Codemasters is strapping in for another fast paced Formula 1 season with, F1 2012. Gamers who have enjoyed this racer over the last few years will feel right at home with it’s great controls and visuals as well as it’s in-depth career mode. For those who haven’t played the F1 series from Codemasters you’ll be brought up to speed quickly with the game’s Young Driver Test and be able to pick-up and play with the new Season and Champions Challenge modes. F1 2012 is by far the most accessible game of the series, but still allows vetrans to tax their skills.
When first starting up F1 2012 gamers will be thrust into the new, and real world inspired Young Drivers Test. This is a test that all F1 racers go through to see their skill levels of various tasks. For gamers this is a nice tutorial and learning opportunity to learn the F1 car as well as the basic skills of cornering, accelerating and braking, tires, and weather. You’ll go through multiple stages as you build your knowledge, and then be put to a timed test where you will have to use the new lessons you learned to beat the clock. This is a really great addition to the series as it’s a way to give non F1 racing fans the basic knowledge they need to perform well on the tracks around the world. The only part of F1 racing I wished they also included were in-car controls, there was know rundown of fuel mixes, or brake bias, and I’m sure novices could use an understanding of both before getting on the track in practice.
Once you are done with your Young Drivers Test, you can then jump into the various modes of F1 2012. For most who played the series you’ll be heading right into the game’s great career mode. Where for 5 seasons you’ll be racing against the best in the world for 20 race weekends. If you have played the game before things haven’t changed much in the career mode. You’ll pick a team and then be given objectives each weekend during the qualifying rounds and race. Finish those objectives and beat your teammate as well and you’ll quickly move up the ladder within your race team. A really awesome new addition is in the pre-race data you can get in the career hub. Not only can you see your past stats, but you can now view corner by corner hot lap videos of each circuit. This is a great addition for all levels of gamers.
If you don’t want to long drawn out career action and are just looking for quick races, you have a few options. Of course you can do quick races, but for even more fun there is now a Season Challenge mode where you race 10 5 lap races, and the focus is all on beating a weekly rival while climbing up the points ladder. The other new pick-up and play mode is the Champions Mode. In this mode you are given a scenario where you are racing against real world F1 champions. Each scenario is extremely unique where you’ll be faced by fuel, weather and tire challenges. Both these new modes are great additions to the game, they give you a challenge while getting you right into the action.
Ok enough about the game modes, time to talk about the action on the track. A lot of tweaks and subtle changes have been made to the games controls and physics as well as nice visual tweaks to make the world more lively. Last year the controls seems to be tacky, cars really stuck to the track and many times it felt almost un-natural that the rear-end didn’t slide around at time. That tackiness has been turned back and the car controls dance perfectly on the line between too much control and out of control. Hitting chicanes perfectly will give you great speeds coming out of them, while taking corners to wide into the marbles will cause the rear end to chatter and possibly throw you into the barriers. These new more sensitive controls also carry over the braking, going into tight corners with too much speed will find you sliding past the turn and into the gravel. Even with traction and braking assists turned on the controls seem to be much more in the simulation category than years past. In prior games turning on all assists pretty much meant you can hold the trigger down and just turn without any issues, this year the assists will help you keep control but you will still need to make the similar braking and turning moves if you didn’t have assists on. Novices might be afraid of this but truthfully it gives you a much less arcade control feel while not making it extremely difficult.
Another new variable on the track is the dynamic weather system. Weather can change not only during the runs, but can be different throughout the course. It might be raining in turns 1-4 but the rest of the track might only be wet with no rain. This really adds to the dynamics of the game, where you might be tearing through the second half of the course, but once in the first half you need to race more conservatively. This dynamic weather also plays into your strategy as you might start the race on option tires, but have to quickly change over to intermediate tires, however when you make that switch will greatly affect your standing. It was really great starting a qualifying run then with 5 minutes left the track died out and I quickly pulled off to the garage to throw on option tires while others were still racing intermediate tires. This allowed me to go from a 5th place starting time to the pole.
Unfortunately one game system that is still a bit lacking is the AI. Drivers seem to be all of the board in how the race. You’ll come up to champions that are making erratic moves and then you’ll be faced with some cars that just don’t do anything wrong. And it seems the AI is almost unfazed by changing track conditions. When the track gets slick due to light rain I had such issues staying in the line but the AI was spot on every corner. Another strange AI issue kept popping up in qualifying. I would set the pace in the first round of qualifying, but then with the same exact track conditions and car set-up in the 2nd and 3rd rounds I would be lucky to crack the top 5 or even top 10 at times. For some reason it seemed the other drivers didn’t run the 1st round but decided to show up the next two rounds out of the blue. And of course there were times that I would just blow the other drivers out of the water. It just seemed week to week there were drastic swings in AI.
Codemasters for the last few years have turned out amazing racing titles from the Dirt and Grid series to the F1 franchise, and with F1 2012 they continue to impress. The new levels of accessibility is what really makes this game shine. Giving novice racing fans a great introduction into the world F1 is something that has been needed in the game. The new game modes are also welcomed additions as sometimes I just want to pick up and race without all the extra race weekend activities. Unfortunately online play remains pretty unchanged and could have used some sort of arcade quick pick-up play besides straight forward races. The new weather system is amazing, seeing the track conditions change over the race weekend has been nice in the past, but now having to deal with different conditions from corner to corner and lap to lap adds a great challenge to each race. Hopefully the team can make some changes to the AI through future patches as it is by far the biggest on track issue, if the AI didn’t have such apparent swings from being to easy one week to be overly difficult the next I would be very happy. Racing fans looking for a new challenge should give F1 2012 a look.
A copy of F1 2012 for Xbox 360 was provided to us for this review from Codemasters