F1 2013 Hands-On Preview - Back to the 80s
Written Monday, September 09, 2013 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Another F1 2013 preview already?! Yes. If one thing is made abundantly clear in F1 2013, it's that Formula One racing is flippin' tough. It's tough today, but it was apparently even more challenging back in the 80s, when Formula One cars were not only faster and more unruly, but also incredibly unsafe by today's standards. It's time therefore, to get back in the driving seat and show those cars who's boss. Choosing to start my hands-on session with the 80s cars, teams and drivers is too hard to resist then, especially given that Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Gerhard Berger and the like were all household names when I was but a wee sprog.
Full credit goes to my granddad for getting me hooked on F1, at a time when Murray Walker was the only person you could ever imagine commentating the sport with his unbridled passion and occasional outbursts of gobbledegook. Indeed, Murray's presence is still sorely missed from today's televised F1 coverage. For F1 2013, Walker may not provide commentary, but his voice is there in the game, setting the scene for the game's classic mode, whether describing parameters for the Scenario Mode, or providing some background content on the cars, tracks and so forth.
F1 Classics Mode is practically a game in itself, entirely separate from the main 2013 season offering that you'd normally expect as standard, making F1 2013 potentially the most generous instalment in the series yet from a content standpoint. Most of the major cars from the 80s are present and correct in this current preview build, from Nigel Mansell's classic 80s Williams to Mario Andretti's black and gold Lotus. One notable absence however, is Ayrton Senna's iconic Marlboro McLaren, presumably not to be found in the game out of respect for the Brazilian driver who tragically died in 1994 during the San Marino GP (and licensing issues).
Still, there's a generous portion of content, including circuits from the period, all presented in the TV presentation of the time with saturated, almost sepia-filtered visuals. 1980s cars provide an unforgiving challenge, truly taking no prisoners with their handling. Over-rev the engine, and you'll spin out in a second. Time a corner incorrectly, and you'll end up face-first in the nearest tyre wall. Misjudge a turn, and you'll be forced to wheelspin through the gravel trap. There's literally no room for error, and you can forget KERS and DRS. There was no such thing back then. Racing in 80s mode feels dangerous, as it should, with the handling at times feeling like a fight, a sensation that's especially potent if you find yourself wrestling with a force feedback steering wheel.
With a controller, it's still demanding of course, but like any F1 game, it's all part of a learning curve. Thankfully, the Young Driver's Test is back to help you cut your teeth, and there are a whole variety of challenges you can partake in thanks to the Proving Grounds mode, where you'll find Time Trials, Time Attacks and a Scenario Mode to tear through. You'll no doubt need to invest some serious mileage into F1 2013 if you want to win races too, but then the same can be said of F1 2010, 2011 and 2012. As ever, practice makes perfect.
In this almost complete preview build, the AI's aggression is being toned down and the difficulty is still being balanced, but I have to admit to being unable to finish a race in a position that was even close to being competitive. Collisions seem almost inevitable, especially on a track with a nasty first hairpin like Monza, so seeing the black flag or incurring ten second penalty was a regular occurrence. Still, there's no faulting the game's level of authenticity and attention to detail once again. The handling model is still utterly superb, and the gulf between how the 80s cars and modern day machines behave seems right on the money. Although having never driven either an 80s or 2013 F1 car for real, I'm guessing that bit.
As always, there are a number of assists you can toggle if you're having trouble, and these extend into the game's multiplayer too. During a session of multiplayer, you can even turn off all the rules and ram other drivers off the road with nary a care in the world, if you so desire. That kind of defeats the object though. Once again, you can play with almost a full grid of players online, with AI filling in the gaps, and you're presented with the full suite of options including 1980s cars and circuits, such as Imola, Spa and Brands Hatch, all recreated in startling detail.
Shaping up to be yet another Codemasters Racing title with the level of polish and detail we've come to take for granted, F1 2013 looks as fantastic as it does each and every year. Factor in the 1980s content on top of the regular 2013 season cars, drivers, Grand Prix events, game modes and what not, and you have what may just be the most comprehensive Formula One title yet. It's got Murray Walker in it too. But I might have already mentioned that.
F1 2013 is out on October 4th in the UK and Europe, and on October 8th in North America.