F1 2013 is the latest in the annual Formula 1 series of games and Codemasters fourth effort to capture the essence of the sport since picking up the license to developer F1 2010. Coming into this review I have not played the previous entries in the series nor am I particuarly well versed in the world of F1, so I will be coming into this game with a different, fresher perspective from most reviewers. That being said it is still easy to appreciate the game on its technical merits and ability to replicate the sport which it does a fantastic job of.
Story is probably not the right word here but the game does feature a career mode. You start your career as a rookie and are challenged to pass the initial training days which comprise of simple challenges which serve as tutorials to the games controls and how to handle your F1 vehicle. These challenges can all be replayed to gain better medals, the better you do, the better the teams you can sign with once you complete the training camp. The challenges are good to go back to if you want a break from pure racing and have a similar feeling to the license tests from the Gran Turismo series.
You then go through a full 19 race season while in the mean time receiving emails from team mates and getting into the news for your feats. The career feels pretty standard but provides a sense of structure to the racing as well as replicates the real job of an F1 racer. There are some small cutscenes that play at certain moments like when you meet your team or when you do well in a race which are a nice touch and remind you that there is a personal element to the racing and it’s not just you controlling the car.
As you would expect about 95% of the time in F1 2013 it will be you racing against your opponents on one of the 19 tracks (and some classic tracks) present in the current F1 season. Controls are very simple. Shoulder buttons are accelerate and break, gear up and down with the face buttons as well as activate your DRS, L1 activates KERS and R1 changes camera angles of which there are 7 to choose meaning you should find one you like rather easily. F1 2013 delivers a great sense of speed which is what you would expect in a game featuring some of the worlds fastest vehicles.
In terms of control, this game tips the scales much more towards simulation than arcade. Coming from a background of more arcade like racers such as Need For Speed I soon found that cuttings corners and causing crashes will not be tolerated and penalties will be awarded to you should you cause those infractions. I’m not all that familiar with F1 but I could use the game as a faithful reference point to begin to learn the sport and I soon found out it’s all about positioning; making sure you are taking corners at the right angle, defending your position from the person behind you and taking the shortest line on a long straight to help shave those seconds off your lead time. Mastering the use of DNS (adjusting the wing on the back of your car to gain enhanced speed when within a second of the car in front) and KERS (which is like a short speed boost using kinectic energy that recharges each lap) is also important if you hope to gain a spot on the podium at the end of the race. Managing your tyres and fuel is also important so it’s not just about who has the best skills on the track but who can manage their car the best as well.
As a rookie it was important the game was inviting and thankfully there are lots of options for beginners to help them keep up. By default, a line of squares helps guide you around the track in the most efficient way with the boxes being coloured to show how hard a corner is so you can adjust your breaking. There’s alot of direct driving assistance also such as break assist and automatic gear switching. As a rookie coming into the game and the sport in general I found this very helpful. Each track features a hot lap video you can watch which tells you the best way to tackle the track with a video and voice over that walks you through it. A replay feature is also present that allows you to go back in time to before you made a mistake and rectify it, meaning you are not heavily penalised for your error, however these are limited in uses to maintain balance. This doesn’t mean the hardcore fans have been forgotten, as alot of the way the game plays can be customised to your liking. Controls, damage simulation, braking assistance, the main HUD and even the rules of F1 can be changed to suit your preference. If you want a full, realistic experience, turn off all the helpers, turn the race distance up to 100% and complete a full race as it would be played out in real life. You won’t be expected to sit there for ages completing your race though as you can save during a race whenever you like in any of the game modes.
Speaking of game modes F1 2013 doesn’t dissapoint in variety. There’s career mode as I detailed earlier, a shorter 10 week season mode where you can choose a rival to defeat in races, time trial mode, time attack mode which pits you against a ghost and grand prix mode which is like quick play, and that’s only about half! Scenario is one of the more interesting game modes and places you in certain parts of a race with specific challenges that would match up to the challenges a racer would face throughout their career. My F1 mode allows you to see all your stats and personalise your racer with a different helment and assign them a name, nationality and an audio name from a decent selection.
After a lot of fan request, F1 Classics mode has also been included in this years entry. F1 Classics takes you back to a simpler time featuring legendary drivers, cars and a couple of tracks and pit you in a range of challenges from time trials to special scenarios like overtaking team Ferrari and finishing ahead of them. You can really feel the absense of modern technology in this mode as KERS and DRS are not present and your car takes longer to break and is much harder to get back on track. It’s nice to see Codemasters pay homage to the sports beginnings but it is ashame that the 90′s content is locked to the classic edition of the game or has to be purchased as seperate DLC.
F1 2013 also features multiplayer with split screen, LAN and online with quick race, custom race and co-op championship. Unfortunately it took about 10 minutes to get a session going in quick race and that was with only 3 other racers but the problem might rectify itself as more users get their hands on the game.
Visually the game is rather impressive with detailed car models and tracks. The lighting system is great and textures are of high quality. Tracks are faithfully recreated from their real life counterparts and all the small details are there. Menus are rather basic but are functional and are simple to read and navigate as is your heads up display. Small features such as the first person view you have of getting into your car at the start of a race are nice extras and help increase the immersion. The game runs very smoothly and I never experienced a framerate drop my entire time with the game, even in the online modes.
In classic mode, a slight sepia filter overtakes the screen and your modern HUB is replaced by a PS1 feeling HUD complete with old style gold fonts. It’s a small effect that goes along way to capturing the time period and helps you get a better feel for the classic time when these cars and racers were the kings of their era.
There isn’t too much too say in the audio department except that everything sounds as it should, from the iconic noise an F1 vehicle’s engine makes to spinning your tyres in the dirt. The crowd cheers when you drive past the larger seated areas which is a nice touch. The instruction provided to you by your pit crew is helpful and adds to the sense of simulation. The games features a few ‘prestigious’ sounding tracks present on menus and results screens that do suit the sport and the game well but it might of been nice to have some licensed tracks for variety.
Basically if you are a fan of Formula 1, you are going to love Codemaster’s attempt to simulate the sport with F1 2013, especially if you have been absent from the series for a while. The experienced racing team has managed to design an authentic representation of the sport in terms of atmosphere and the large number of game modes offers great replay value. Racing feels great with good controls and a high sense of speed and races can be customised to your liking so you can have the experience you want to have. If you don’t like F1 but are still interested in more realistic racing titles or getting into the sport, the game can definitely still be enjoyed and serves as a great doorway into the world of Formula 1 racing thanks to the tutorials and assistance the game offers to beginners.