers. The game is also missing the option to take part in Friday practices, giving the gamer only one practice session a weekend before qualifying. Codemasters claim this was because nobody ever played the Friday practices anyway, but for the people who really liked to have a realistic Grand Prix weekend, it’s sorely missed. In the career mode a wide variety of options have also been removed. You can no longer choose a short 3 lap race or 10% race weekend, but the bare minimum of 25% race distance. This for sure is going to detach the career mode from gamers who aren’t willing to commit that amount of time into the game, as even with the new ‘one shot qualifying’ (essentially a nod to the one lap qualifying of the mid-2000s) you will find yourself taking 30-45 minutes a race in the career mode which can definitely be off putting if you aren’t that serious about it.
The handling is slightly different to F1 2011. It’s not as rigid and ‘stiff’ feeling as last year’s version, although thankfully it’s not as loose and ‘slippery’ as F1 2010 which is a nice mixture between the two. Handling in the wet feels a bit more authentic, although it’s far too easy to drive on a wet track in those initial moments of rain than really should be if it was meant to be entirely realistic. The penalty system seems to have received a few tweaks, with not as many unusual penalties being given to you for situations involving cars running into you or other strange moments. You still will get the occasional ‘what the’ penalty, and you can now receive penalties for crossing the white line after the pits. You also now have the ability to give a position back to a car if you pass them off the track, which is actually a welcome addition. You still are unable to turn off penalties all together however, which actually can be annoying if you don’t want a realistic experience like some.
Probably my biggest personal gripe about the game is the fact that when you run wide off the track it’ll automatically slow your car down which is done to ‘prevent you from cutting corners to avoid penalties’. Yeah, that’s all well and good, but in the modern F1 Hermann Tilke world where nearly every circuit is surrounded by large concrete run off areas it is extremely frustrating to put your wheels off the track in pushing for position or a quicker time, only for you to automatically slow down to ‘help you avoid a penalty’. What genius at Codemasters overlooked this fact that running wide at turn 1 at Hockenheim, or getting a bit of extra asphalt at turn 4 at Albert Park should actually penalise you instead of possibly just getting a bit of dust on the tyres? And given you’ll find yourself using your flashbacks more so on little moments such as this rather than accidents or other various moments, you’ll find yourself on your own after only a few laps. This is easily the worst thing in a Codemasters game to date, even worse than some of the bugs that have plagued them since F1 2010 and still remain in the game today (lack of being able to watch other action on track, times in qualifying not making sense).
Overall, F1 2012 is a good game. It brings the experience of the 2012 F1 season across perfectly and allows you to have a fairly accurate portrayal of the Formula 1 world on your gaming console. However given Codemasters now have had a few years making these games, it really amazes me that they have made a new game with less in it rather than make a new game with more. It’s a backward step in their F1 series which is disappointing given the potential they have already shown, and hopefully will be fixed for F1 2013.
The Pros: Great for people wanting to race a F1 game with the latest drivers, teams and circuits. Good learning curve and capabilities for new gamers. Penalty system has improved. Fun new Champions Mode.
The Cons: Frustrating for frequent gamers to be treated like ‘noobs’ at the start. No full Grand Prix season mode. Limited options for race distance in Career mode. No Friday practice modes available. Terrible automatic slow down for running off the track.
Verdict: 6.5 out of 10
F1 2012 is out now. Playstation 3 version reviewed
This article was originally written for The Qualifying Lap. You can read the published version here