As I pull up to the grid in a respectable 8th place - thanks to some earlier qualifying heroics - the heavy rain thunders off my helmet in sync with my heartbeat. "It's all come down to this" I think to myself, all those hours of practice and the stresses of qualifying come down to this moment.
I glance over to my left and catch sight of Sebastian Vettel, directly in front of me is Lewis Hamilton and sat right behind me on the grid is Michael Schummacher; it's a position anyone would give their lives to be in and I was there. The red lights overhead flash through their sequence before finally extinguishing. All systems are go. I rev my engine until it's red hot and before I know it I'm darting along the Monza straight at 150MPH, as the first corner approaches I slam on the brakes to feel each and every G slow me to a near standstill. Just as I turn into the sharp right corner my doorbell rings... Thank god I can pause this.
Turns out I'm not really a millionaire Formula One driver and as much as I'd like to be I have to settle with playing the latest virtual representation. With the F1 season now in full flow the races are moving on from the European circuit, only five races remain before the end of the season and a single race win separates the top five contenders. It has been a roller coaster season for anyone who follows the sport and it comes as a relief following the many drab and dull seasons we had under the Schumacher era. It's only fitting then that the most exciting and enjoyable F1 season of the modern era brings along one of the best virtual depictions there has been.
Any arcade racing lovers will have to look elsewhere as F1 2010 aims to be the most in depth and comprehensive depiction of the sport to date, leaving little room for fast paced destruction derby style action. We're given all of 2010's 19 circuits, 12 teams and 24 drivers as well as the opportunity to take part in an entire race weekend, from practice sessions through to qualifying and eventually race day. For anyone after a quick fix of F1 action there are plenty of multiplayer game modes and the Time Trial party mode is perfect, however lack of a split screen function for 2 players is disappointing. Should the player opt for career mode there'll be the choice of a three, five or seven year career starting with a smaller team from the 12 participating in the current F1 season. And for all of the true Formula One enthusiasts each and every major rule and regulation is included. This can however cause some serious problems for "newbies", especially when the stewards are at times overly keen to hand out time penalties for cutting corners or causing collisions.
Considering how much thought Codemasters have given the gameplay users would be forgiven for thinking they would attempt to go into as much detail when it comes to the personal side of F1. The season begins with one of many rather tedious and one dimensional press conference, a great idea but one that has been poorly executed. The player is given a selection of generic answers to choose from when fielding questions but in truth, it never feels like the answer selected has any bearing on your career whatsoever; making it an altogether pointless addition to the game.
Although the personal side of the game leaves a lot to be desired it is made up for in game play. Players will be given an early idea of just how much attention to detail the Codemasters team have put into the game when sitting in the cockpit of the car in the newly selected teams garage. The garage will prove to be the hub of our assault on the F1 title and it's here that players will have access to every area of the race weekend; from weather forecasts to tyre selection. The game is so detailed that at times it feels like there's just too much to take in, only a qualified motor mechanic would have a true idea of what to do when it comes to changing the settings of the car but learning is part of the fun. Dealing with every aspect of the cars performance players can customize any area of their million pound machines, be it increasing the downforce from raising the front bumper to decreasing the air resistance from the front wing; it's an anoraks dream but anyone new to the game or to Formula One it is a steep learning curve.
The meticulous attention to detail from Codemasters adds to the serious element of the game which is only intensified when the player takes to the track. Even with the “driver aides” turned on trying to control the 1000BHP machine is a handful and it gives a real taste of just how difficult the sport can be. One aid that should be switched off for everyone but complete beginners is the auto-brake function, although it may save a player from darting off the track and into the tyre wall, when it comes to race day it will slow the car down by preventing late braking. When a player finally get to grips with controlling the car there's the brake, tyre and engine temperature to deal with, all which fluctuate depending on weather conditions and your driving style. Don't forget the need to heat up or cool down tyres, again depending on weather conditions and the loss of grip caused by leaving the track or cutting a corner.
There's also the chance to go the extra mile if feeling brave, allowing a driver to adjust the settings to show fuel consumption, tyre damage, car damage and take manual control of the pits. The computer AI can also be adjusted meaning that competition can either be against rolling bollards or fully fledged and hungry F1 drivers. Be warned however that the game will become near impossible for any mere mortal should one attempt to use these settings. Luckily the game includes 'Flashbacks', a feature that allows the player to rewind the clocks by a few seconds should they make a mess of one particularly important corner.
Concentration levels must be at a maximum to stay within touching distance of your teams goals - normally starting at a simple 15th place in the championship come the end of the season - and it is a lengthy process. To get the best out of your car the practice sessions will need to be taken advantage of and qualifying becomes all important because of how hard it is to gain places on your rivals. On race day players can select whether they would like to take part in a portion of the race or go the full hog. Trying to stay focused for 60 or so laps is much easier said the done though and it provides an idea of how tough the job can be for the likes of Jensen Button and co. Definitely not for the faint-hearted.
