In its fourth iteration, Codemasters’ F1 series has slowly become, thanks to tweaks, one of the best F1 racers.
Last year’s F1 2012 from Codemasters began to suffer from the plague that infests yearly franchises. I didn’t knock the game in my review for this, as I felt that it did just enough to be a worthwhile investment, but I stated that the series needed to begin tapping into the history of F1 because releases were becoming too similar – especially so this time, with the sport not changing locations or machines. F1 2013 is here, and, like what I wanted them to do, they have managed to convince the FIA to allow them to add classic tracks and racing cars, but sadly, not without compromise that hampers the true potential of having the history of F1 celebrated in a video game.
Just like F1 2012, F1 2013 begins by strapping you into a racing seat of a 700BHP+ racing monster with its two day Young Driver Test mode. Here is where you will learn how to accelerate, brake, take corners and understand what DRS (Drag Reduction System) and KERS (Kinetic Energy Recover System) are and how to correctly use them to gain the most benefit. Unlike last year’s training mode, this one can be skipped, so anyone who has knowledge about F1 or played F1 2012 can get straight into the racing.
F1 Classics is without a doubt the biggest addition to the series since it first began in 2010. It’s the first mode on the main menu, which again, is slickly presented, thanks to Codemasters’ continuously mastery of stylish user interfaces. F1 Classics opens up to the player to the 80′s era of F1, where the cars were packed with turbocharged engines that could hit 12,500 RPM, but what they lacked in horsepower is made up in their sheer raw, ferocious handling and unleashed potential that wasn’t hidden behind all this technology wizardry we see in today’s F1 machines.
Jumping into one of these historic machines manages to capture the aggressiveness of these old race cars. Be it the 1988 Williams FW 12 driven by the moustache legend that is Nigel Mansell or the black and gold coloured 1986 Lotus 98T (which sadly isn’t driven by Ayrton Senna – a delicate issue, I assume), transitioning from my 2013 career into testing a 80s race made it clear that these 80′s monsters were a completely different beast. They don’t care who sits in the seat. They have no respect for the driver; you have to respect them, tame them, to master their handling or you’ll find yourself quickly spinning out of control into a gravel pit. This comes across exceptionally well in the handling, and, unlike the main game, it took me a few races until I truly felt comfortable maxing out these dangerous vehicles around the Circuit De Jerez, the former host of the Spanish Grand Prix, and Brands Hatch, once home of the British Grand Prix.
Codemasters even have masters the presentation for F1 Classics, bringing back my memories of the murky, yellow text from the televised Grand Prix of the 80s. There’s a filter that gives a feeling that this is footage from the past, a neat idea to give personality to the era and make it stand out from the game’s 2013 season. Even the outstanding Murray Walker comes into the fray with snippets of commentary for the beginning and ending of the races. All this work to capture to the history of F1 is fantastic, which makes me sad that I have to tell you that there are choices here that suppress the amazing possibilities of this inclusion.
That’s because there isn’t much content in F1 Classics, which makes the concept of having to pay £10 for the “Classic Edition” of the game to gain six 90s era vehicles and two more tracks, bringing it to a grand total of four, a horrible proposition to offer fans. There isn’t even a Career mode, leaving only single race (on two or four tracks, depending on your purchase), time trial, time attack and three challenges in scenario mode as your barebones content. At least you can play multiplayer – which offers the ability to replace missing players with AI participants – with these vintage cars, but missing such meat in a heavily advertised mode is such a waste of potential for this licence. So much more can be done, and I hope that next year, along with the new rules of the sport, we see F1 Classics developed into full mode that rivals the main game.
Back to the present time, F1 2013 features all the modes that made it into last year. Career mode is basically identical. You join a low-level team and must make your way up the rankings by impressing rival teams, so that you are offered contracts to join them, giving access to their improved machines and a better chance at winning the F1 season. It requires a lot of your time, since the minimal length to a career race is 25% of the lap total and a one day qualifying session. If you are a crazy person and like to take part in a fully replicated season, with full laps for every race, you can do so, and thankfully, there is now a save function that allows saving progress in the middle of the race. Season Challenge, the new feature from last year, is back with its ten race season that is made up of five laps per race. This mode is great for anyone with limited time on their hands, but would still like to participate in a season, since you can finish it in around two or three hours.
Fans will also be happy to know that Grand Prix mode is back as well. There was a bit of an uproar last year when Codemasters removed it from F1 2012, but now you can set up a custom season and race as your favourite F1 star on any of the game’s 19 official tracks and the two classic tracks. A re-branded Champions mode, called Scenario Mode, is a small group of challenges that covers various aspects of the motorsport. These range from pitting in to repair a broken front wing and then trying to reach a specific position, to holding the front position till the end of the race with a less powerful machine, as the pack slowly chases up behind you, gunning to steal that holy first place from you. These are small, great pieces of trials that really show the multiple situations you can find yourself in when taking part in the Career mode.
The action on the track has been tweaked for the better. The AI feels like it tries to dodge your vehicle rather than simply going into the side of you, and they will try to overtake should you leave even the smallest of gaps for them to pass through. Handling feels fantastic, and you can feel the sense of the car losing grip as those Pirelli tyres begin to peel away, eventually popping if you don’t pull into the pit stop. No matter what your experience is with Codemasters’ F1 games, you will be able to find the handling setup for you. There’s racing lines, brake assistance and more, so that anyone can find their perfect setup and enjoy racing through the tunnels of Monaco or the beautiful city landscape of the Singapore Grand Prix.
In its fourth iteration, Codemasters’ F1 series has slowly become, thanks to the added tweaks and features over the years, the best F1 game series I have ever played. But, no matter how much I like the games, that doesn’t give Codemasters an excuse to become lazy just because there is no rival F1 game on the market. It also doesn’t excuse them with, essentially, cock-teasing fans with the limited classic mode, and then slapping on a £10 charge to gain more features for it. It’s a fantastic addition, one that makes me so happy it is here, and it had the potential to single-handedly break F1 2013 from feeling similar with yesteryears’ games. Sadly, that isn’t the case – so much more could be done with the legacy of F1 that it feels handicapped in its current form.
With the changes to F1 happening next season and the introduction of new consoles, here’s hoping that Codemasters are willing to flesh out Classic mode with more content, while adapting to the new season and hardware with changes that will spring life into the series. As it stands, F1 2013 is a great, but familiar racer that samples a fraction of the sport’s history. But as a game, you’ll only need it if you’re a diehard fan.