I don’t think I’ve been so polarised about one game for such a long time. F1 2010 for myself, a quite active sim racer, is equal parts frantic fun, high drama and blind frustration. What clearly wants to be a sim with mass playability appeal has been given some quite strange design choices, omissions and flaws that glare so loudly it ruins the experience of an indepth sim approach. Yet its annoyingly very playable and a lot of fun, thus leaving me infuriated that it’s not the complete package.
Advertising itself as a sim, F1 2010 aims to take you on a drivers whirl wind tour of life in Formula 1 with an accurate representation of the racing sport. 24 cars, 19 tracks, endless fun and action.
This game is divided into the career mode and the online mode so lets start with the career mode first.
Career mode lets you start off with a smaller team, building your results up and thus hopefully gaining and good reputation to move up the ranks and get better drives, thus challenging for the world championship over a 7 year campaign. You take part in either full race weekends or shorter weekends with just one practice session and one 20 minute qualifying session to set the grid. The race must be at least 20% race distance with a mandatory pitstop. All of these options are tweakable, as are a few of the cars set up feautures, although the rough presets should get you a fair way to a decent handling car.
The cars themselves handle differently per team. HRT’s are a dog, have lower straight line speed and seem to be less grippy than say a Red Bull. This should translate into differences in laptime but sometimes its down to personal driving style as to wether its as much of a disadvantage as the developer has tried to make. Practice comes with time trial runs to upgrade your cars overal performance which is good fun against the clock.
Moving forward to qualification and suddenly the bugs come into play. Following AI cars around, watch the corner display and see how their times make absolutely no connection to what’s going on out on track. Sometimes it declares they’re 4 seconds faster than you yet you’ve followed their rear wing all race. Similarly if you’re on a lower difficulty it can be the opposite. This is because qualifying appears to be simulated using a completely different set of calculations that you have to go out of your way to effect (like ram to car off the road!). It’s dissapointing because it feels like qualifying is a farce and contrived because you don’t trust what’s going on with the timing screens veruses what’s on track.
Sadly the same problems then carry forward to the race itself. Rubber banding AI (speeding up slower cars to catch up quicker ones) is evident throughout the race. It also appears that relative speed of cars isn’t as important as the general race positions they find themselves in. Gasp as Chandhok exists Turn 1 from 17th on the grid (strike 1), in 8th and then proceed to lap at almost the exact same speed as the McLarens, Ferrari’s and Red Bull’s around it. It appears that speed is calculated by race position and especially during the 20% races, this runs amok with the championship battle. Should Massa or Hamilton (the two in my game that seem to bit first) pit early, they emerge 20th and 21st and then proceed to lap at the same pace as all around them until they slowly come back up the order. The result see’s someone like Liuzzi constantly in the top 6 and Hamilton had yet to score but round 5!
Fuel appears to be simulated in your car only, not the AI cars around which makes the opening third of the race tricky to keep up with everyone but through no fault of your own, tyre simulation appears to just mean expect a puncture everytime tenth time you touch a kerb. Sometimes I’ve had a puncture before I’ve actually gained control of the car to start a hot lap. Using the flashback feautre, carried over from the Dirt 2 game which the F1 engine came from, you can use these to try to avoid punctures as best as you can but sadly in order to enjoy single player mode at all, you need to turn the tyre simulation function off. It’s that broken. Pitstops too have problems with cars getting stuck in the pitlane, cars not pitting at all and your own car being held in the pits until everyone else has been in and gone – thus plonking you last! It’s infuriating.
It’s not all doom and gloom. The AI drivers are realistic. They make mistakes, they defend properly and you must be decisive in your actions. This part has been done to great effect. Some have complained the AI is too easy but I haven’t always found that to be the case, although being chucked down to last in the stops and then having a puncture the next lap does put you on your back foot!!!
The live the life of a driver part of the game is shocklingly limited. You get three quite obvious answers per question and the same few questions are asked constantly. I was asked on race 14, having scored 2 points all season, if I still thought I had a chance at the title! Now if you asked honestly, the team would then dislike you, however by answering “we still have a chance” they thank you for mocking the entire mechanics of the press section. The agent looks like she’s walked off the Adam’s family movie set too. Similarly having David Croft and Holly Samos in the game doing the interviews is great, so why is there no commentary whatsoever? I’d rather have Croft than a pitcrew member who barely says a word and when he does it’s completely unrelated to what’s going on out on track, but it’s related to the timing screens that are all wrong in the top left corner.
Online however, without all the bad decisions, your stripped back to the bare minimum a racing game should be and F1 2010 works much better. Races are lag free, the PC version generally has more sim racers on it driving properly as on the PS3 version, things seem to end up a crash fest. At least the 3 lap sprints work, as do the time trial challenges. Grand Prix and Endurance mode suffer from punctures until a patch comes out to fix it.
One positive for F1 2010 is the graphics, especially the wet weather which is utterly stunning. Driving at full speed behind trails of spray where you can’t see a thing is exhilirating and extreme. It really heightens the experience. The tracks are in general, highly detailed and well mapped, as are the cars themselves. The pitcrew are the most fluid to date in a game too. All this comes at a price and that’s a cap of 30fps for consoles. While this is adequate for the majority of the game, I’m certain in some places at Monaco and down the straight at Melbourne I feel some slow down.
F1 engines have their own squeal and these sound like they’re about to explode at any moment. It does sound intense however. What is more unforgiving is the obvious pitcrew accent geared towards emulating a certain Ferrari engineer. What it does do instead is annoy because the same few phrases are uttered and have little relevance to the on track action. There’s no commentary team at all which to me feels like an empty space.
The RePlay Factor
I really feel the if the bugs can be sorted, F1 2010 can be better than it currently is now, a mash about multiplayer online crash fest. However, I didn’t buy a sim game for that. For those kicks I’ve Split Second, Blur and Mod Nation Racers. The 1 player game for me currently is almost too infuriating to play at all in its current state.
~Wet weather graphics and driving is stunning
~First look at Korea (which isn’t that great it must be said)
~Great online racing experience (arcade style)
~Has great potential if bugs can be ironed out
~Plenty of options to tailor the game to what you want out of it
~Bugged to the point of being unplayable in its current state for sim fans
~Rubber Banding AI is a no-no for a sim game…!
~Handling initially to arcadey for a sim and too sim for an arcade
~No spectator mode
~Graphical problems with the Dubai circuit
~Press section feels tacked on and pointless
I think F1 2010 in its current state almost shouldn’t have been released. The single player mode is bugged to the point where anyone suffering from arachnaphobia would probably die of fright. It’s just poor design decisions that maybe wouldn’t be soo glaring if it hadn’t been pushed so much has being a sim that is meant to be all singing and all dancing. Half the stuff doesn’t work at all, a third doesn’t work properly and once you’ve turned all those options off your left with a shell of a game that is fun for a quick muck about before jumping ship to something actually not pretending to be a wolf in sheeps clothing.
Fingers crossed for a massive bug overhaul with a patch soon otherwise I don’t think I’ll come back for F1 2011.