And once again my car’s facing in completely the wrong direction, a comfortable P12 thrown away by over-running a corner, clipping the gravel and spinning out my multi-million pound hair-trigger tantrum on wheels. The drivers whom I’d been comfortably fending off, glide past me. It’s the final lap of a 16 lap race, about 30 minutes work, but I’ll be damned if this single mistake is allowed to pass into the annals of auto-save and mark my career forever.
F1 2010 could be really easy. Opt for all the driver aids, the racing line indicator, whack the AI down to X-Factor contestant and simply hold right-trigger to go.
But you aren’t going to want to do that. You’re a stubborn bastard; you’ll want to play using the cock-pit view not the chase cam, turn the breaking assist off and the ABS down, set the AI to ‘pro’ so they’ll actually put up a fight – when you qualify P8 you want to feel like you’ve earned it. When you finish in the points after a race you want to have fought for it; sweat blood learning every corner in the practice session, tweeking your car set-up just so - any more speed and there’ll be no down-force in the corners or far too much over-steer: this thing’s balanced on a knife-edge. Making those essential, risky over-takes all the more heart-stopping; mess up and the race is over either by damaging the car, spinning out or suffering a stewards’ penalty. ’Is this actually fun?’ you’ll think to yourself. You aren’t sure, but you don’t want to stop playing.
I’ve a horrible feeling these guys are modelled on real people.
It’s the customisable difficulty settings that make this game, you see. Once I found a reasonable balance between driving aids and total realism I stuck with that. This leads to frustrating sessions in the career mode where I was stuck in cycles of mistakes and restarts, spending hours on single tracks. Why? Because I’d rather re-start than turn down the difficulty, I just… I don’t want to make it any easier for myself. I want to get better. I want to rise to the challenge.
Such is F1 2010. All the tracks and teams for this year’s season are here, in exceptional detail. The cars handle beautifully with subtle yet tangible differences when tyres or configurations change and the sound is absolutely stunning. It makes me want to play the game as realistically as my skills will allow. But let’s not get too dewy-eyed over Codies’ efforts just yet; this is the minimum we should expect from a big publisher, getting the fundamentals down. And they’ve included a fair few annoying and patchy elements that really should have been seen to during playtesting.
One gripe I have is the bloated menu which you actually have to explore to get a sense of the options available. By all means have a fancy, animated menu interface but make it clear – it shouldn’t feel like work. Gah.
Another niggle is that the loading screens display mainly useless hints and tips in screen-filling grey bars rather than something handy like, say, an image of the track you’re about to be racing to study. Isn’t that the obvious choice?
Further sighs are induced by inconsistent steward decisions, weird seemingly arbitrary car ghosting and the gawky appearance and animation of your pit crews. A mid-race ‘flashback’ allows GRID style time-rewinding to correct screw-ups but the speed you’re travelling and the frequently unhelpful positioning of the start of the flashbacks makes them often frustrating and never a reliable 1-Up.
(And I should add, that we’ve experienced a few technical glitches here at the GamingDaily Moonbase, including hanging, a couple of crashes and the total corruption of Craig’s save files which made him weep and declare that he’ll never play the game again.)
The multiplayer element works perfectly well if you have friends ready to go but with no dedicated servers you must sit and wait for a lobby to populate with the filthy internet denizens and then wait for them all to load in again just before a race. There aren’t a huge number of people playing either, perhaps because Game appears to only sell the download and retailers like Play and Amazon seem to be selling the game for a crippling £50. Urm, what?
It’s minor stuff, most of it, but slipping towards Dragon Rising territory. In other words: creating a game with an exceptional graphical and mechanical core then spraying it up the bathroom wall with annoying quirks and a lack of ambition.
Wet races are spectacular and terrifying.
The career mode is the heart of F1 2010, starting you as the second driver of a backmarker team with the opportunity to improve the technology of your car and court better teams by performing well during a set number of seasons. There’s almost an up-til-3am level of addictiveness to it: will the next race yield that improved rear panel design and -5% tyre drag? Am I on the verge of securing a contract at Renault? etc, with the added fun of interviews and press conferences if you land on the podium – they don’t seem to have a huge effect on the game but they’re something a bit different (Once, at the end of the race, returning to my team trailer/menu, the interviewer called me over by name! That I’d typed in at the start of the game! ‘Paul, have you got a minute?’ he said! Yes, this impresses me). Anyway.
It’s almost got that level of addictiveness. But even on the shortest (20% of the actual) race weekend, each race is an incredible slog if you want to meet the performance targets, so you’re not fed those rewards quite often enough to keep you from quitting out at the end of most races for an exhausted wank.
That’s kinda what’s good about the game though. For a title that has the whiff of the console about it, it can be extremely, refreshingly tough. Depending on the difficulty settings you opt for, of course – and you’ll opt for something challenging, cus you’re a stubborn bastard remember? There’s enough of the atmosphere and feel of F1 about it to make you aspire to be better at the game rather than spoil it with easy settings, it’s just a pity there are reliability issues and a few rough edges.