The five 2013 rookies feature in the game, naturally, but the demise of HRT and the Valencia Street Circuit removes a little content from the experience.
As with 2012’s version, the game begins with the young driver test at the Yas Marina Circuit – even though the real one took place at Silverstone – where players are introduced to the cars and gimmicks such as KERS and DRS. It’s a pretty basic part of the game, although it’s good to see Codemasters actually recognising the existence of reserve drivers by featuring guys such as Alexander Rossi and Robin Frijns (until the latter’s money ran out anyway).
Your success in the young driver test will also unlock options for career teams: the better you do, the better the team that gets unlocked.
The game menu is crisper than in 2012 and you have two options: 2013 mode or Classic mode.
As soon as Codemasters was handed the rights to produce the game, fans clamoured for classic cars, drivers and tracks. Finally, at the fourth attempt, the Birmingham based company have obliged.
You immediately get into the spirit through a retro looking garage containing a Williams FW12 and a bellowing Murray Walker welcoming you to the period (if an excitable Walker doesn’t get you into the fever, then nothing will).
The retro content provides you with a few cars from the 1980s, and the Classic Edition also delves into the 1990s. There are time trials, time attack, scenario mode as well as an actual Grand Prix. There are only 10 cars, but it’s a barrel of fun. It’s a little odd to have Michael Schumacher in a 1980s spec Ferrari as there is some confliction with reality, but Codemasters get around that by referring to him as a ‘team legend.’ It’s difficult to be overly critical as it’s probably down to a licensing issue. This is also why there’s no Ayrton Senna or McLaren and while the absence of an iconic team and driver combination will disappoint some, the license if held by a rival company.
Along with the classic cars and drivers, Codemasters has also added Brands Hatch and Jerez to the game (Estoril and Imola are in the Classic Edition and via download) and both circuits are phenomenal to drive.
It’s difficult not to feel extremely satisfied when throwing the car into Paddock Hill Bend or Hawthorns Bend and the car sticks. Hardcore gamers will probably not find it a fulfilling experience, but for the majority the Classic content is a welcome addition to the franchise. It also gives you a greater understanding of the bravery required to drive machines from 30 years ago at such a terrifyingly fast circuit. A nice touch is that in classic mode, the on-screen graphics are 1980s themed, although there didn’t really need to be a sepia filter as well.
But the two parts of the game are not divided straight down the middle. Codemasters has allowed gamers to race 2013 cars at Brands Hatch and Jerez, while the 1980s machines can take part on any of the other 19 circuits that Formula 1 visits this season.
But as you enjoy the mixture of old and new, an old phrase comes to mind… you’re left wanting more. If Codemasters can secure the necessary licenses – itself a difficult task – then hopefully there will be more cars and more circuits in the future.
Back to the 2013 content and it’s immediately striking that the handling is more refined. Is it perfect? No. But without having driven a Formula 1 car it’s extremely challenging to form a comprehensive conclusion. The cars feel stable at high speed but it’s at low speed where the biggest improvements have been made. It’s no longer possible to simply floor the throttle at the start as you will bog down and lose places. You have to feather the throttle and refine your technique, deploying KERS at exactly the right time. Braking is also more realistic as you can attack corners and if you get it wrong, then lock-ups are far more credible. Running wide will put you over the marbles and you’ll lose time.
The graphics are, on the whole, improved. The cockpit camera isn’t reminiscent of the camera that’s regularly strapped to Valtteri Bottas, but it feels more useable than before. The only minor criticisms are that the Sauber looks more black than graphite and the cars appear slightly narrower than in reality.
The artificial intelligence are more responsive and don’t simply move over for you under braking. They also have incidents by themselves and this greatly enhances the experience; for example, during a wet race at Monza I came around the first Lesmo to find one Force India crashing into another and my car ended up as the innocent victim. It enhances the realism of simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The dynamic weather system is also an improvement. The AI is evolutionary, but far more fun than they have been in the past. Mercifully, the penalty system has been improved and there is the option to set it simply to penalise corner cutting, meaning that there is no more minor contact that leads to undeserved sanctions. Damage is not realistic, but it is an improvement on last year’s version.
A majority of fans will also rejoice in the news that custom season returns, meaning that you can select a combination of circuits for your own championship, rather than having to complete either just a single event or a whole calendar season. It was a baffling omission from the 2012 game so its return is welcome. The ability to save in-game – so that you don’t have to commit 90 minutes if you want to do a whole race – is also a welcome introduction.
Online remains a 16 player mode while split-screen multiplayer is retained.
There are aspects of the game that makes it feel a little bit tired. Car set-up is the same, as are preview screens (although there are also now real images) while the post-race celebrations have not changed. It can also be a little frustrating to qualify in fourteenth place in a Caterham and have your race engineer express his disappointment.
Overall: the absolute purist might be left a little underwhelmed, but for the majority it’s an improvement on F1 2012 and the Classic Edition is a welcome addition.
Pros: Improved handling, introduction of retro content and more excellent visuals. Bugs that plagued previous editions largely removed.
Cons: Slight stagnation of modern content and extra financial outlay for 1990s content is a little disappointing.
- Formats: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (reviewed), PC
- Publisher: Codemasters
- Developer: Codemasters Birmingham
- Release Date: 4th October 2013
- Age Rating: 3
- Rating: 8/10