If you think football's a complex sport, what with the intricacies of offside and the unspoken rule that the more you earn the less effort you have to put in on the pitch, you should try getting your head around F1. There's the kinetic energy recovery system, the drag reduction system, and the need for a PhD in aerodynamics just to understand what makes one car faster than another.
It's a daunting affair, so it's no wonder that Codemasters has seen fit to focus much of its efforts with F1 2012 on easing in the newcomer. If you're a seasoned pro, however, don't fret - it's done so smartly, and it's never to the detriment of the main game. Take the Young Driver Test, for example. A tutorial by another name, it's wrapped in authenticity, modelled as it is on the three day test that's become a part of the regular Formula 1 season.
If is F1 spelt backwards
Newcomers will here be taught the intricacies of the racing line, as well as some of the eccentricities of Formula 1 such as KERS and DRS. Veterans can spend the time getting accustomed to F1 2012's new handling model, a halfway-house between the skittishness of F1 2010 and the aggressiveness of F1 2011. It works really well, and it's been designed to feel as good on a pad as it does on a steering wheel.
There are other concessions for the junior player, but they're likely to be welcomed with equal enthusiasm for those who are having their third bite of Codemasters' F1 pie. Two new modes distil the game's necessarily long career mode into something much more digestible. First there's Champion's Mode, seven quick scenario-based events that capitalize on the fact that, this year, there are seven title-holders taking to the grid. They're fun and, again, authentic: at one point you'll be chasing down Jenson Button in the greasy conditions he thrives in, while at another you'll be holding off Lewis Hamilton as he storms through the field at a rain-lashed Interlagos.
Down to the wire
Then there's Season Challenge, in which seasons are boiled down to ten short sprints, and where you can work your way up from an HRT to a Red Bull in a particularly novel way. At the outset of the season, you can pick a rival - beat them across the course of three races and you can take their seat. It's essentially an arcade mode, but again it feels authentic and it gives a great sense of achievement over four or five hours, rather than dedicating yourself to the 40-50 hours that the core career demands.
But if you do want to indulge in that side of the game, it's all present and intact. Sadly it's suffered slightly from the emphasis placed elsewhere, and aside from a few very minor tweaks it's the same experience from the past two games. This is both a blessing and a curse - it's as compelling as ever, but it also suffers from being a little lifeless, and if you've done it once before then there's little to keep you coming back for a third crack at a full five seasons.
It's unlikely many will care, though, when the core of F1 2012 remains so well-handled. The game's cause is certainly helped by the fact that it's coming off one of the best seasons the sport has seen for decades. While it's not quite the classic experience that Alonso, Hamilton et al are providing in real life, it's certainly as good as it gets when it comes to playing along at home.
- Accommodates new players well
- New modes distil the action
- Authentic and engaging take on F1
- Career mode has changed little
- Suffers from the same mistakes that previous games have made
- It's F1 - so it won't be to everyone's taste