F1 2010 marks Codemasters’ first attempt to push the sport into the hands of PS3 and Xbox 360 owners, with a distinct absence for a couple of years making the wait (and the anticipation) much harder to bear. Thankfully, the studio has, for the most part, got it exactly right, creating an exciting, explosive racer that’s happy to suit both hardcore sim fans and anyone looking for a quick hassle-free petrolhead fix via a sensible collection of adjustable driver assists and race weekends that expand or contract depending on how involved the player wishes to get.
The career mode, the most substantial section of the game, continues the first person viewpoint that the game offers up in place of regular menus; the player situated at the race paddock with the likes of Multiplayer and My F1 (the options screen) available with just a flick of the right stick to look around. It’s a concept carried over from earlier Codemasters games and one that, whilst flashy, isn’t really required and also manages to feel a little bit contrived and forced when the game starts talking you through the various areas of your trailer, for example.
Regardless, the aforementioned career mode offers the player a series of increasingly difficult choices and challenges, with your agent expecting a certain finishing podium position or set of criteria to be completed in each race – successful driving will mean promotions, better car specifications and the chance to jump teams and progress through the ranks. It’s a neat idea, taking you through a basic representation of a driver’s life but one that, at least at first, plays second fiddle to the ability to jump straight into a Grand Prix of your own choosing.
Grand Prix mode lets you select a team, a car and a driver, alongside the various weather conditions and whether you’d like to participate in just the race, qualifying and race or the whole weekend. You can also adjust the length of the race, from 1 lap right up to the full 100% distance. The following screen, where you build up the tracks you’d like to race on, is initially a little confusing and frustratingly minimal in presentation but ultimately quite intuitive, with the various tracks scrolling along the top as you drop them into the queue below. The game thoughtfully gives you an approximate race or total season time too, so you know how long you’ll be playing for.
On the track, you’ll start in the pit lane, with the car’s computer facing you. Here you can see who’s out on track during a qualifying session, who’s leading the pack, the expected weather conditions, information on the track and – most importantly – tweak your car’s settings. The settings go as deep as you’d like, with top level options like aerodynamics and balance drilling down into sliders for front and rear wing angles and more sliders for ballast distribution and anti-roll bars respectively.
To the right of the computer is the engineer who, along with giving you the option to quit or start the session, lets you load and save car setups, ideal for really mastering the track. You can also look left for the ability to change your tyres, from option, prime, intermediate and wet. In race you can tap the d-pad right to bring up a small set of options to tweak your engine, wing and tyres with the ability to adjust the front wing a particularly clever addition. The left bumper (L1) brings up a toggleable damage and temperate display too.
The visuals are stunning – solid, smooth and packed with atmosphere; without the glorious over the top flair so evident in Race Driver Grid or Dirt 2, perhaps, but then the Formula 1 tracks don’t always lend themselves to outrageous environments or flash and spectacle. That said, Singapore’s night time races and the setting sun of Abu Dhabi are blissfully gorgeous, and the evergreen Monaco, often the track that suffers the most in terms of authenticity and frame rate with F1 games, is an absolute treat to drive through with no such problems.
The weather effects are exemplary, unmatched on consoles and startlingly realistic, with dynamic precipitation a real visual treat. Graphically, in the driving rain with the spray from your opponents clouding your view, Codemaster’s Ego engine is worked to the bone, and the resulting display is nothing short of wonderful. From within the car (either the helmet cam or the one mounted above and behind) the sense of speed is breathtaking with the slightly underplayed track bounce adding to the feeling that you’re driving a car with serious grunt.
The on-screen in-race HUD (heads up display) is typically Codemasters – minimal but functional with everything present and correct, with the loading screens offering up the same stylised info panels that dish out moderately interesting bullet-pointed nuggets of knowledge whilst being teased by your controller’s right stick. The career mode sections with the press seemed a little last-generation, though, and not just graphically, the options available to the player are dull and rather pointless, as if shoehorned in just to tick a checkbox. The ability to rewind time, a hangover from Dirt, is a welcome option, though, even if the number of rewinds available is rather limited, especially when compared to the far more flexible system used in Forza 3.
Still, the in-game racing and handling, where it really matters, is nigh on perfection. With the assists off and a slippery track F1 2010 demands more concentration and knowledge of the track and your car than any other racing simulation we’ve played – a fact that will resonate as absolute nirvana for serious enthusiasts and yet, with just a few toggles, the game becomes the perfect entry-level arcade racer too – it’s a bewilderingly versatile and complete package, a confident first pitch from the studio and one that has set the bar impressively high for future racers.
- Authentic license means the cars, drivers and tracks are all perfect
- Incredible graphics
- Realistic sounds
- Easily the best F1 game ever to grace a console
- No split screen multiplayer
- No race commentary, just the pit crew
- Car damage is visually basic
Codemasters’ latest racer is absolutely essential for fans of F1, and motorsport in general. Its attention to detail and authentic licenses will mean more to some than others but the perfect marriage of compelling, adjustable driving mechanics and graphics to die for will sell the game far wider than the hardcore. If you’re looking for a racing game that will grow with you over the coming months, F1 2010 is that game. It’s not perfect, but it does more than enough right to make it a non-brainer for most – utterly brilliant.
Note: final retail review code was unavailable at the time of going to press.