Review: F1 2012 (PS3)

Ever since Codemasters re-energised the Formula 1 series in 2010 the games have been getting better and better. They have become less like arcade games and more like driving simulators, and F1 2012 looks to be the best yet.

The big problem faced by the companies producing F1 games in the past is that the fan-base is quite niche. Although sales are obviously good enough to warrant bringing out a new game every year there has never been much to attract gamers who are not already fans of the sport. Codemasters have gone out of their way to try to rectify this with new features in this year’s instalment.

As well as the standard Time Trial, Time Attack, Single Race and Career modes there is now a Young Drivers’ Test, which acts as a tutorial to the controls. This will be woefully easy to pass for anyone who has played any kind of driving simulator in the past, but does ease you back into the game play quite nicely for experienced gamers, but also introduces some of the more technical aspects of racing in Formula 1 to the uninitiated.

To take advantage of the fact that this year there are six ex-world champions in the driver line-up there is Champions mode. This pits you against each of the champions in differing scenarios and weather conditions; you can race after and beat Michael Schumacher, in Malaysia, who has a half lap advantage, but more worn tyres than you or, at the Brazilian Grand Prix you start ahead of Lewis Hamilton as the rain starts to get heavier; he is on wet tyres and you are on slicks. Do you stay out and hope to make it to the end or do you pit to change to wets yourself?

Another new feature is Season Challenge which distils the action of a season down to just ten races with one-shot qualifying as opposed to the hour or so it can take to get through the three stages of qualifying in Career mode. The challenge in this is to pick a rival from a higher placed team to beat in the best of three races; when you do you are offered their car for the next race meaning that you progress through the teams in a single season, rather than at the end of each season in Career.

These two new modes add a level of addictive playability that would easily appeal to gamers who don’t want to get bogged down in all the minute detail of car set ups and which path to take with the development of the technology on your car.

But for those who do, there are hundreds of ways to set up your car for each individual race which you can perfect through Friday practice sessions before entering into qualifying and then the race in Career mode. It is as detailed as ever with emails from agents, team bosses and engineers to keep you in the picture with regards to your place in the season/team.

As usual the graphics are outstanding and the game play has been improved from previous years. The cars are more difficult to handle, you have to watch your acceleration out of corners and handling in the wet is a whole new challenge in itself. This will prove a hit with F1 enthusiasts and the new features will appeal to more casual gamers, but whether it will encourage people with little interest in the sport to get involved is difficult to say. F1 2012 is, hands down, the best F1 game yet.

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