Codemasters' trump card is the newly introduced Dynamic Weather System. Although given a forecast pre-race things can change rather drastically, and a heavy dose of rain can dash any hopes of a decent qualifying position if not prepared for. It also means players who are paying attention can get an advantage over their opponents as they call a change of strategy or an early pit stop as the clouds above begin to look ominous. The dynamic weather system also depends on what track the race is held at, so seeing thunderstorms in Bahrain is about as likely winning your first season in career mode, something which again adds to the realism of the game.
There is no denying that the latest racing title from Codemasters is as great to watch as it is to play. Each of the 24 cars are immaculately depicted in the game and look startlingly similar to their real world counterparts. Additionally the 19 circuits are inch perfect down to every last bump. This visual realism is quite a departure from Codemasters previous racing game, Dirt 2 which was much brighter in its style but the overall style feels correct for this subject matter. The one thing that lets the game down is the rubber-like faces of the reporters and pit crew throughout the career mode, a disappointment which seems out of place considering the drivers each have a close resemblance to the real thing, from the sharp chiseled jaw of Schummacher to the finely crafted sideburns of Lewis Hamilton.
It's when the weather conditions begin to change that the player can fully appreciate the work put in by the design team. Hurtling down the tight streets of Monaco at three times the national speed limit in the middle of a downpour will have even a grizzled thrillseeker cringing through every corner, the terrifying mist being sprayed up by the cars in front leave the driver almost completely blind and relying on the radar or the faint brake lights of the car in front in order to navigate through the course. It's yet another glimpse into the life of an F1 driver and shows just how terrifying it can be at times.
Players are given five different viewpoints to choose from, each offering different advantages and disadvantages. Anyone who enjoys the thrill of the unknown will love the front bumper viewpoint which puts the driver right in the middle of the action, however trying to judge upcoming corners can be tricky. The second and most popular perspective is the in-eye drivers view, offering players the chance to see the action through the eyes of the racer and fixes the viewpoint into the cockpit of your car. Camera number three is mounted on the rear directly above the drivers helmet whilst the fourth and fifth camera angles are positioned behind the car and are perfect for any new players, offering a full view of exactly what's going on around the vehicle.
On the PC F1 2010 also features full support for AMD Eyefinity and Nvidia Surround gaming for a hugely immersive gaming experience. In addtion to this we can also tweak the configuration files on the PC to enable DirectX 11 support with an official patch due soon to enable the enhanced graphics effects by default.
If watching a picture perfect car hurtle round Silverstone isn't enough realism then the sound of it should tip the scales. The starting grid of each race sounds like a modern day symphony and car-nuts will be thrilled as the cars take off. The positional audio effects are also brilliantly done with the engines of cars whizzing past as they overtake our car which has inevitably crashed or spun at one of the many harsh corners.
The soundtrack to the game is decent but could do with being more energetic, the tiresome music continues in the menu section - think hotel lobby and that's about half way there. Another gripe is the rather dull radio conversations and commands, much like the monotonic drone of the reporters during the many impromptu press conferences.
F1 2010 is a game which is more than a match for Gran Tourismo in terms of an engaging and involving racing experience. The career mode will see players spend hours on end practicing and keep anyone with time to burn occupied for days. Whilst the lack of a split screen function holds the multiplayer aspect back it is redeemed by the other game modes which allow friends and foes to compete.
The game is the most comprehensive F1 title to ever hit the shelves and there is no doubting which area of the market Codemasters are aiming for. The only problem this brings about is that for any casual gamers the game can be all encompassing and hard to get into, no room for show up and race mentality here; a game for the true F1 fans. It's fitting that the best Formula One title to date has been released during the most exciting F1 season in recent times, let’s just hope 2011 brings more of the same.
Formula One racing like you've never seen before. The game keeps all of the serious elements of the real thing but still manages to make it supremely exciting. Taking a lap around Monza racecourse will leave players speechless at just how realistic the game is.
Although its siblings may be more elegant and well dressed, F1 2010 delivers like no other racer when it comes down to on the track realism. Driving in wet conditions leaves the player in no doubt over the aesthetics of the game and the sheer attention to detail paid by Codemasters is enough to keep any F1 enthusiast happy.
A more lively soundtrack would have been much more appropriate for the game and at times the radio conversations and press conferences can be tiresome. Hopefully they can improve in time for 2011.
Once players get past the complexities it will keep them occupied for days on end and the multiplayer and XBox Live functions will keep that entertainment going for weeks after the game has been completed. Not too bad for a £40 outlay.
Overall (Not an Average)
Absolutely brilliant, one of the few games able to compete with Gran Tourismo.