F1 2012 has a difficult task. Unlike other sporting simulators, Codemasters don't have an obvious array of improvements to make each year. Much of the team's hard work is spent tweaking things under the bonnet (excuse the pun). While this will excite veteran players, the developer must be careful not to alienate those who approach the series for the first time.
The reason I say this is simple: F1 2012 offers a much tougher race than previous iterations. Last year only a few hours was needed to start producing decent laps. Here, mistakes are punished every single time you commit them. Expect to go hurtling towards the barriers even with assists on, especially in your first few races. For those who have played the franchise before, adjustments will be needed to ensure your technique is successful. Each car feels slightly more agile this time, meaning there is more scope for things to go wrong. You don't need to fling the car into each corner and should aim to dab it around the trickier parts of each track.
Race day is the most beautiful it has ever been
The art of braking has also come under scrutiny. I spent a great deal of time pushing the pedal down too hard when I first started playing, an act that ends with an almighty spin. While this may frustrate, the game never feels unfair. Codemasters have outlined what you need to do to become a better racer and are happy to keep pulling you back up after each mistake.
Career mode introduces a number of minor changes. Press interaction and other minor irritations have been dismissed for a campaign that wants you to race one way or another. Beginning with a Young Drivers Test, F1 2012 does feel self-indulgent at times. Early exams force you to perform basic skills that include taking corners in the right line and braking in specific areas. These will be useful for newcomers, but for anyone else the inclusion is a complete waste of time until the latter stages. To make things worse, career mode cannot start until you've completed the basics. A helping hand is a good idea, but Codemasters patronise so readily it becomes something of an annoyance.
Corners are more difficult this time and will punish minor mistakes
Throughout the season you're sure to experience plenty of realistic drama. Title favourites may crash out on the first corner after a heated pile up, or you might blow a lead heading into the last lap. Weather should also be taken into consideration. F1 2012 is a prettier beast than its old brothers, thus making a rainy race day a tougher challenge. The rain pelts down onto the track, adding a sense of caution and impending trouble to each encounter. Tailing an opponent becomes increasingly dangerous as spray flicks onto your visor. Alongside the subtle mechanical differences, this makes for an intense blast around the track.
I still feel there is so much more that can be done with F1's single-player content. Everything here is much the same. Only Champions mode adds anything to an experience that seems to be repeating itself. Completing ready made objectives against the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso is great for a short while, but there's a yearning for more. Even the addition to switch teams during the middle of the season adds very little to the standard career section. While it's interesting to exit a team and sign for their rivals at a vital point in the year, the allowance to do so often means you'll reach the top much quicker than before.
Weather plays a huge part in how you should approach a track. There's no point using slicks if it's monsoon season
Multiplayer could also do with a thorough brushing up. Nothing of worth has been added here. For a game that appeals to such a dedicated community, the lack of change over the past two years is insulting. Once again it feels as if so much could be implemented to improve the overall experience. Even though F1 Race Stars is on the horizon a few ludicrous multiplayer games wouldn't go amiss. Yes, this is a simulation, but a little light-hearted relief might attract players who aren't bothered about DRS and KERS.
Platform Played:Xbox 360
F1 2012 VERDICT
Such thoughts may be wishful thinking. Codemasters has a duty to slowly improve its racing franchise. When out on the track, this is the best F1 simulation of the generation. It offers a real challenge for players of all levels. Unfortunately, a lack of new ideas hinders the rest of the game. Fans will be ready for a completely new experience this time next year. Right now, I can’t see this appealing to anyone other than those who have already committed to the franchise. F1 2012 produces an excellent race, but we’ve seen it all before.
TOP GAME MOMENT
The threat of producing a race-changing mistake is terrifying and brilliant.