Gamescom 2013: F1 2013 Hands-On Preview - GO! GO! GO!
Written Saturday, August 31, 2013 By Lee AbrahamsView author's profile
Formula One cars are still a bitch to drive. If one thing has remained constant in terms of the latest iteration in the series it's that this is not a game for those seeking quick thrills. Instead it's designed to appeal to the purists. Those among us that want to experience realistic handling, long haul races and AI that shows no mercy – this is the game for them.
Paul Jeal, F1 2013's Game Director, was on hand to run us through the latest title and give us the lowdown on the newest tweaks and additions. The most obvious of which is the F1 Classics mode hosted by Murray Walker, allowing a celebration of the great cars and drivers of yesteryear. “ It’s a two decade celebration mixing and matching cars and drivers from those eras, as a celebration of F1,” Jeal explained. Classic cars are paired with one of the drivers at the wheel for that season, along with a racing legend also associated with that particular team. It gives players a chance to settle a few debates by pitting the current crop of drivers against their historical counterparts.
Familiar faces abound then, including Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill, Nigel Mansell, Jacques Villeneuve and so on. A host of other names are still in negotiations too, so you can expect a pretty stellar line up in terms of quality drivers from the 80’s and 90’s. Alongside the familiar names are also their signature cars, with all of the strengths and weaknesses that they had at the time they were racing, meaning that some of the older cars will handle in a significantly different way to the modern equivalent. That alone ensures that racing with the classics will present a fresh challenge for players that might have the current crop of cars down pat.
You can also expect to race along some of the classic courses, along with their alternate layouts from the past, so tracks such as Brands Hatch, Estoril, Imola and Jerez will be available to test players, alongside all of the current Grand Prix circuits you would expect. Of course the main downside is that the 90s portion of the classic content isn't part of the game unless you buy the F1 2013: Classic Edition. You'll get the 80s content as standard, and can fork out £6.99/$9.99 on the 90s pack, if you're planning on grabbing the standard version of F1 2013.
In terms of the main game there is still plenty here to admire. You can now take part in a new scenario mode, that chronicles a rookie from his very first race all the way up to the World Championship challenges. Players who like their races to be realistic can now, mercifully, take a toilet break as you are free to save mid-race at any point. So no longer will you have to sit down and bash out seventy odd laps while wondering if your cat is going to bite through the power cable on the last lap. Hurrah for common sense.
As far as general housekeeping is concerned, there has been a total overhaul in car handling and driver AI. You can expect computer rivals to be more aggressive in terms of their driving style, looking for overtaking opportunities whenever possible. Though there are now five difficulty levels in all, along with a range of customisable options to tweak how the cars behave, so even rookie players should be able to work their way into the game. New rules have been introduced to mirror the real world, so there is a penalty system in place as well as more accurate tyres and tyre scaling to match the controversial tyres used this season. So you can expect to have to keep an eye on your wheels and pit stop strategies if you want to emerge triumphant.
Of course after all the talk it is only fair to take a few of the cars for a spin. We settle on Nigel Mansell, and his classic Williams, and then head off to test our mettle in a Grand Prix (choosing the basic three laps rather than the full thing). It takes a minute to acclimatise to the realistic driving mechanics, especially when so many games eschew such methods in favour of a more arcade style approach. Too much braking sees our car set off into a lazy spin and our rivals roar ahead. It’s certainly not the introduction you would want. With a bit of perseverance it’s easy to get back into the groove, as we follow the racing line around the course and move up a few places. Even a faultless lap sees only minor gains on the leading pack though, so it seems that early mistakes could effectively ruin a player's whole race – which is both the greatness of F1 in a nutshell but also a nagging worry for those less hardcore fans.
We also take a moment to try out some time trial races, which sees you racing a lap against rivals ghosts or even your own if you set a decent enough time, and gives you a better chance of mastering a course then when you're surrounded by rivals. The courses themselves seem impeccably represented and the cars look great, thanks to a recent graphical overhaul, though never quite on a par with big hitters like Forza or Gran Turismo. Handling seems fairly brutal at first, especially in the older cars, but it’s never unfair and can be mastered after a bit of practice though in order to master the tougher AI you'll need to be capable of some flawless driving.
Probably the most appealing feature are the new scenarios though, that see you given set conditions to carry out in order to succeed. A few of them are based on real life events while others are just for fun, but they all provide a sense of challenge and whimsy that the regular races can sometimes lack. In some races you're given an inferior car and challenged to finish on the podium, in yet another you start in third with both of the drivers in front of you having drive through penalties to endure so you have to stick as close to them as possible to take the win. Little things like this help to break up what could become just a monotonous slog through one Grand Prix after another, and it’s nice to have a bit of variety.
In truth F1 2013 is exactly what you would expect. It’s an uncompromising racer that is tailored towards true fans of the sport, especially when it comes to the classic content, rather than those racers looking for a quick adrenaline rush. You could tweak the game to the easiest difficulty, adjust the settings and turn off penalties, so that you can drive around like a lunatic but that would be missing the point. This is a game, rather like the sport, to be mastered over time until you can work your way up to those full length races on the hardest difficulty and still emerge triumphant. F1 2013 adds enough new features to keep you interested while still retaining the solid driving mechanics that you would expect. Expect to be under starters orders on Xbox 360 when the game arrives this October.