When it comes to racing games Codemasters’ games have been running at the top end of the spectrum for many years now. When the British developer, based in Birmingham, entered the most prestigious of classes with Formula 1 in 2010, many fans of the genre were skeptical as to the studio’s success. However, F1 2010 and especially 2011 were enough to shut up the game’s critics as it performed more than successfully and treated the Formula 1 license with upmost respect, authenticity and realism.
By now you can probably tell that this is a review of a hardcore racing game by an enthusiast and you are most likely one as well if you are interested in this game. F1 2012 is not only another roster and car update for the 2012 season, as one may suggest with an annual racing franchise like this one, but it is actually quite a bit more than that. When actually playing F1 2012 it becomes obvious that Codemasters has finally found the time to add more diverse features and polish to an already great simulation experience. This year’s entry looks even more stunning than its predecessor and comes with a fantastic presentation along with an overhauled menu system.
Visually F1 2012 does not only impress with its pristine presentation of cars and tracks including the new US Grand Prix in Texas, which are all authentically captured in Codemasters’ Formula 1 title, but also the overall experience of a race weekend along with its new, clean and streamlined menus. Seldom have I felt as immersed by a video game – F1 2012 pulls in racing fans and does not let them go. It starts with the newly added ‘Young Drivers Test’ which serves as a tutorial to teach new players how to drive an extremely demanding Formula 1 car and use the KERS and DRS features with a mix of challenge tests and video walkthroughs. While this is great for newbies, it is also a great refresher for seasoned vets.
Upon completing the young drivers test players can chose from an array of game modes which include the time trial, multiplayer, co-op championship and career which should be familiar to players from last year’s game. With F1 2012 Codemasters finally added some additional modes for players to chose from such as the season challenge, which is an accelerated season where players compete against team mates and rivals – it is a very welcome addition to those of us who do not have hours and hours to spend on a career mode.
Another very good new feature is F1 2012’s champions mode and will probably become a fan favorite when the game is in players’ hands. Champions mode pits you against the six Formula 1 champions currently running in the 2012 F1 season. Players will be asked to pass Kimi Raikonnen with a few laps to go in Spa or edge out Michael Schumacher in the six challenges. These set piece scenarios are some of the most fun to be had in F1 2012.
Since this is a racing simulation review, we have to talk about the actual driving in Codemasters’ latest entry into Formula 1. Let me paint this picture for you, regardless whether you are a new young driver starting out with Toro Rosso or being an F1 champion in a Ferrari, F1 2012 will keep you at the edge of your seat with sweaty palms as you try to squeeze everything out of you and the car. Racing at speeds exceeding 200 MPH, before threading the needle through a hairpin while passing 2 cars will have your vision blur. In case you spin out or nail another car, you can always use the flashback options we have come to know and love. Competing in the middle of the field and beating your objective of coming in 12th is as exciting as challenging Sebastian Vettel for a win.
The gameplay in F1 2012 is as breathtaking as ever with some improvements made to weather dynamics, causing you to use tire strategy more carefully as well as pay attention to the importance of adjusting your car setup – both will severely impact your race outcome – your engineer will provide you with hints as to what to change and the race director will let you know who is on the track and with what tires. Of course a good pit stop strategy will become essential to winning a championship as valuable seconds can be earned or lost by choosing the right pit window.
Using DRS and KERS at the right points in time are also extremely important in this year’s game as it very challenging without the available driving aids such as break assist and racing line. What I mean by that is, players will need to develop a feel for the car on Option or Prime tires, a full fuel tank or an empty one and so on – layer on top of that the effective use of DRS and KERS and it can make your head spin in the beginning but once all of these techniques and tracks are mastered, F1 2012 will be one of the most rewarding racing games you’ll play on this generation of hardware.
After Codemasters Birmingham had delivered the very solid F1 2011, even a Formula 1 fan like me, had questioned its right to earn your 60 Dollars but F1 2012 has certainly proved its worth with excellent improvements and newly added features with this year’s outing. If you want to enjoy one of the most exciting racing experiences this year, you have to buy F1 2012.
Score: 9.5 / 10
F1 2012 was developed by Codemasters Birmingham and published by Codemasters for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on September 18th. A copy of the Xbox 360 version was provided to us by Codemasters for reviewing purposes.