I’ve said it a few times recently, but it really is quite evident that many developers have one eye fully focused on their next year titles thanks of course to the impending arrival of next-gen titles. With this in mind it does seem like a lot of recently released games feel a little like stop gaps. F1 2013 feels a little like this at first, something to keep us amused for the short time between now and November 22nd. However, don’t be fooled. F1 2013 is a game well developed and ready to shine.
Aside from the headline grabbing Classics Mode (which I will cover in more detail later on), much if not the majority of F1 2013 feels (on the surface at least) incredibly similar to its predecessor. Career, Time Trials, Season Challenge and Champions Mode (now named Scenarios) all remain largely the same. At least from the outside. Once you get driving and into the core aspect of F1 2013, racing, you’ll suddenly see and experience a whole host of new additions and clever tweaks that drastically alter the driving experience.
One of the biggest tweaks made is the handling in 2013. We almost immediately noticed how the cars still feel twitchy and nimble like their real-life counterparts, but massive steps have obviously been taken to improve how tyres feels. Tyre degradation, Primes feel slower and Options feel fast yet fragile. If you are just a casual F1 fan or more an Arcade racer at heart, this element may seem a bit ‘gamey’ or unrealistic, but it’s all in aid of teaching the player about the long game. Real Formula One isn’t about knocking out fast lap after fast lap, it’s about setting a pace over 5-10 laps and not burning out your tyres too quickly. In this year’s F1 game it’s quite blatantly obvious Codemasters have factored this into their game and it is communicated quite quickly from the outset.
A big improvement I didn’t spot immediately is the ability to save progress middle the way through a race. I was always a little worried and apprehensive about the 100% race distances, especially as a casual player. The races come with one save slot, but you can overwrite this save as often as you like. This means that you can affectively save after every successful stint and if you aren’t happy with your performance you can go back to the previous spot as many times as you like. I know one particular perfectionist who will be happy with this. When you learn of the save slot, you could almost be forgiven for looking at it as cheating, but when used it doesn’t feel that way. It feels more like a reward for playing the game the way it should be played, as a simulation, not an arcade title.
Other important tweaks you will spot or experience during some of the longer races include the crucial improvement of giving players much greater control when entering and exiting the pits. Different to F1 2012, the AI now only takes control when you pass into the pit speed limit area and relinquishes it as soon as you exit. This means you need to be on the ball and alert ready to get back up to full speed and keep to the pit line when exiting. A small annoyance I experienced in F1 2012 was the behaviour of the Pit crew themselves, sometimes holding me longer than needed, wasting valuable seconds event though a clear gap presented itself. In F1 2013 the AI of the crew have been sharpened and they react more realistically and get you going ASAP.
One of the biggest shouts Codemasters have made over the months building up to release was the introduction of Classics Mode. A nod to die hard F1 fans who have supported the franchise (gaming franchise that is) over the years. The first part of Classic Mode features two tracks, Jerez and Brands Hatch, in addition to five cars from Lotus, Ferrari and Williams as well as ten legendary drivers including Mansell, Hill, Häkkinen, Prost and Schumacher. This part is referred to as the 80’s pack and is included in every copy of F1 2013 free of charge to all purchasers of the game. The second part of Classic Mode features Imola and Estoril as well as more famous drivers and additional cars from Williams and Ferrari. This content referred to as the 90’s pack will be landing post launch some time and will be free to those that purchased F1 2013 Classic Edition. If you picked up the standard edition expect to pay the usual £4-5 (unconfirmed at point of writing) DLC charge for this. If you are a RaceNet fan, then get signed in and register your game on the service to get Niki Laudi’s Ferrari 312 T2 added to your roster for free. Not all bad then, right?
Classic Mode allows players to take part in scenarios introduced by the legendary and charismatic Murray Walker! It includes 12 car races with competitors from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s all battling it out for poll position. Codemasters have been clever here and made each car feel incredibly powerful and come across as unwieldy and difficult to control. This is in stark comparison to their more modern counterparts which then feel easy to manoeuvre and control.
Taking to the track as Mansell offers the kind of wish fulfilment Formula One fans can totally get behind. For the cars from different eras to compete on a near level playing field some performance tweaks have been made but that doesn’t break the enjoyment factor at all. What’s also brilliant is that these cars can be taken to modern tracks as well, adding a new dimension to tackling old school favourites like Spa and Monaco in either historic races or time trials.
The AI seems much more aggressive than they were previously and drivers really do fight to pass you, sometimes it feels like they are prepared to take some damage too.
Unfortunately because we had a review build we couldn’t sample any of the game’s multiplayer functionality or RaceNet integration, but if sure enough if you want my opinion, you just need to ask. I will be happy to provide this at a later stage.
I think it is fair to say that F1 2013 is easily the most polished F1 experience Codemasters have provided us with to date. I’d go as far as saying the most polished licensed racing series to date also. This is apparent when looking at the detailed core racing experience provided. Although the Classic Mode may be attracting the masses and receiving the most recognition, it’s the race experience tweaks and changes that make this game what it is.
Next year sees a whole host of changes coming to Formula One with rules changing performance of car and tyres both. Next year the F1 franchise from Codemasters will be next-gen. It’s an exciting time to be a Formula One and gaming fan alike. I think it is fair to say, Codemasters have produced a fitting farewell to the current generation of F1 games.
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