Game: F1 2012 / Platform Tested: Xbox 360
Fact 1: We love racing games.
Fact 2: We are great at racing games.
Fact 3: F1 2012 will prove Fact 2 is a lie.
When Codemasters sent us a copy of F1 2012 to review we had no idea what we were in for, but before we get into that, lets discuss the finer points about the game as a whole.
Codemasters has been producing racing games for years, and F1 2012 represents a culmination of years of effort and experience. The first thing you will notice about the game is the insane attention to detail. Every crease, crevice and bump of the asphalt is identical to the real life track. The environments are bright and detailed with great draw distances. The cars are reproduced to such an intricate level that we wouldn’t be surprised if competing manufacturers studied the game for insight on certain aerodynamic elements.
This may sound like ridiculous hyperbole, but it is hard to describe the great level of detail in this game. In the above shot, which was taken from a non-final version of the game, you can see distinct design differences between the three cars. Each car a slightly different nose design, with differing front wing aerodynamic tweaks. This is the level of detail that really helps to separate F1 2012 from its many racing peers.
The main crux of any simulation racing experience is the physics engine powering everything. In F1 2012, the engine has been designed to accurately track and simulate multiple different tires, weather conditions and downforce alterations. Depending on tire choice, downforce modifications made pre-race and even track temperatures, the car will react differently much like it would in real life. The amount of attention that has been placed into the physics simulation is phenomenal. There are even dynamic physics events that can be created. For example if you run wide in a corner and hit the gravel, your outside front tire may have gravel embedded in it, which reduces its grip until the debris flies off the rubber. During this time your car will constantly push wide when hard corner on that outside tire. It creates a strong sense of realism when trying to pilot your F1 car to a podium finish.
Note: The game does feature adjustable difficulty setting, much like the Forza Motorsports series, but for our testing we chose to maintain the medium difficulty setting to get a solid middle ground experience of what we feel most players will experience.
Now for the meat and potatoes, and first things first, this game is hard. In real F1 racing hundredths of a second can separate winners and losers, and the same is true in the game. In actual racing, an F1 car reacts to inputs faster than any other machine available for street use. Its power is delivered in massive waves, and it possesses cornering speeds that even the most exclusive supercars can only imagine. This is what makes the game difficult. If you are used to playing games like Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsports, your reactions are not quick enough, or smooth enough. An F1 car can’t be coaxed into a gentle slide if you overcook your entry speed into a corner like a Corvette. You will crash. But this is not a bad thing, quite the opposite actually. The difficulty of F1 2012 is its greatest asset. This game gives you a real sense of what F1 driving is really like. The cars are powerful and twitchy, and when you manage a perfect lap the results are beyond gratifying. The difficult never feels like a burden or an annoyance. It just manages to make you push harder and deeper to find that last few tenths you needed to make pole.
The entire game is crafted masterfully around this “become and F1 driver” feeling. When the game begins you are asked to join a team, and you begin new driver training and shakedowns. You have contact with your pit crew and managers. Throughout the game you receive e-mails from race organizers and team members that all feel personal, like the game actually wrote them for you. Your name even gets featured in news stories that appear in your main menu hub. Throughout your racing season you can even get offers from competing teams for a spot to drive with them. You learn and grow with the game and get a very authentic experience to living the life a driver. Of course you don’t get the girls or money like a real driver, but a video game box that big would be impossible to ship.
Don’t let that feeling go to your head though, as soon as you begin getting comfortable with the game, it gets harder. A dynamic weather system helps to seal in that sense of realism by providing you with choices that will decide if you win or lose. Do you start the race on all-weather tires in case it rains, and suffer while the track is dry? What happens if it never rains? You will lose. You could run dry tires, and try to pit for a tire change if it rains, but you lose a lot of time in the pits. This really is the full F1 experience folks.
So the game is beautiful, technically advanced and really gives a solid F1 experience. On the other hand, it is a difficult game. While this only pushed us harder, many players may get discouraged quickly, (think about the first time you started playing Gran Turismo and span out into a wall). If you are an F1 racing fan, we say this game is a no-brainer. Go buy it, you will not be disappointed. If you enjoy racing sims and are looking for a genuine challenge we also suggest giving F1 2012 a try. It will make you a better player in your other games as well. If you are a hardcore Mario Kart fan and think Forza is the worst invention ever, you may want to steer clear of this one, at least until you are ready to step up to a man-card.
Great experience, stunning visuals and impressive physics simulation.
A steep learning curve can push away many players, and the adjustable difficulty options may not be enough to help.