by Joseph Barron
previewed on PS3
For many years, the sport of Formula One has not been given the care and attention it deserves in video games. While other sports have had healthy competition between multiple video game releases, such as the classic PES/FIFA battle, F1 was a PlayStation exclusive, handled by Sony for many years. On the PC, hardcore simulations like Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix 4 made an effort to give racing gamers what they so desperately wanted, but suffered with extremely poor production values. Now though, F1 is finally ready to go multi-platform with the racing experts at Codemasters behind the hugely anticipated F1 2010 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.
Using the EGO Engine that powered the DiRT and GRiD games, Codemasters are hoping to take realism in F1 games to a whole new level, while still providing an accessible experience for casual fans and complete newcomers to the sport. The EGO Engine has already proven that it can provide truly breathtaking visuals and the team behind F1 2010 are adding some incredible physical capabilities to their already brilliant racing platform. Don’t expect the loose handling of DiRT and GRiD here!
Circuit and weather behaviour
Ingeniously, the biggest improvement in physics and handling for F1 2010 is not in the way the cars themselves behave, but in the way the circuits behave. During the course of a 3 day F1 race weekend, the track will begin in a “green” state, meaning that because no one has driven on it yet, there is no tyre rubber laid down on the surface. As the weekend progresses through practice, qualifying and the race, more rubber is laid onto the track by the cars, making the circuit gripper and easier to drive. If you choose to have variable weather conditions turned on when you play and it rains halfway through the weekend then the rubber will be washed off and the “rubbering-in” process will start from scratch. This level of intense detail in the mechanics of the game is what F1 fans been crying out for. No one has ever simulated the track itself in this much detail before and it doesn’t even stop there.
In real Grand Prix racing the weather has always been a huge factor as it has a massive effect on teams’ tyre choices and car handling. In F1 2010 Codemasters can control how wet specific sections of the track become under different amounts of rainfall. For example, an area covered by trees will always be dryer than a more open area of track. How much of a track is wet will affect whether you switch to intermediate (half-wet) or full wet tyres. Making the wrong choice will seriously affect your race strategy. For simulation racing enthusiasts this is a monumental leap forward towards making racing games much more like the real-life races that they are supposed to represent. Of course, you can personally determine how much of this detail will actually be available when you are playing, so more casual racers should be able to turn some of this features off if they wish.
F1 2010 will feature a career mode where players can choose to take part in 3, 5 or 7 seasons. How many you choose will affect which teams are available to you at the start of your career and how quickly you can progress to the top of the sport. For example, if you choose 7 seasons, you will start with a team lower down in the field and need to prove yourself before the bigger teams will give you a chance. Choose 3 years and you will get a more streamlined experience allowing you to drive for a more successful team, like Ferrari or McLaren, earlier in your career.
As with the driving, Codemasters are also promising incredible innovation in the career mode. After each race you will take part in the official post-race press conference if you finish on the podium and answer questions from the media using a Mass Effect style conversation system. How you handle the media will affect your relationships with everyone in the sport. For example, do you talk about how happy you are in your current team to keep morale up, or do you say you’re unhappy in the hope of attracting interest from another employer? Even more brilliantly, if you regularly beat your teammate you will be given early access to car upgrades as F1 teams, just as in real-life, will constantly research new parts in order to stay ahead of their rivals. Clearly Codemasters want to create a game where you feel that you are really living the life of a racing driver, as opposed to just driving the car.
Too good to be true?
At the moment, F1 2010 sounds almost too good to be true. The promised innovation in physics and gameplay are far beyond what even the most hardcore racing fans would have expected when Codemasters took the F1 license from Sony. If Codemasters can produce a final product of the level they are currently showing then it could become one of the best racing games ever made.
F1 2010 is out for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC in September 2010.