F1 2010 is an F1 game which will blow you away if you’re a fan of the sport and a fan of racing games. It’s been a long time coming as there hasn’t been an F1 game in HD since Championship Edition for PS3 back in 2006, but it’s been worth the wait.
When I first played it, I was a bit sceptical at the handling being a bit too sensitive as I was spinning out quite a lot and was having to use the flashback feature often. I’m happy to say that it was a combination of diving in too quickly, as well as the first track being the Bahrain GP, which this year updated its layout. I’ve never played this layout before of course so it didn’t help. As a quick aside, I absolutely hate this new layout and am so glad they’re going back to the original next year.
Once I got the hang of the controls and got to racing on tracks I had learnt on the Wii game last year I started to have an absolute blast. I love the sense of speed and the intense feeling of being on the edge of your seat when you know that it is possible to make a mistake and spin the car. The Wii version never had that. There are many other things that F1 2009 didn’t have. One of which was HD graphics. I played last years game and thought it looked pretty decent, but playing this game for the first time really reminded me how far behind the Wii’s graphics are by comparison. This game is incredible to behold. When you play each track and each car for the first time, and often after many times, you can’t help but admire it.
The career mode in F1 2010 takes up the entire menu, as the paddock, complete with your motor-home of the team you’re currently driving for is the menu. It’s done in a similar style to Dirt 2, another Codemasters game that I love. You can choose to partake in either 3, 5 or 7 seasons, and the teams that are open to you at the beginning change according to that preference. For example, if you choose 3 years, you’ll be able to pick from teams such as Williams and Force India as well as the 3 new teams, but if you choose 7 years, then you’ll be stuck with either Virgin, Lotus, or Hispania. I chose the full 7 years and started with Virgin Racing.
Bear in mind that if you do start as one of these new teams, unless you play on easy or to some extent medium difficulty, you’re not going to be able to do a lot of winning. It really depends on how realistic you want to take the experience. If you’re happy to be struggling at the back of the grid being lapped for your first season, then you can certainly do that.
During the career you get interviewed after sessions and those interviews can cause tensions within the team if you say something out of line. However, while at first it looks really cool and dynamic, after less than a season you’ll find yourself being asked the same questions, with the same options for answers. Next year they need to take this to the next level and make it truly dynamic. This is a good starting point though.
While the presentation of the season mode sometimes lets the game down a bit, people play these games for the racing, and the racing is brilliant in F1 2010. Overtaking is very rewarding as you are forced to be careful depending on how many flashbacks you have remaining, where in the race you are and so on. You can’t just barge your way through like on past games and this feels challenging but also very fun.
The weather effects are spectacular. The game has dynamic settings where the track can dry after raining, or it can start raining in the middle or towards the end of a race, which can potentially cause chaos with tyre choices. I haven’t experienced that quite yet but I have driven in the rain, and it’s exhilarating and frightening by equal measure.
In general I love the game, but there are some downsides to mention. While I love the sound of an F1 car changing through the gears and the engines screaming during high speed straights, I think the engine noises are a bit too loud. I had to turn my TV down quite a bit to compensate for it, but it didn’t make that much difference. I ended up having to cut the sound of the engines down by around half in the game options because it was that piercing to the ears.
Online play was another feature that the Wii didn’t offer last year. It’s not something I ever really missed but this year Codemasters have added a robust online component. This however leads to my biggest complaint with the game. They haven’t done a good enough job in keeping the racing fair and fun. Almost every time I’ve played an online 3 lap srpint (the default game type) there has been a pile up in the first corner and I’ve generally been taken out either then or later on in the 3 lap race by someone who is so desperate to pass me that they don’t bother using their brakes.
Every chicane or heavy braking zone that comes up is another potential place to be taken out from behind when you’re just minding your own business. They have a system where sometimes, players in dangerous positions go invisible for a short period of time to avoid any further contact. That’s find but it doesn’t work well enough. There should have been a system to make people fade out if they go into a corner at a speed the game decides is above a certain limit. That way you could avoid all of these braking zone accidents and give the power to the players who take fair racing seriously. Until that happens, if it ever does, all you’ll ever get in those short races is a destruction derby.
With all that said, there is a chance that the other modes, such as endurance (20% distance) and Grand Prix (qualifying session followed by 7 laps) can solve this problem because it will be about consistent pace rather than barging people out of the way for 3 laps. If this is the case, I’ll write a follow up about it.
The other main complaint I have is with the damage in the game. In the Wii game last year, the damage setting was independent of the main difficulty level, in a similar way to the traction control, manual gears and other assists. This year, everything remains difficulty independent except damage, which really disappoints me. In the last game, rather than play on hard all the time, I liked to play on medium but put most of the assists off and increase the damage to full.
Now I can only play with full damage if I play on either hard or expert, but with that also comes harder AI, tyre wear and fewer to no flashbacks, making the game far harder than I wanted considering how easy it is to damage the car.
The other issue regarding damage is that despite the fact that it’s far more comprehensive than last year’s Wii game where you could only bend one wheel at the most, it doesn’t feel realistic enough. Even on Expert, you have to take a considerably greater impact to lose a wheel than you would in real life. At the beginning of every race, it’s common to see someone lose a small piece of their front wing and sometimes more. That won’t happen here and it’s disappointing, because it would have been fun to truly test myself.
Not only this, but no matter how fast you plough into a barrier or another car, you can’t wreck them to the extent that you sometimes see in actual Formula 1 racing. Some incidents in real life are truly spectacular, and all that remains after them is the drivers safety cell and maybe 1 wheel. I wish that was possible in the game, and what makes it more frustrating is that I know it was a design decision to make it more accessible, and they could have easily done it.
Despite these small faults, F1 2010 is still an almost faultless racing game. It plays great, looks amazing and is the best take on F1 racing yet released. I think the involvement of professional racing driver Anthony Davidson has helped the game tremendously and given an extra depth of realism never before seen. I highly recommend it, and as I predicted, I highly doubt anything other than GT5 can match it for my Game of the Year, especially now that LBP2 has been delayed to January.