F1 2010 review
Codemasters' F1 series has had an interesting lifespan thus far. Last year, the first entry was released exclusively for the Wii and PSP to mediocre reviews, while the sophomore outing bested both Halo: Reach and Dead Rising 2 combined during its first week of sales in the UK last month. I was reluctant to be assigned to this review as I have very little interest in F1 racing, arcade, real-life, or especially simulation. My fondest memories of F1 video games include Virtua Racing, Gran Turismo 3, and a bonus car in Burnout Revenge. However, as a fan of Codemasters' work on the excellent DiRT and GRID games, I went in with an open mind and was happily converted to the dark side.
Like with all of their top-tier racing games, Codemasters once again uses their excellent graphics engine and painstaking attention to detail to elevate F1 2010 above the competition. The presentation is immaculate, as if Steve Jobs himself had to approve of it. One of my many worries when playing a simulation game is that the environments, which you will spend countless hours circling, can be extremely bland and immediately repetitive. It's why I could never get into Forza, try as I might, but absolutely adore Project Gotham and the Need For Speed franchises. While the 19 circuits included here skirt dangerously close to having that issue from time to time, the powerful graphics and dynamic weather system keep things interesting. The frame rate doesn't quite seem as smooth as I'd like, unfortunately, and the cockpit view doesn't convey the sense of speed and danger that I was hoping it would, but overall the visuals maintained my interest.
Another element of simulation games I always dread are the complicated settings and tuning options. I don't know how what a camshaft is or how to configure an engine for optimal performance, and I don't care. As Ricky Bobby once said, "I just want to go fast!" And therein lies the true beauty of F1 2010; it can be as deep and challenging as you want. The experience is just as customizable as the vehicles you're racing are. If you don't want to tune a single setting, don't. You may not have the absolute best lap time possible, but you also won't be severely handicapped because of it. If you want all the different driver assists on, the game won't punish you for playing on "Easy". I found just the opposite, actually. The more I played, the more confident I got with my own driving skills, and the more brave I became about slowly peeling off all the assists one by one and cranking up the AI difficulty. In GRID, this directly impacted your earnings, but in F1 2010 there's no real reason to make the game harder for yourself other than personal challenge.
Even on "Easy" though, players have quite a journey ahead of them. With 3, 5, or 7-season careers available, and each season consisting of all 19 circuits, fans will be consumed for dozens upon dozens of hours. These are not short races, and the game even gives you the option to reduce the number of laps. I played most of my career at 10 or 20 percent, and even then races can take upwards of 30 minutes. I don't know why anyone would want to, but playing the full 100 percent for each race would greatly increase F1's longevity, but my thumbs, eyeballs, and attention span simply don't have that kind of endurance. Again, there's no penalty for playing the shorter races or more importantly any reward for taking on the longer ones, which is a strange oversight by the developers, in my opinion.
Although I could go on about all the little touches they've included or the annoying penalty sensitivity or the highly-touted-somewhat-disappointing weather system, I must say that the one thing F1 2010 managed to make feel important in a way no other racing game ever has is practicing and qualifying. Regardless of how many assists are on or what the AI is set to, there will always be someone nipping at your rear tires, so it's vital to know the current track inside and out. After a bit of practicing, you'll then want to partake in the qualifying round to ensure a top slot. Starting at the back of the pack can make a win near impossible due to the game's persistent penalty system which docks you (and never the AI) for any slight collisions you may be involved in. Starting in the pole position, however, can ensure you maintain first place throughout the entire race (since you just did all that practicing and all, remember?). Of course, players eager to get into the action can skip directly to the race.
There are some online modes to be had, but it seems as if the majority of players would rather try to spin you out of control than actually race. For some reason, they can treat the multiplayer like bumper cars and still finish ahead of you with no penalties. There are a number of bugs or curious design decisions (flaws) that, when compounded by the free-for-all multiplayer, prevent F1 2010 from maximizing its true potential, but it's still a great game. I didn't want to play it at all before I started and now that I have I can't help but want to go back and do better and challenge myself. If Codemasters can covert a hardcore arcade loyalist like myself, I can only imagine how quickly it will steal the soul of a true F1 fan.