I knew it was going to be average but I bought it anyway dammit.
badhatstand wrote this review on .
When I first heard that Codemasters was producing the officially sanctioned Formula 1 games it was shortly after I had played their street racing game Race Driver: Grid and I was a little worried. Don't get me wrong, I think Grid is a lot of fun (I still have it on my PC even now) it has some wonderful tracks, an interesting 'career' structure and is probably the best looking racer out there, on the PC at least. But it was let down by a less than average physics engine and an irritatingly bad AI that instead of racing you would slow down right in front of you to block you or flip your tail out at corners. AI-driven cars would be capable of going around some corners at speeds that you could not expect to rival and then inexplicably slow to a virtual standstill on faster parts of the track. It was mind-boggling to say the least. But what Grid conveyed very well was a sense of speed, excitement and danger and the beautifully executed replays of your races showed this off really well.
When Dirt 2 came out I was even more concerned, it had all of the problems of Grid but none of the high points except quite nice graphics. So, given their history since the end of the pretty good TOCA and Colin Mcrae Rally series' I just don't think that Codies has what it takes to make a really good F1 racer. I am, however, a massive fan of Formula 1 and of racing games in general so what can I do?
I ignored my misgivings and got my hot and clammy (in anticipation/worry/malaria?) hands on a copy of F1 2010 as soon as it came out here in the UK, rushed home and shoved it in my 360. I chose an offline career mode that saw me starting as second driver on the Lotus team, switched off the driving assists (except for a little traction control because these cars have massive grunt) and set to work. This is what I found:
The cars are far too easy to handle even without assists and drive really tamely.
There is very little connection with the track. By this I mean the feedback I was getting from my controller was not telling me when I was on the point of losing the car or indeed much else. In Forza Motorsport this is done beautifully, by a mixture of controller and sound feedback, and and you can 'feel' your car in such a way that you get to know just how much you can push on around corners. It is not done here.
As anyone who watches F1 will tell you a Lotus will not be winning the championship this year. They are not currently one of the top teams and in both qualifying and the races are usually down at the lower end of the field so I was rather surprised to say the least that my car could beat Lewis Hamilton's McLaren (or any of the other cars) in a straight line and under braking and the only place I seemed to be at a disadvantage was under acceleration. In my first race I came second and in my second race I started on pole and finished first! This hardly gives the player much incentive to go for a 'better' team in the next season. Talking of which, I got a win in my second race ever! With Lotus! And all I got was some kudos with the team and an interview. I was expecting at least to be able to pour champagne down Mark Webbers neck or possibly have a snog with one of the attractive ladies parading around the paddock. Oh well. Please see amendment at end...
I had thought that the replays would be well done given what Grid can do but they are not. There is very little sense of speed and the faithfully recreated tracks (which are quite beautiful at times) are also quite sterile.
There were very minimal set-up options for the car at the start of the season. A bit disappointing but I've heard that it gets better later in the game. Also no way that I could see of altering the sensitivity of your controller for steering, brakes etc.
Pit stops are a joke; you get held up while other cars that came in after you are let through. And you have to pit to change tyres at least once per race in career mode. In one of the non-career races I tried I went in to the pits in first place and came out in sixth. When the top six had pitted I would be back in front or so I thought. It turns out that Fernando Alonso is capable of supersonic speeds when left to his own devices on a track and had already had his pit stop which left me with a bit of battle which I won due to the fact that my car was so much faster than his. This is very odd.
At the third Grand Prix in Malaysia I started on pole, both practice and qualifying had been dry with very little chance of rain but by race time it was damp, real damp. This is where I saw the game's weather effects for the first time and they are really impressive. They are also, however, really irritating. Even in a non-cockpit view (I was using the view from just above and behind the driver) your vision is so obscured that you can't see the corners or sometimes even the other cars. All the other cars seem to have noticed my hesitation turning into corners and proceeded to use every trick in the book to get past including shunting and ramming. Now, there is in this game a set-up whereby bad driving gets penalties but from what I can see this only applies to you and not the AI drivers. This leads me on to the AI in general which although not as bad as Grid is not that good. Formula 1 attracts the best drivers in the world. They tend to take the fastest line around a track whenever thay can and they do this smoothly and consistently. Not in this game. They weave and wobble around corners like amateurs and, just like Grid, they have a tendency to go off-line far too much when you are around just to screw with your overtaking.
The graphics are generally pretty good but the cars lack detail and as I said the tracks are somewhat lifeless.
Don't get me started on Codies version of menus or the meaningless drivel of the 'interviews' that you have after races.
This is not a game for the F1 enthusiast, simulation enthusiast or especially, in my opinion, the casual racing game enthusiast. It's quite pretty and has a nice race weekend structure of practice, qualifying and racing. But the actual racing has all been done better before. If you want to know what an F1 car is like the nearest thing in a game that I can think of is driving the R1 cars in Forza. They are twitchy and temperamental and need a steady hand. The cars in this game I would gladly let my grandmother drive they're so bland! In fact that's the word that describes this game best: BLAND.
High Point - seeing my name on the same scoreboard with the likes of Jenson, Lewis et al, but above them!
Low Point- the way that Codies has of increasing difficulty by irritating you instead of forcing you to race by giving you competent opponents. I gave up on this game after a few races because it was just plain bugging me.
The worst thing is that Codies has the franchise now and that means that we probably won't be seeing a decent F1 game in the forseeable future which is a damned shame.
Something somebody said about game difficulty got me to thinking so I had another look. There is no specific AI difficulty setting in the menu! What you have to do is change the overall difficulty level and then change the assists back to what you want them to be. And the only way to immediately see what difficulty it is set to is by looking at the amount of 'flashback' icons that you have because once you change any difficulty settings you get a difficulty of 'Custom'. Which is what I meant when I said that Codies have no idea about menus. So, anyway, I have tried a few races on higher difficulties, I had it on 'medium' before, and now find it to be much more of a challenge. The 'Hard' setting is about right for getting me into the position that I should be in i.e. fast enough to challenge my team mate but not enough to give the top teams cause for concern.
So I have revised my score slightly upwards.