The Formula One series of video games have been around almost every year since 1985. The game had been developed by Sony Studio Liverpool (formerly Psygnosis) from 1996 until the 2007 Formula One Championship Edition, when the studio allowed the Formula One license to expire. Codemasters picked the license up, and after two years of no major F1 game releases (outside of F1 2009 for the Wii), F1 2010 has been unleashed for all fans of the sport. So does Codemasters’ experience in crafting rally games translate into a good Formula One racer, or does this game need a bit more fine tuning? Find out in our review.
A major focus of this year’s entry is the career mode. While a career mode is nothing new for this series, having been first introduced in F1 ’04, this is the first time where it has been taken to a more in-depth simulation of “living the life” of a rookie in one of the most competitive sporting events in the world. You start off in a press conference room, sitting in front of a microphone and a crowd of journalists. You are asked for your name and nickname and are then immediately dropped into actual interview questions. The initial responses that you choose determine the game’s default difficulty level as well as what team you will be racing for. After that you find yourself in your team’s trailer, prepping for the first race of the season. You can view what race is up next, contracts, your team’s feelings towards you, pick a helmet, start the next race, or go back outside to other game modes. It is fairly basic but does feel like you are just outside a track, with the press outside either waiting to or already interviewing another racer.
Obviously, for a game like this the racing is what matters. When you start a race, you begin in the pits. Here you can check on the weather, what technology your team is researching, as well as view and edit how your car is set up, what tires you are using, how your teammate is performing compared to you, and more. Once you are good to go, you look over at and select your engineer to roll onto the track. Each race weekend begins with a practice session and one or more qualifying events based on the participation level you chose back in your trailer. Hardcore racing fans who choose the “Long Race Weekend” with 100% race length will likely be playing the game for an entire day.
The presentation here is top-notch. When you are ready, the engineer gets the rest of the pit crew in motion. Your on-board display that showed the weather and other stats earlier is taken off, your vehicle is wheeled out a bit, and removed from jacks. Once any other cars already leaving pit road are clear, you are given the go-ahead to roll out from your station. Everything is very detailed, and this entire sequence is always in first-person/cockpit view, to add to the immersion of the game. Once you are clear of the pits, the limiter is turned off (or you have to turn it off if playing in Hard difficulty level or higher) and you are free to go if in practice or qualifying mode.
This game is no cakewalk. If you are expecting to be able to just skip the practice and qualifying rounds to jump straight into the race with a nice result, you are in for a rude awakening. Winning a race in this game requires intricate knowledge of the course, especially in Medium or higher difficulty settings. Corner-cutting detection is very precise, if not a bit too tough. Get enough warnings about cutting corners and you will incur a penalty and the wrath of your engineer over the helmet’s communications system. That being said, the game is fairly forgiving at earlier difficulty settings in terms of how fast the AI is. In my first race at the medium level I ended up attaining pole position and subsequently winning on the Virgin team, something which is not really supposed to happen. My engineer was also pretty quiet while I was in the lead, when I would have liked to hear how my closest competition was doing.
The game runs in 720p, and looks nice while racing. The areas outside the track and the pit crew aren’t the best modeled, but they are more than adequate. Where the game really shines presentation-wise is when the climate is involved. Racing on a clear day is a noticeably different experience than racing during even an overcast or cloudy day, and it is an altogether new experience when the track is wet. You really do have to manage your acceleration and braking while turning to avoid slippage and a nasty crash. Perhaps even more impressive than that, however, is the way the track will change as a race weekend progresses. The track starts out fresh, with hardly any marks. But even after half of the practice session there are visible tire marks where most drivers keep to the optimal driving line as best as they can. Midway into a race there are obvious tread lines, and lap times decrease ever so slightly as the tires now grip even better in turns thanks to more rubber having been laid down on the asphalt.
After every race, you are rushed into a press conference to field questions. Typical questions give you three possible answers to choose from, which affect how other teams perceive you and how pleased your own team is with you. The choices given are pretty easy for you to determine what kind of an effect they will have on your team/rivals, though, so you can maintain a high level of satisfaction with your team relatively easily. Also, occasionally after booting up the game you can answer some reporters outside your trailer in impromptu interviews, which is a nice touch.
This is a game for Formula One fans, no doubt about that. The game is in at least 7.1 surround sound, with support for EGO 3D 7.1 via the HDMI 1.3 specification. Even without that enhancement, the game’s audio makes the game intense. Your vehicle is very loud, and you can hear echos all around you at times depending on the course. You can also clearly hear competitors in front of, behind you and on your sides. This helps to avoid collisions and also makes the game more adrenaline-pumped, especially when the volume on your sound system is turned up. Tires squeal, engines roar, the crowd cheers and uses blowhorns, gravel is kicked up, cars are smashed…An accelerated heart rate while playing this game is not unusual!
However, the arcade racing fan may not like some of what this game has to offer. While the physics and difficulty levels can be reduced, the game does not offer some functionality other titles do. No music ever plays during a race. All you ever hear is the sounds of the race. This can be a bit monotonous for the casual player. Custom soundtracks are not supported, either. Multiplayer is here and is available either online or via a LAN connection. However, you had better be sure you know the course because the competition on these servers tend to be talented at the game. Even with all racing assists turned on, it can be very challenging to obtain a win.
Formula One fans have found their game this year. F1 2010 has an entertaining career mode that has laid the foundation for ever-improving functionality in future iterations of the series. The presentation is amazing, especially during any sort of varying weather conditions, although there are also occasionally some weird graphical artifacts. The audio work is gripping, and contributes to a pulse-pounding experience. However, the game may be a tad too hardcore for the casual racer, especially when playing online multiplayer. No custom soundtrack support exists, and no built-in music plays during races, which may put some players off. But this is the type of game that you set aside at least a good hour per session to complete a race. The time you spend getting accustomed to the tracks in practice and qualifying can really pay off, and is truly rewarding. I’ll see you on the track.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
Career mode is engaging, but could use some tweaks
May be a bit too hardcore for casual fans of the genre