Codemasters have had the Formula 1 license for 4 years now, and looking back you can see the subtle and major changes the series has had. We have gone from the vast overhaul of 2011 to the small refinements of 2012, and now we have 2013 to round out the whole package. Without many changes to the F1 season you'd think this game would be more of the same but it comes with enough surprises to keep you playing for the rest of the year.
The flagship feature this time around is the classic content. F1 2013 comes with a selection of cars from the 1980s and, if you're willing to pay an extra, 1990s cars. You also get a few classic tracks although most of them are designated for the premium content. It's a cruel system but Steam users should expect to pay the price of a newly-released boxed game for the full edition.
The content itself is great - you can compete in races, scenarios and time trials with the new cars and they genuinely feel different to drive than any of the 2013 vehicles. The 1980s cars are especially difficult to drive well, with much higher speeds and traction that will send you all over the place if you don't drive properly. What is jarring is that you don't get one season - you get a collection from all around the decade and this includes seemingly random drivers. The 1980s cars sound great too, although the 90s cars really don't and have some of the nastiest, highest-pitched sounds I've heard in an F1 game. You can drive the old cars on the 2013 tracks and the 2013 cars on the selection of Brands Hatch, Imola, Estoril and Jerez, although these tracks lack DRS zones for the newer cars. Whether you'll find the classic content just a distraction or your main time-sink will depend on your dedication to the classic time era but there is a lot more to show.
The game really does shine in how it's refined the 2013 content to make the best incarnation of the Codemasters series so far. The game features new difficulty levels near the top of the ladder that advanced drivers can dig into without facing the nightmare of last year's Legends AI. The AI itself fights for positions properly and has much better starts, although the starts still aren't perfect. The AI also make more mistakes then before and you'll actually see incidents - what's better is that these incidents are now accompanied with a fixed safety car that comes out more often for big crashes.
The new scenario mode is a great improvement of last year's flawed Champions mode and now contains a massive amount of new scenarios, as you go from bottom teams up to winning the championship and then retiring. Season Challenge returns and so does the Career mode, but neither have improved much. Young Driver's test now allows you to fully skip Day 1 if you own 2012 and even lets you start at Lotus if you perfect the test and collect every gold medal. Finally mode-wise Grand Prix returns allowing you to play out a season as an existing driver again.
You also get the long-awaited Mid Session Save feature which allows you to return back to the race where you left off last time and even gives you the choice of where to return in the last 10 seconds of racing, similar to the Flashback feature and tyres are now much more like their real-life cousins and can go off the cliff and ruin any race in an instant. All of these improvements and more round out the experience to make exactly what 2012 should have been. F1 2013 is the best we've ever seen the series, with improvements and new content across the board, and is worth picking up by anyone interested in the series. Just make sure to get the Classic edition if possible.