A Radical Racer
I wrote this for my blog crudepixel.com but thought I'd share it here too with you guys. :)
I'm in Bahrain and it's the first race of the season. I've qualified to 18th grid position after two days of practice and two qualifying sessions. My racing team wants me to finish 18th, and I'm confident, I know this track now like the back of my hand though I don't know how to handle myself within a pack of other racers. I'm playing with a Logitech G25 steering wheel and the difficulty is on hard with all driving assists off (minus racing line for corners). I have 15 laps ahead of me and I'm genuinely scared.
The lights turn green and we're off, no crashes so far but the first hard corner is approaching fast, I overshoot it and ease on the break, down-shifting in a straight line. I was lucky, I missed an accident on the track and even gained a position. I'm over-breaking throughout the whole lap, the cars behind me are roaring in my ears and the cars in front are leaving me for dust. “You've got a Ferrari in-front, you can take him.” My team inform me with a sense of genuine enthusiasm. I barely make it through the first lap, only 14 more to go. At lap 4 I gain a few positions by exploiting the AI's over-break on two corners of the track, this is good – if I can just stay steady I'll be OK. By lap 6 the inevitable spin-out happens on that first hard corner, I growl at myself and quickly try to correct it. My team commands me to pit-in and I do so not really knowing what to expect. It's a good thing I don't have to do anything but watch the engineers work their magic on the car and it's all over before I know it. Coming out of the pits I'm in last place, I start to panic not really knowing what to do but I have faith in my team. Sure enough I start to catch up with the pack as they themselves start to pit-in.
It's a struggle for the next 5 laps to try and claw my way back into position but by lap 12 I'm in there at 18th place. This is where my team wants me to be. Let me tell you, 15 laps in a video game is a long time, it's close to 30 mins of non-stop, knife edge racing and well, it took it out of me. My back and arms started to ache due to how tensely I was gripping my wheel. My left foot aches from having it constantly hove over the break pedal. At this point I'm realising how much of an impossible endeavour all this Formula 1 stuff is, imagine doing 52 laps of this with all the G-Force applied to your body. I would surely die before the second lap.
Still, 3 laps to go and I'm going strong, ignoring my moaning back and trying to keep my eyes focused on the road. By the 14th lap I'm up to 15th place! Only one lap to go, I can feel victory and then it happens...An overly aggressive overtake slams me with a time penalty. I curse at the driver who I overtook calling him a 'pussy.' I don't let it get to me though, the hard final corner is approaching and I have to be careful not to drive too hard or I may spin out and that would be devastating. Comically I take the corner at an outrageously slow pace but manage to maintain position. Then the race finishes and I put my arms up in the air finishing at 15th. If it weren’t for that bloody time penalty I would have exceeded my target of 18th place, instead I finished at 19th. That's one race over and I now have the rest of the season ahead of me. I can't bloody wait.
That whole first race weekend was such a tense and draining ordeal I even watched the first half of the replay after because I actually felt like I had accomplished something. When in any racing game especially a console racing game has finishing in the bottom half of the table been a satisfying achievement? Codemasters has done something quite special here with F1 2010, they've taken the licence seriously. This is a serious game but one that is very open to beginners, I like a challenge and I enjoy sim-like games so I was playing on hard without assists, even at this level the game isn't really a simulator but the driving physics are still challenging. For the right person at medium difficulty and on a pad, this game would still bring the same feeling of tension and excitement which I experienced though playing this game.
Graphically the game is beautiful with incredibly detailed animations and effects. The frame rate sometimes slows a little but it's never anything game-breaking. I don't want to blab on about it, you only need to look at the screenshots.
If you're wondering about the much reported 'fake' AI let me just explain it quick. During qualifying, the cars on the tracks do not represent their actual qualifying times. They are just on the track to provide a little extra challenge for the player. Codemasters have done this so that the player can conveniently speed up practice and qualifying sessions up to 30x speed if they want to. They claim that it's too much to program the AI to react through a dynamic qualifying session at 30x speed. I feel that this is fine, I don't really care and I'd rather have this system then having to go through two practice sessions for 3 whole hours.
Next there is the race AI, some claim that the game only renders the cars immediately in-front and behind you. This is not true says Codemasters, in a race there are 25 cars on the track at all times, the reason you cannot switch to those cars in replay mode is to save on performance, the cars at a distance from you are rendered in much lower quality. Why the game engine cannot boost the quality on the fly during a replay I don't know but either way, what cause do we have to not believe them. It's all in the code anyway.
I do however have one concern over the race AI for the AI in Grid is the best thing about that game. In Grid the AI will make clear mistakes on the track if they are near you or not. This doesn’t seem to be the case in F1, I have not seen one car skid out or take a corner too wide through no influence of my own. I believe there is an AI mod over at race department which adds this feature if you intend to play on the PC.
So that's Codemasters first try at Formula One, for me it is easily the best F1 game since GP4. It's an astonishingly beautiful game, with solid driving physics and a campaign design like no other. You really feel like you are part of a racing team, a team which set you realistic goals as you progress through the ranks across multiple seasons. Couple this with the gloriously elaborate first person experience you've come to expect from Codies and what you have here is one of the best racing games of the year.8/10