Author: Heath Flor
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Monday, October 8th, 2012
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/f1_2012/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
Summer is over, and Fall is cooling down the Northern Hemisphere. While ducks and other migratory birds are heading South, folks back East are bracing for more of the annoying powdery stuff they spend half the year shoveling off of their walks -- snow. Further East across the pond though, Europeans are in the midst of yet another exciting season of Formula 1 racing.
If you can't go to the races proper, Codemasters is ready to deliver them to your home with their latest installment in their F1 racing series -- F1 2012. A yearly sports release, this F1 racing simulator has proven it knows how to deliver a fast paced and addictive experience.
The past two iterations of the F1 series have been aimed at the more technical and experienced drivers. The lack of a true tutorial often left noobs floundering about the race tracks trying to understand why their car fishtailed whenever they gave it full throttle, or why they couldn't take a corner at 200 MPH in the rain. Unlike many racing games, the F1 series has penalties for using your opponents as a guard rail, and it can cost you dearly in time and points.
This year Codemasters decided to give everyone a fighting chance, and has implemented the "Young Driver Test". Similar to the basic tests found in Gran Turismo, beginners will learn the basics of the sport along with when and how to dispatch KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) and DRS (Drag Reduction System) and how to take a corner properly. There is no option to skip the test, which may be a bit annoying for seasoned veterans. For myself it was a nice little refresher course which only took a few minutes to get out of the way.
Once you've passed the test you're free to take part in a Season Challenge, enter Career Mode, or hop onto a quick race. The Season Challenge offers up a short race career with ten races where you can challenge drivers to see if you can beat them and earn contract offers. If you're feeling real ballsy you can jump right into Career Mode to participate in a full 20 race season where you must race at least 25% of the track distance this year; rather than the three short laps in prior releases.
Like all Codemasters racing games these days, "Flashbacks" make their appearance once again. For those not in the know, using a flashback will allow you to rewind time to a point in the race where you have yet to wrap your precious Formula 1 car around the idiot who slammed on his breaks in front of you. This allows you to correct your mistakes and go on with the race with no penalty. These are fantastic for beginners, and help to refrain you from throwing your controller through the television. However I felt like a dirty little whore every time I used one, and I only used it twice -- okay, maybe three times.
KERS and DRS again make their appearance in the Formula 1 season this year, and to me it feels like downright cheating. Allowing a driver to use DRS when he's one second behind the car behind in front of him is like punishing a good driver for running a great race. Though DRS can only be used in certain conditions, KERS has a limited amount of energy and is usable at any time during the lap; it's refilled every time a lap is completed.
Whether you agree with KERS and DRS isn't here nor there (cheaters!), but it's worth pointing out Codemasters has once again captured the current season's rules and flawlessly implemented them. Just look at the ugly stances on the machines themselves and you'll know right away the 2012 FIA lowering regulations are faithfully reproduced here -- for better or worse.
Remember the annoying engineer from the past who would bitch at you over and over from the pits? Well now you don't have to put up with his crap. Simply select your tolerance level in the "Engineer Verbosity" portion of the audio menu. While just the word "verbosity" immediately makes me want to punch the engineer in the nuts for being so proper, once you switch it to "none" you'll forget he ever existed. Even if you do keep him turned up in your ears, you'll still be happy to know his comments have toned down quite a bit, even if you give him permission to speak at all times.
Besides putting the Engineer on mute, you can also customize your driving assist features, the rule tolerances, car damage, AI difficulty, and even your flashback settings. Not only do you have the ability to customize everything, you're also given tools to assist you with the races. For example, you have the ability to watch a narrated video of the track you're about to lay rubber on, complete with tips on how to address each turn and straight.
The weather system is now a dynamic system, and is an exceptional thing to marvel at due to how realistic it is. Rain -- my enemy -- builds up and pools along the track, causing once light slippery conditions to become lakes and puddles worthy of a hydroplane. Just as in real life, weather does not always affect the entire track, and you may find yourself running through a dry spot right after crossing a small flood.
The only disappointment I found with the weather system is it's predetermined on the Challenge Mode, which detracted from it slightly. I would have liked to have seen a bit more variety on the short races, especially since I already foresee myself spending much more time there in the future.
The race tracks are absolutely stunning, and the cars themselves are drop dead gorgeous; the sun glistens off of their slick bodies as you rush down the track, making for an engrossing and even a sexy thrill ride. No screen tears, jaggies, or stuttering here -- just a silky smooth feast for your eyes to take in.
Tearing through the track, every sound is faithfully reproduced. The wind whips around your ears, while the high pitch whine of your transmission screams as you push it to the limits. Put on 3D headphones, and you'll be able to map your opponents aurally on the track, giving you a clear indication of how close on your ass they really are.
F1 2012 still has some room for improvement. A key feature missing this year is the Grand Prix Mode; instead of playing your favorite driver during a full career, you're forced to play as your customized player in Career Mode -- it's a shame we couldn't have seen both options. Instead you will have to jump into a quick race in order to step into your favorite driver's shoes. To make up for this loss we are also given seven challenges in the Champions Mode, a Time Attack, and a Time Trial. Here the champions themselves challenge you to perform outlandish acts of Formula 1 legend.
The cockpit view -- a shoddy affair in the past -- has improved greatly, but it still felt like I was looking at a reflection in a fake metallic sticker. Still, it's much more usable than before, and it's a step in the right direction.
The only other real downside here is the garage is rather quite boring and is filled with stiff characters, and clunky facial expressions. Thankfully the paddock has been removed and replaced with shiny menus, which streamlines the downtime and puts you in the cockpit faster. To be fair it's difficult to criticize a racing game for having a less than stellar garage experience when Codemasters puts so much time and energy into what counts -- the actual racing, which by itself is a near flawless experience.
The online portion of the game mirrors what we've already seen in the past: a free-for-all affair with griefers and sore losers roaming the tracks. Playing with a friend is going to be your best bet here, but I wasn't fortunate enough to find anyone willing to give it a go. I felt like I was stuck with the scum of the Playstation Network as race after race ended in disaster. I eventually gave up, and I don't plan on going back.
What Codemasters is attempting here is honorable, as the quick races get you into down and dirty three lap races. While you can get more in depth with a fully customizable race, the asses online make this an automatic skip. I also had connectivity issues which only compounded my frustrations with the online portion.
I've said it before, and I will say it again: Codemasters knows how to make racing games, and with F1 2012 they've proven they can make even the most difficult race type accessible for all to enjoy. As someone with limited time, the Season Challenge is perfect for me to hop in and out of when I get a few moments to myself, whereas the Career Mode satisfies the craving for a more true-to-life experience when my schedule permits.
Despite the few minor short comings, F1 2012 has something for everyone. Whether you're a beginner still trying to figure out where the gas pedal is, or a veteran studying every curve of the new track in Texas, you'll find an amazingly rich racing simulator just itching for you to take 'er out for a spin.
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