At the same time, a game such as F1 2012 can be a daunting prospect for those not up to the challenge. This title exudes the premise that practice makes perfect, if you are new (or like me newish) to the F1 racing style, regardless of your fan level, expect to be spending much of your time at the tail of the field, even in the single player game.
Developers Codemasters however, have gone out of their way to ease you into the multi-national sport with the new Young Drivers Test mode. Here budding F1 racers can take to the Yas Marina track in Abu Dhabi for a 30 minute tutorial that throws up a series of challenges to learn driving basics and systems such as KERS (kinetic Energy Recovery System) and DRS (Drag Reduction System).
Once the Young Driver Test is complete it is time to select a mode and tweak the difficulty settings. It is here that much of your games enjoyment will be decided. Set too many driving assists on or, at the other end of the scale, go for too much realism and much of the fun can be sucked from your time on the track. Get it right however, with just the right level of traction control, racing line indicators and so on and the racing can feel spot on.
There is a quick race option as well as mode known as Champions Mode where players can take on challenges against the big names of F1 Racing. Drivers are thrown into the heat of the action with a number of scenario based situations to overcome. These are fun diversions but it is the Season and Career Challenge modes will be where most players head. Starting out in a lowly franchise (depending on difficulty level) and attempting to work their way up the leader boards and perhaps acquiring offers to move into more lucrative and successful race teams along the way.
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The Season Challenge in particular is interesting with ten selected five lap races offering the chance to pick and beat a rival driver. Do this and you take his team seat and move up in both prestige and reputation.
All twenty circuits are present in the Career mode including the new USA Circuit in Austin Texas. Each track features a Lap Tutorial from Formula One test driver and Codemasters technical consultant Anthony Davidson. The look great graphically, in particular during inclement weather (see below) and at speed the game has that white-knuckle immersion we want in our video racing.
For myself, I can only attest to the authenticity of the Melbourne track at Albert Park, considering it is my daily commute to ride around that track it is uncannily recreated here in digital form. Though for laughs it would have been nice for Codemasters to include the other foibles of this otherwise magnificent street circuit; the distracting joggers, the aforementioned bike commuters, errant golf balls from the nearby driving range and of course the famous traffic stopping swans. Can’t have everything I guess.
One thing the Codemasters has thrown in superbly is the localised weather feature. Given that your choice of tires and car set up is so crucially dependent on track conditions, this new standard in weather presentation in a video game is a welcome strategic addition. With the Active Track Technology in F1 2012 it is possible due to a passing shower, for one part of a circuit to be wet whilst elsewhere it is dry, this adds to the unpredictability of race-day and rewards the bold.
All in all this iteration of the F1 series is both entertaining, and at time frustratingly hard as the realisation dawns that it is only through practice lap after practice lap that one becomes competitive in this sport. Perhaps it is a good thing that you will never actually drive a F1 car.
Formats: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC