Formula 1 2010
“Come on come on come…, if I can just hit that final apex perfectly then I’ll be right on the back of Button going into the Au Rouge, then maybe, just maybe I can shave an extra couple of tenths off diving through the bus stop chicane. But only if these tyres hold out – I am not repeating that lap four drift again. I can’t, I just have to keep ahead of both Renaults or I won’t have a chance of that Force India drive next year. If I don’t get that drive then how am I ever meant to impress Mercedes and then subsequently McLaren? The extra lap on the options has to count; these are the moments legends are made of.”
These are just a miniscule of hypotheticals running about my mind as I bank through the euphoric sweep of Spa’s iconic ravine. It’s no wonder that Formula 1 drivers feel shamed after the smallest of mistakes in the most important of races. Every high-intensity corner is a thread in the delicate weaving of a driver’s legacy. Any fool behind a wheel and in possession of a sound physique is capable of producing a respectable time around a race circuit, but Formula 1 demands the absolute maximum is achieved through every single corner of every single lap of every single race. After many long years, Codemasters have finally supplied Formula 1 fanatics with a game that reinterprets the magic of our beloved sport in the timeliest manner conceivable.
Formula 1 2010 revolves heavily around a single player career mode in which as a player, you have up to seven world championship seasons in order to fight your way through the ranks. This can be done either by impressing the more competitive teams so as to secure a drive in a race-winning car, or helping push your current team’s car through to the front of the field. It has to be said that in order to provide a respectable challenge, either of the top two AI difficulty levels needs to be selected; the most rewarding aspect of the career mode comes during those races where you find the rhythm that allows you to outperform the car. As satisfying as back-to-back victories in a Lotus are on lower difficulties, the euphoria is usurped when you switch up to ‘Legend’ difficulty and grind out a solid points scoring position.
A number of features have been piloted by Codemasters for this first instalment of a to-be yearly franchise. In order to prevent the career mode from simply being an endless string of qualifying and races, you must help negotiate your own contracts by manipulating strings of press interviews. After every session there is an option to be interviewed for three questions, with three possible responses per question. Each response will be taken as positive, neutral or negative by your current team and contrarily for any teams in pursuit of your signature. The concept of the interviews and “living the life of a driver” is superior to the execution; however it still adds a refreshing dimension and will undoubtedly be evolved for the sequel. The game also romanticises the rivalry of team mates and with tact, there is scope within the interviews to enforce (or indeed reinforce) yourself as the team’s number one driver. Doing so allows you to guide the development of the car to your own judgement and lay claim to upgrades as and when they arrive – these are essential for consistent track performance across the season.
In order to maximise performance from whichever car you’re sporting, absolute knowledge of every corner of all nineteen tracks in every condition of both car and track, is demanded. The physics of each car is balanced delicately – for instance the Sauber excels when gliding smoothly around the racing line, whereas the Renault urges you to attack the corners a little harder. Unlike many high-speed racing games that focus on realism, there is a true sense of speed in every car and it’s this intensity that provides such a raw challenge. In your first season you will simply have to spend a number of laps practising to find your rhythm through the track, finding the apexes etc. Once you’re able to squeeze out a competitive time, you must become aware of tyre degradation, gain/loss of rubber from the track and the influence of rain. Qualifying requires you to piece together the perfect lap and find that little extra from each corner, whereas race pace demands a consistent flow. True to the sport, such trivial variables will make or break your race and it’s the ability to manage and manipulate these that will determine where in the rankings you lie at the end of the race and indeed, season.
Single race, time trial and online competitive modes give scope for smaller and less consequential play sessions; however these are no more than the condiments that offer a new flavour to the meat of the dish. Unfortunately this fine meat has been tainted in places by a sloppy chef. To counter honest mistakes, the game features a Sands of Time-esque rewind system that for the most part, serves its purpose. An often race-breaking glitch can ruin a qualifying lap by strangely adding over three minutes to the current lap – most unwelcome as the flag drops in Q2 and you’re stuck in 17th. Pit-stops also act as a pitfall as the lollypop men are all too conservative and it’s likely at some time, you will be held back a needless ten seconds as the pit lane clears (pitting a lap before or after the bulk of the back can reduce this flaw, though). There are a handful of other glitches, however the quality of the meat makes chewing through the fat seem forgivable.
There are 2010+ reasons as to why Codemasters’ first effort is the game every Formula 1 gamer has been so desperately pining for since MicroProse pulled the plug on the Grand Prix franchise in 2001. Whilst admittedly rough around the edges in parts, the bulk of the virtual racing experience is entirely refreshing. Masterfully balanced physics combined with a sincere understanding of the world’s greatest motorsport has given us an honest simulation of the most intriguing season in Formula 1 since the ’90s. This new golden age of both sport and simulation now has potential to grow together in 2011.
Gran Turismo whatnow?