At a glance...

Previewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Release Date
Matt Bailey Xbox 360 Codemasters Codemasters Birmingham 1-2 (Split-screen), 1-12 (Online) 21st September 2012

F1 2012 preview

This time last year I was talking about how good the Formula 1 season had been and yet this year, it has managed to take a step up with a truly unpredictable season. In return, Codemasters are also stepping up with their third annual officially licensed tie-in to the sport. Last time around there were a number of significant changes to things like the handling, as well as new features like the co-op championship. However, as a result of the 2010 and 2011 releases looking rather similar, particularly in terms of the menus, these changes and additions weren't fully appreciated with some players not even discovering the co-op championship. As a result, the front-end has had an overhaul this time around, doing away with the paddock view in favour of some rather swish menus.

One other area being addressed is that for many people the time commitment required to play F1 2011 could be too great. Practice and qualifying sessions in addition to the race itself can make it prohibitive for those players who have to share the TV. Of course, you could do just 3 laps, but there's no sense of progression with those. The prime answer to this is Champions Mode, a short burst of gameplay that should prove more entertaining than those short races. Each of the six champions on the grid has their own challenge; in the version on show at Gamescom you can take on the role of Kimi Raikkonen's teammate, with your goal being to overtake him. The only issue is that he's quite a few places ahead of you and the challenge begins on Lap 44 of 47 of a race at the famous Spa-Franconchamps. However, you're on a clean set of tyres and, as is typical for Kimi, his tyres are dropping off as the race draws to a close. There are Bronze, Silver and Gold medal targets and your progress in each of the six challenges can be compared against your friends online.

It's raining at the British GP. What a surprise.

It's raining at the British GP. What a surprise.

Another option to speed things up is the "1 lap qualifying" mode where you get just one shot to get your grid position, and there's also a 10 race championship for those who find the full 20 races to be a bit daunting. Hardcore fans shouldn't be worried about the introduction of these things - it hasn't changed the fundamentals of the game; you can still go and do every single session at full length if you want and ignore all of this, but it is part of Codemasters' continuing efforts to bring their racing games to a wider audience. Extra options is not the same as dumbing down. Steve Hood, Creative Director of Formula 1 Games at Codemasters, talked about using things such as data from people playing the previous games to guide design decisions, but also stated that they didn't want to become too focussed on this; they know the game needs to be fun to play and intend to make sure they are having fun in the hope that you will too.

A part of what's made this year so exciting is the way the tyres have affected each team and how they drop off towards the end of each race. You can expect to see similar things happening in F1 2012; each team handles the tyres differently, based on how they did this at the beginning of the season, so Mercedes AMG will particularly struggle with tyre wear and Sauber will gain places with interesting strategies. A benefit of the unpredictable tyres is that teams really will take different approaches and you'll see people pitting at different times, which means you should be more likely to avoid bunching in the pit lane in the shortened races.

Who will Maldonado hit next?

Who will Maldonado hit next?

Those playing on a gamepad rather than a wheel should also see benefits this year. The game has been adjusted for the standard controller to make the handling less twitchy, so that it's easier for those less familiar with the oddities of a Formula One car. For those who have little or no experience, there's the new Young Driver's Test mode, mirroring the real event that happens just after the last race of the season. Here you can learn all the basics of driving and racing an F1 car, as well as all the strange terminology which is now commonly used such as KERS and DRS. Weather is also getting some enhancements with changes in conditions likely to happen more quickly and be more varied and it's even possible to have different weather on different parts of the track as has been seen in several races this year. In addition to these new features, some areas of the game will be receiving more modest tweaks in this edition including the safety cars.

Steve Hood also briefly mentioned the future of the series. There's only so much the developers can get out of the current consoles, with upper limits on the number of people that could be visible on the trackside or the pit lane, for example, although they already have significant pit crews for all the drivers. However, when they get to make a Formula One game on the next-generation consoles, probably in a couple of years' time, the aim is to start afresh and look at how they will be able to use the new resources to do bigger and bolder things. For now, though, the company is pushing the Xbox 360 and PS3 all they can (in addition to a PC version), resulting in a game that looks great, and from my brief time on it, seems fun to play too.

Battle of the Champions

Battle of the Champions

Copyright Information

Website design and content (c) 1999-2012 allaboutgames.co.uk.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License, except where otherwise noted.

Smileys taken from Crack's Smilies.