Simulators in general are not for the faint of heart. If you expect to breeze through the learning curve of a game designed to challenge you in a more realistic fashion, you are sorely mistaken. Fortunately for experienced gamers, we know what we’re up against. We know the difficulty to endure when perfecting our skills with simulators, especially racing simulators. However, the key to steep difficulty is satisfaction. Dedicating hours of practice is only justified if you know you will eventually get significantly better. Codemasters’ F1 2012 isn’t without its flaws as a video game, but ultimately succeeds right where it counts.
The growing trend within the industry seems to be making video games more accessible to a wider audience, and Codemasters is no exception. F1 2012 introduces the Young Driver Test mode, a much needed helping hand for those needing to take baby steps into a game that punishes you for making a bad turn over a patch of grass. Young Driver Test is essentially a tutorial, and is the kick off of your career. For those more experienced players, you will probably end up being bored with the bland practice track, and of course the simple "drive over these markers" tasks, as passing the Young Driver Test is mandatory to get into the meat of the career mode. For everyone else, it’s a blessing, though one that does need improvement. A common complaint with the previous two entries in the series was that the learning curve was too steep to be without such a mode, but the problem with this mode is it still doesn’t do an excellent job at showing you the ropes. Yes the controls themselves are easy to master, though making a simple turn isn’t well represented in the tutorial. In a simulator, that kind of learning curve can be embraced for the most part, but the turnoff for some players is undeniable.
"Codemasters once again proves their worth in the racing genre with undoubtedly the best of their F1 series to date."
The tutorial may be a little faulty, but you’ll be glad to get out there and finally start racing. If you’re smart, you won’t dare enter a real race until you’ve got a basic grasp over turns, wheels, weather conditions, KERS, and DRS. This is where Codemasters really hits the nail on the head: the thrill of the race. Every turn you make, every gear you raise or lower, every time you spin out of control will feel as real as a racing sim can get. Finding that gap between the two cars ahead of you, and then using your KERS to boost in between them is exciting. Hitting that tight corner perfectly by breaking and accelerating at all the right moments is satisfying. God forbid you don’t hit that corner going too fast though, or else you will get a cutting corners penalty, possibly a collision penalty, and you will of course wipe out, probably costing you the entire race. That’s exactly what makes a racing sim so great though, every single thing you do counts.
Improvements over the last two entries are well represented in F1 2012’s variety of game modes. For the people wanting the most real and authentic F1 experience, career mode is where it’s at. It isn’t often when a sports game does this good of a job making you feel like you’re apart of the season. In F1’s career mode, you start off as an unknown, but through a nifty email system, you will eventually get contract offers, advice, and more to improve your selection of vehicles. The more you race, the more you feel like you’re a real F1 competitor. Career mode however, is demanding of your time. For those looking for the enjoyment of career mode that trims all the fat, Season Challenge is for you. This mode was added into F1 2012 because of feedback from players of the previous two entries saying they only played career when they had a few hours to dedicate. Season Challenge is the response to that complaint, and is a shining mark of Codemasters’ ability to improve.
Aside from the two all-star game modes, there is of course quick race, multiplayer, and the new Champions mode. With quick race being the only game mode in which you can play as your favorite Formula One pros, Champions mode actually pits you against the six world champions this year. Kimi Räikkönen, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher are represented here almost as video game bosses. Don’t take this the wrong way though, Champions mode is the most arcade-like, but still feels far from it. Multiplayer only adds to the excitement of the race. The AI in single player modes is already superb, so be afraid of even more collisions. Or if you’re looking to spice things up, a co-op championship can be played with a friend, rather than against. Additionally, the omission of Grand Prix mode is a bit of a disappointment, even with a flurry of other options to eat up our time.
When it comes to presentation, Codemasters is one to never disappoint. No, F1 2012 isn’t the best looking racing game on the market, but that doesn’t mean it won’t impress. Menus are sleek, clean, and smooth as butter. It’s no Dirt Showdown, but being a racing simulator, it shouldn’t be. Aside from the Young Driver Test track, the detail on the roads, sand patches, grass, and everything in between just adds to the feeling that you are really there. The vehicle lighting is stunning, and the fact that sand will stay on your vehicles and gradually come off as you drive is a delight to look at. Quite possibly the most impressive aspect is the dynamic weather. This is not only eye candy, but it affects the race in the most brutal way. Don’t expect to drive the same way, with the same wheels, on the same track while it’s pouring down rain. Finally, the sound design is nothing short of perfect for a realistic racing game like F1. Acceleration, gears changing, boosting, every noise you hear sounds incredibly real. Yes, Codemasters lives up to their reputation when it comes to presentation. In fact, the only problem visually would be the stands and the people who occupy them. Luckily, you wouldn’t dare take your eyes off the road to look.
Practice doesn’t make perfect in F1 2012. Practice makes practice, makes practice, makes significant improvement. If it wasn’t for Codemasters’ traditional stellar sound and art design, authentic career mode, and overall craftsmanship to give the feeling you are actually participating in the Formula One season, I may reconsider a recommendation because of such a punishing learning curve. Fortunately, all these elements are present. Learning the ropes will be tough, inexperienced players will take some time to grasp the mere basics, and getting a collision penalty nearly every race will get annoying...but your gradual improvement, and the incredible realistic thrill of the race will be worth it. Codemasters once again proves their worth in the racing genre with undoubtedly the best of their F1 series to date.
Release date : 2012-08-24
Publisher : Codemasters
Developer : Codemasters
Gameplay : Racing
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