F1 2010 is a good first attempt at bringing the wonder of Formula One to current-generation consoles.
- Faithful re-creation of the sport
- Tracks and cars look excellent
- Long career modes will keep you coming back
- Highly customizable multiplayer.
- Poor onscreen HUD
- Lacks split-screen multiplayer.
F1 2010 is a fun and faithful re-creation of the most challenging series in motorsports, and while it has some minor issues, it's a good start for Codemasters' new franchise. The racing is appropriately challenging, the sense of speed is impressive, and both the cars and the circuits that they race around are re-created realistically. If you're a fan of Formula One you're sure to get a lot of enjoyment out of the game, and with challenges that include time trials, individual races, and a time-consuming seven-year career mode, you're unlikely to tire of it anytime soon.
All of the cars, teams and tracks of the current Formula One season are represented in F1 2010, and it's hard to find fault with the re-creation of any of them. The way that cloud cover, grandstands, and over-hanging track markers are accurately reflected on the car chassis when playing in the cockpit view serves to heighten the sense of immersion, even if you're too focused on the track to fully appreciate them. The tracks are just as impressively rendered, though ironically it's when things become slightly obscured by rain that the game's graphics start to shine. The visibility changes as cars spray standing water into the air, the racing line starts to dry realistically as a result, and the spatters of rain on the camera mimic what you might see from inside a racing helmet. Details like these really show off F1 2010's visuals at their best, and they have a noticeable impact on gameplay as well. What audio there is also works well; you only have the impressive roar of your engine and a little dialog on the radio to keep you company during races, but given the amount of concentration required to make it around the tracks, this is no bad thing.
F1 2010 is a racer set very firmly in the simulation camp. Fully customisable difficulty settings let you turn on a range of assists and aids, but the lack of tutorials makes launching into a season a daunting task for newcomers to the world of simulation racing. The believable modelling of things like rainfall, tyre degradation, and even the drying and rubbering in of tracks add a great deal to this deep and enjoyable simulation, and the damage modelling is generally impressive too. Break a front wing and you not only see realistic impact on your vehicle as you lose sections of chassis, but you immediately feel a loss of grip. The damage modelling can be seen at its best when two racers in front of you collide and you see parts from both cars explode across the track--something that's fairly common as you head into the first corner, or when less-experienced drivers are over-ambitious in the wet.
If all you want to do is get into a car and race, F1 2010 has you covered. You can create custom races individually or as part of a series, and each can last as little as one lap. Alternatively, taking part in time trials is a great way to both familiarize yourself with the game's 19 tracks and to see how your times compare to other players' on online leaderboards. If you want a meatier challenge, then custom Grands Prix can be set up to follow whole race weekends with full-length races, or you can dive into the game's extensive career mode.
When you start your career, you begin as the second driver for one of the lower-ranked teams and then work your way up to eventually become a lead driver for one of the top teams where you have a realistic shot at the championship. This makes for a rewarding challenge, but it's disappointing that even with the shortest career--which runs for three seasons--you have to start at the bottom and can't simply race for three seasons (or at least start your career) with the team of your choice. It's also unfortunate that only the lead driver can drive technical development for the team, because progress through the ranks is quite slow, and so you have to devote a good number of hours to getting yourself into a position where you can develop the car you actually want by opting for engine research over aerodynamics research, for example. Hitting your team's targets in the career mode rewards you with upgrades, whether you're directing the research or not. For those willing to put the time in, however, getting to the top of the sport, even in the three-year career, is immensely satisfying. Given that in the career mode you have to participate in three sessions--one practice, one qualifying, and the race--and the minimum distance is 20 per cent of the full Grand Prix, even a short career is a serious time investment.
On the track, there is very little to complain about. The racing is fast and realistic, opponent AI is good on higher difficulties, and the way car handling changes as races wear on is impressive. Details such as the type of tyre you've opted to use make a significant difference, as does the fuel load in your car. Tyre wear is also modelled really well; you can see tyres starting to degrade in realistic fashion, and the handling of the car changes significantly and realistically as grip falls away along with the surface of your tyres. The way that grip is dependent on track position is another pleasing touch in this vein; whether it's a dry race that has a well-rubbered racing line or a sheltered section of track that's not as wet as the rest of it, you are rewarded for picking the right line.