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F1 2013 Review

 

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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.

F1 2013 Screenshot 2

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.

F1 2013 Screenshot 3

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.

F1 2013 Screenshot 1

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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F1 2013 Pack Shot

GRID 2 Review

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Codemasters who (based out of Birmingham) are the sole remaining truly independent British publisher, and with this comes with a certain expectation from UK gamers. Predominantly we want games that will appeal to us; the local audience. However as DiRT proved and now GRID 2, this is the last thing that Codemasters seem to be keeping fresh in their mind. It’s quite apparent by the lack of UK based career races that this title has been aimed at where the money is…. The United States of America and the Asian markets. If it wasn’t for the fact Codemasters still create enjoyable games you might find us more upset.

As a somewhat spiritual successor to the TOCA Touring Car series, the game finds itself sat in between Gran Turismo and PGR (Project Gotham Racing) in terms of what you can expect. It’s not quite a simulation title, but then it’s definitely not an arcade game either. It’s a 5 year late sequel that blends game mechanics and modes together in way that leaves us feeling a little confused about the intent. Oh… and it includes a ‘story line’. They are trying to fill a very narrow niche market, but Codemasters feel they have cracked it, and I agree.

One of the major new features for GRID 2 is the ‘TrueFeel’ handling. This does exactly what it sounds like by ensuring it looks and feels like you’re driving a real car while simplifying the experience just enough to make sure it’s fun for less experienced players – although removing the driver aids (as seen in previous titles) seems an odd move given that goal. Ensuring that this doesn’t raise the entry barrier too high for newcomers and first time players; GRID 2 has retained the Flashback rewind feature that has now become a standard feature in a good deal of race games, not just from Codemasters. Flashback allows you to remind the action by a few seconds and rectifying those little mistakes made. You can change the amount of Flashbacks available or switch them off entirely.

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There are some race types and features missing from GRID 2; team mates and Derby races for example, however GRID 2 still features an eccentrically random collection of different motorsports, race types, and locations – with an equally wide-ranging collection of cars from across the last four decades. Although this feels like a lack of focus on one era, this was a purposeful development decision from Codemasters and does become one of GRID 2’s main appeals. Checkpoint races in ‘70s muscle cars rubbing shoulders with drift challenges, duels, time trials, and circuit races – all taking part in a variety of real-world cities, stadia, and closed-road events combine together to give GRID 2 a great variety of game modes ensuring boredom doesn’t set in too quickly.

So I mentioned earlier on that there is a story line to GRID 2… unfortunately this is something Codemasters are still convinced they need to include; a plot to explain everything happening. But even this doesn’t work the way it should and there are massive gaps in the players learning curve to understanding just what is happening. Whilst there is no ‘team building’ in GRID 2 as the career is structured around competing against different race clubs with the goal of bringing them into the World Series Racing (WSR); the way the player is rewarded is unclear. The main way to unlock new cars and events is by winning fans – a process that the game fails to explain properly in terms of how you’re actually rewarded for a race. And it seems to be at completely random intervals you are told to pick a new car, without the explanation of what club it will be used for etc. Even specific in-game rewards and penalties can be confusing, and whether you get away with cutting corners seems to be largely random. Hitting an opponent never is though: they always get the worst of it whether it seems to be your fault or not.

Whilst the variety of modes available is excellent and storyline aspect annoying, both are overshadowed by just how good the graphics are. Codemasters never seem to get the full acclaim they rightly deserve for their visuals, but both the scenery and the cars themselves are easily within the top-tier of the genre. The landscapes in particular are presented with a good deal more showmanship than either Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport. We are at the end of current gen titles with a few more weeks before the Xbox One and PS4 are released, but Codemasters have done a fantastic job with squeezing the last bit of performance out of our current gen consoles.

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There is a 1 major graphical/presentation issue however, and oh boy has it been complained about. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and online forums have all been awash with complaints. There is no cockpit view. Apart from the drain on a console’s horsepower there doesn’t seem to be any satisfying explanation for this and the only replacement that comes close to resolving IT is a bonnet view. Not exactly what some of the diehard fans were looking for.

So here we are, we’ve been playing the game for 1 week now and suddenly it’s apparent that once the ‘excitement of the new’ fades away, we aren’t actually left with as much as we initially thought. There is the concept of LiveRoutes, which creates randomised layouts by connecting together separate pieces of a course, but although this ensures even more variety randomisation rarely satisfies in any type of game – and least of all a racer where one of the primary pleasures is getting the top time on a hand-crafted course. LiveRoutes kills off the ability to learn a route inside and out enabling that record breaking time and for a few race simulation gamers I know, this could be a problem… Benjos I am looking at you!

It’s been 5 years since the original GRID, that is 5 years of planning and brain-storming, design concept, creation, beta and bug testing and more. But for a game that’s been five years in the making GRID 2 is frustratingly inconsistent, and lacks the genuine innovation that marked out the original. That’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable or a well-polished, graphically pleasing title – it just feels lacking in certain areas. So to make sure you get my point… it’s a great all-round racer with modes and features to please and entertain pretty much every kind of petrol head, it just feels there may have been too many sacrifices made in pursuit of the big bucks.

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Formula One 2012 Review

Codemasters deliver an intense simulation of the 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship with their latest instalment of the video game franchise recently. F1 2012 is available in stores now for the Xbox 360 and features all the official cars, drivers and circuits to get your heart beat racing in an enduring tournament… Continue reading Formula One 2012 Review

DiRT Showdown Review

Dirt Showdown – the very first racing title to come from Codemasters new Racing label takes a somewhat different approach with the Dirt franchise and turns it into one of the most fun car smash-up’s of this console generation. Unlike previous Codemasters racing games which are mostly centred around realism, precision, speed, dynamics and straight-up competitive racing to win, Showdown is an arcade style alternative to the realistic approach where the more damage you cause the better. It’s not so much about winning, as it is smashing and slamming your way into your rivals. Win or lose, it has a purpose either way given as a series of challenges in which you will race, destroy and unleash some fancy stunts and tricks across a broad selection of awesome tracks. Continue reading DiRT Showdown Review