F1 2012 Review (PC)
In 2009 Codemasters released their first Formula One game to some significant praise. Building on their experiences with other racing titles the F1 based game took a more serious racing approach and has since gone on to win numerous awards as well as selling well over 5million units. Last years edition of the game, F1 2011, saw the introduction of KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) and DRS (Drag Reduction System) to the main gameplay as well as a wide range of evolutions in the game mechanic.
When we last looked at F1 2012 in the preview build it was shaping up well, but limited in its available modes. With the full game now in place and new game modes, new tracks and drive enhancements can Codemasters continue to enhance the F1 gaming franchise?
As with last years game the core mode in F1 2012 is "Career". This see's us take the role of a driver working through a number of seasons to reach the top of the industry. All of the tracks from this season are present, including the new Austin Texas circuit and the return of Hockenheim additionally the driver database has of course been maintained. Adding to this mode we have the traditional quick race or time trials along with competitive and co-operative multi-player and Codemasters have further expanded the content with Champions Mode.
In Champions Mode we work our way through a selection of race scenarios, unlocking one at a time until we complete them all. These see us go up against the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen with limited laps available and goals to achieve... can we for example beat Jenson Button in the wet when starting behind a safety car.
Also new in F1 2012 is Young Driver Test mode, a key element to this new edition. It is fair to say that F1 games might not be the easiest to pick up and master. For all Codemasters have added racing assists the game is still challenging, especially in the wet, and focused on more realism than the arcade-ish feel of DiRT Showdown. Young Driver allows us to play through what are essentially training "missions" teaching the basics of race gameplay.These range from how to corner through KERS and DRS use and on to racing in the wet and how it differs from dry. Some educational videos are played along the way further educating the player and Codemasters also make use of the ability to rewind gameplay and have us replay through any mistakes, fixing them as we go.
Also making their way into F1 2012 are changes to the suspension system which are designed to make the cars feel more realistic, and drive more aggressively and the game physics have received tweaks too... we also noted some graphical enhancements with refined tyre animations and although still a work in progress in the preview build the weather effects have been improved. It is for example now possible for tracks to have varied conditions where one part features rain whereas another is less wet a change which forces the player to think more about their driving style and car setup.
Graphics and Audio
Although F1 2012 is clearly an evolution of the previous game with the aforementioned tweaked animations it also manages to gain its own unique feel. Sit someone who has played F1 2011 down at 2012 and they will immediately know the games are different in appearance, though the detail levels have not taken huge leaps forward. We still also get the nice DirectX 11 features in the PC version which help it to stand out from the consoles and of course the ability to game on multiple screens is also a bonus, for example playing at 5760x1080.
The out of race sections have also received a makeover with a new, Metro-esq feel to them, quicker navigation to get us from starting the game to racing quicker and some nice cut-scenes and video segments along the way.
Audio has also received a makeover with plenty of new voiceover sections for the training and pre/post race segments.
As we stated in our preview it was clear that the game is shaping up really well for its release and having seen the near final code we continued to be impressed. Clearly having the strong foundations of the 2011 version to build on helps but rather than remix that game it is good to see Codemasters think about what will enhance the experience for players, giving special focus to those new to the franchise.
Past games were far less accessible and in 2011 as one example it would be possible for new gamers to play through an entire season without hitting the DRS or KERS buttons. That isn't the case here as we are taught not only how to use them but what they do. Essentially by the end of the Young Drivers Test even novice gamers will have a better understanding of the game play and mixed with some nice intro segments which aim to make us feel part of the race team the mode feels very successful in its implementation.
It was also very noticeable that pushing the player to tune their car was something Codemasters have tried to execute. Quick, simple explanations and changes are offered to the user rather than being hidden away and it allows a more involving experience to take place and should enhance long term enjoyment of the game.
Champions Mode clearly doesn't have the depth of the Career or Season modes however it adds another element of value to the franchise while allowing us to play through some varied race conditions. It is also fair to say it adds an interesting pick up and play mode that will appeal to many who don't always have the time to take on the full race experience. Then of course we also get the standard achievements along the way adding to our gamer profile as so many games do nowadays.
We also noted that the changes to the car/game/race mechanic have the effect of adding to the feel of speed in this edition. F1 2012 without doubt feels like a faster race game than 2011 and that is never a bad thing, the feel of racing more on the edge is always more enjoyable than sitting in the slow lane.
If there is one new aspect we are not keen on it is the ability to rewind gameplay. It isn't an original feature, we most recently saw it integrated into Forza 4, and it does work well but the old school gamer in us thinks its wrong. In the same way the move to regenerating health in games isn't as good as med packs etc in older games the ability to undo our mistakes, even if there are limits to how often, means less skill is required to win.
F1 2012 is always challenging and takes time to master and succeed in but it is also fair and offers some great race gameplay. The added polish over 2011 is clear throughout the game from the menus to the in-car graphics but the stand out enhancements are Codemasters attempts to ease new players into the game, expand the skills of others and allow quicker play.