F1 2010, by Codemasters
System Requirements: XP / Windows 7 / Vista (OS); AMD Athlon 64 X2 Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz (Processor); 1GB RAM / 10GB HDD (Memory); ATI Radeon X1800 (Video)
Well, that’s very much the question on everyone’s lips as Codemasters’ first proper F1 instalment (having simply been the distributor for F1 2009) went on sale.
A total of two years, a budget of almost $17 million and a total of 104 F1-mad computer games designers have tirelessly toiled away in their quest to make F1 2010 the most jaw-droppingly realistic, visually-impressive Formula 1 racing sim ever made.
Have they succeeded?
In many respects, yes they most certainly have. Graphically and acoustically, this is the most incredibly realistic F1 sim on the market.
Complete with the start-up line-up of teams and drivers for the 2010 Formula 1 season, the nub of the game lies in the Career Mode, where you create your new racing driver and set him (or her) along a path to rise through the F1 ranks. Starting out in one of the three rookie outfits, your aim is to become World Champion within seven seasons. Every decision you make – how you interact with your rivals, your team-mates and the press – will determine if you succeed or fail in that endeavour, and that’s even before you get out onto the track!
Racing options allow gamers to contest full race distances or shortened, more arcade-style race distances of as little as 20% of the true lap amount. Gamers have a choice of difficulty levels in driver AI, car damage settings, driving assistance and weather conditions that will impact how easy (or difficult) you want the entire experience to be. Manipulate your car set-up to the finest detail to improve your overall pace, and identify your weak areas of the lap with onboard telemetry.
Bar a few small exceptions that we’ll cover later, the circuits are rendered to the finest detail and every bump, kerb and gravel trap is perfectly replicated in the gameplay. And when the wet weather kicks in, the track conditions are redefined every 30cm, making your car a real handful in the damp and visibility near impossible in the spray!
Even minute details are covered excellently. Run off-road and the dirt picked up on your tyres will cost you immediate grip; travel closely behind another rival and your downforce will be lost and your engine temperatures will climb; manage your fuel and tyre consumption to last until the end of the race.
The user interface is perhaps lacking some of the pizzazz of the on-track action (although we will add that it’s a huge improvement on many preceding F1 sims), but it’s incredibly functional and easy to use. Amateur players will particularly find this of benefit, and this supports the mind-blowing gameplay particularly well.
What lets the game down are a couple of very obvious bugs that should have been – and evidently weren’t – picked up in beta testing before the game’s release.
One frustrating bug occurs during the pit stops – much more prevalently during shorter race distance games, where everyone seems to pile into the pits on the same lap – is that you’re not allowed to exit your pit bay after a tyre change if any other driver is in the pit lane, irrespective of whether you can exit into the traffic safely. You could quite easily arrive in the pits in 10th place but leave bog last as your team hold you unnecessarily while all of your chasing rivals leapfrog you. Evidently, the setting for a ‘safe release distance’ is far too strict, and a patch will be required to correct it.
Of greater concern are aspects of the driver AI, and several forums have run hot with angry suggestions that the AI – despite denials to the contrary from Codemasters – is rubber-banded. The terminology effectively means that your rivals’ performance slows if you’re off the pace, and quickens when you’re more competitive. Another oddity is that you can hold up a driver in practice or qualifying, and yet they’ll post a lap time much quicker than you, which has again led to suggestions (to which the developers have admitted) that the AI is artificially programmed in non-race settings.
I would additionally add that the driver penalties are dished out a little too strenuously for minor infractions – I was slapped with a drive-through for unavoidably T-boning a rival car that spun broadside across the circuit right in front of me!
Oh, and pole position at Spa-Francorchamps is on the wrong side of the main straight!
Every game released will inherently have a few problems, but Codemasters has released this with a few rather monumentally big ones, and it would certainly seem that the pressure to meet the release deadline perhaps negated a more effective testing programme on their part. If Codemasters can develop and release the relevant patches to correct these glitches – and do so in a timely manner – then all will be well.
But it’s these things that – despite the utterly impressive visuals and (most of) the gameplay – spoil the show a little bit.
The Pros: Easily the most visually spectacular F1 game released on the market. Ever.
The Cons: Bugs, and not good ones either. Hopefully some patches are developed to sort them out pronto.
Why play it? If you want the closest thing to a modern-day F1 sim – and one tied with an effective Career Mode – then this is it.
Using our unique ‘Chequered Flags’ rating system, we award F1 2010…
OUT OF A POSSIBLE 5.