Creating a game for such a split market is no easy task and you have to feel for Codemasters – they’ll be slammed for making an ingenious genre defining sim , they’ll be slammed for making an arcade gem. F1 2012, like the previous outings falls firmly in the middle, although it does feel this time round things have moved slightly towards the sim end more than 2011’s version.
The first biggest change is the vastly improved graphics and smoother frame rate. This was my biggest problem with last year and its happily far better this time round. The graphics top 2010’s glossiness too. Also improved are the fibres, damage pieces and general grubbiness throughout. It really does enhance the experience ten fold when you’ve not got to think “those buildings are moving slower than my eye can notice”.
The second big change is the handling. Unlike previous versions, here I’m finding set ups and trigger button pressures really matter more than ever now. If you’re used to flooring the accelerator you’ll be spinning off at the first turn. The emphasis, as shown in the new New Drivers Test day (a tutorial of sorts), is now on smoothness of the steering and pedals. This then in turn brings set up to the fore a bit more. I found this was where the tutorial was really lacking. Maybe for future updates if this stays it’d be great to show exactly what each function does in a side-by-side comparison. Quick set up’s normally gear you towards a lower downforce set up to keep up with the AI down the straights. I found leaving the set up as default would see me up to 2 seconds off the pace on Legend difficulty yet moving it up the scale just one notch suddenly had me on the pace.
The third change is the extra modes for the single player. Champions mode is a six event scenario mode to challenge each champion in increasingly difficult missions. This is a nice extra to sit alongside time trials and single lap leader boards. Also here is season challenge which targets you to pick off rivals and move to their seats over an arcade style championship base. It harks right the way back to Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP in its set up and is a very welcome addition. It also forces a one-shot qualifying system like F1 had in 2003-5. Of course the 5 year career mode is still there with some minor tweaks.
As a whole the single player mode is massively improved. The AI is much better this time round, having their own accidents, the occasional engine blow up and the tyre simulations mean you’ll often find yourself on a real balancing act as everyone strategy comes alive. This is exactly what we want. Props too for the new weather mechanics that really do shake races up.
So what on earth has happened currently to the online events? It’s here currently where F1 2012 absolutely falls down. When building a custom race as soon as more than 8 players have joined, the game freezes upon entry. When the host leaves or the players drop to 8 or below, the race kicks off. This doesn’t happen on quick race strangely. The AI also suddenly reverts back to an old style of driving through you and causing stupid incidents online too – yet works wonderfully offline. I’ve also had several occasions where races start with drivers getting penalties, the game getting stuck in the pitstop and a lot of crashes in the in game menu system. Everything but the latter is online only. Hopefully a patch can sort out the issues but until then a custom race, or custom online championship is utterly out of the question. If you follow the predetermined modes, be prepared for penalties galore as I’ve yet to find a decent set of racers by picking random’s that doesn’t include someone driving like its destruction derby all over again. The game will disqualify repeat offenders but its unavoidable that you’ll probably get a penalty for being whacked in the process.
It’s a shame as you can clearly see a lot of labour has gone firmly into this version and it really shows but the online section at the moment is half broken.
~Vastly improved frame rate and graphics
~Single player modes now make it a joy to play on your own
~Much more grounded driving experience
~Custom online modes are currently broken (as of version 1.01)
Best of the three F1 games by far but the online modes require some serious patches, as does the general front end of the game too. There’s no use making an absolutely stonking single player experience if the game likes to crash when you invite your mates along.