Following the end of another amazing F1 season comes Codemasters’ annual franchise. Coming out of the pit stop with new modes, slight tweaks and an improved presentation F1 2012 is a welcoming edition. Opting for refinement over a major overhaul, Codemasters has created an immersive driving experience.
Starting the game up for the first time brings us straight to Abu Dhabi for the Young Driver Test. It’s used to introduce the KERS and DRS as well as a walkthrough on driving technique. A nice introduction for new drivers but to seasoned competitors it feels like an overblown tutorial. On completion, depending on your skill, you will be assigned your first constructor to represent career mode.
Moving into single-player content with standard driving staples such as time-trials, quick races and the career mode. The latter is now without the filler of 2011’s interviews and cabin view, which have been replaced by a slick menu interface. Each track has a Hot Lap video to help with practice and qualifying sessions. Now rivals can be chosen midway through the season and the reward for beating them is a place on their team for next year. But even with these new additions the entire career mode stills feels empty.
The new Champions mode, pits you against the finest drivers in new scenario-based events – all culminating in a race against all 6 former champions in the new Circuit of the Americas. The new track is slippery, a true challenge and a fantastic addition. However the new mode is a shallow distraction and many more hours can be found elsewhere.
The beauty of F1 2012 begins on track. From the glitz and glamour of Monaco to the bumpy nature of Brazil every track is unique and needs to be mastered. Hairpins, apexes and chicanes – everything feels just right. Every mistake feels just that, your mistake. Too greedy on the throttle and you spin, too light and you might be overtaken. Bravery and patience will be rewarded in qualifying. How you attack the track is all up to you, adding to the satisfaction if you get pole. All the while you’re refining a personal driving style, genuinely making you feel like a F1 driver.
Handling is precise and close to perfect, pushing the driver to incrementally reduce lap times. Be aware, hit the grass and on track you will find less grip thus reduced handling. Part of the fun is finding where the braking points are and when to hit the pedal. For the F1 boffins you can even fine-tuning your speed machine, although completely optional, the choice is great to have.
A realistic and somewhat bastardly weather system is implemented. Changeable conditions means parts of the track will be wet and others dry as a bone. When the droplets start a strategy adjustment needs to be made, which is both exciting and risky. Is it a deluge or will it leave just as fast as it appeared? This unknown factor adds to the drama of each race. The water effects are great as droplets fall onto your visor and as the wet stuff sprays in the slipstream from a car in front.
With all this intricacy there was bound to be problems, including ridiculous AI imbalances. It’s truly a shame that this problem has not been fixed since the last iteration. On the easiest settings you will fly past supposed front-runners and you should quickly bump yourself up. The professional level takes some getting used to but can be mastered. A level higher, too legendary, and you’re immediately 1-2 seconds slower. You end up jumping between both, which takes away the shine from F1 2012.
At its glorious best, multiplayer is a treat and the closest thing to competitive racing. Although working much in the way of its predecessor but with a smoother interface and fast matchmaking means you will quickly rack up the driving hours. Unfortunately at its worst, and most often, other racers will turn the start of the race into a high-speed monster truck rally. You will find players tear-up the rulebook and the frustration will set in. In addition, you can compete in online co-op mode to work together for the constructors’ tittle or to race it out in the drivers’ championship.
Many slight improvements, a fresh coat of paint and old modes replaced with mediocre distractions – but F1 2012 is more than the sum of its new parts. It is a must for any F1 fanatic and a great place to start for any green drivers. For those willing to search all the crevices and perfect each track, there is an amazing longevity here. Lastly and most importantly it makes each player feel like a driver – the greatest achievement an F1 2012 can have.
F1 2012 is available on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC