You need to cast your mind back to the days when Geoff Crammond was still making his acclaimed Formula 1 titles to find an F1 game that as convincingly captured the sport as Codemasters’ latest does. For while it has a few problems, here’s a game that manages surprisingly broad appeal, and avoids many of the pitfalls that EA and Sony’s efforts in the past decade have fallen foul of.
So laden with problems had the F1 tie-in become, and so uninterested had gamers become with it all, that few companies had bothered to even try for a couple of years. And yet racing is a genre in which Codemasters has continued to develop something of a specialism. Its DiRT rally games in particular (now no longer under the Colin McRae name) have been a lynch-pin of the company for many years, and it made sense to try to apply its skills to Formula One.
The new game wisely spreads itself across various difficulty levels – and consequently offers different levels of driver aid – so you can tackle F1 2010 as pretty much a full-on arcade racer if you want to, or you can ratchet up the difficulty more until you’re firmly in deep simulation mode. At the top end it’s a punishing game, as Geoff Crammond’s was all those years ago. But there are levels here that are going to satisfy a broad church of racing game fans.
Crucially too, it’s exciting. Really exciting at its best; a fast, often intense and suitably strategic exercise, and there’s an awful lot of it. The game’s career mode is the highlight, as you build your way up from a beginner driver to the big time races. Granted, you have to sit through seemingly pointless press conferences and suchlike, but it’s an immense and satisfying challenge.
A full-on race may not always be what some people want to sit in front of their machine for, and Codemasters does offer you options to contain things down to something more manageable. On the other side of the coin, it offers a wealth of options if you want to get right down to the nitty-gritty of racing, and full-on tinkerers may well be in their element.
There are one or two minor AI quibbles, but they are very much the exceptions, as Codemasters has put together a mightily impressive and undeniably engrossing game. Furthermore, for the moments when you do make the kind of error that can kill your chances in a race stone dead, there’s the (limited) option to rewind a little. It’s something to be used sparingly, but it does help level the playing field, particularly as you get used to the game.
You’re likely to need little persuasion to stick with F1 2010, which is a thorough, testing and really quite deep recreation of a sport that many videogame companies had given up on. Just at the point where the sport itself is as competitive as it’s been in some time, here comes a game that truly does that justice. A genuine achievement.