September 30, 2013
Where can you possibly go when your game has reached a level where there's little room for improvement? F1 2012 arguably reached that point, with a simulation of the sport that was pretty much right on the money. F1 2013 is something more iterative as a result, building upon the remarkably solid foundations Codemasters laid with F1 2010, 2011 and 2012 with a few improvements to the on-track action, and all of the 2013 liveries, drivers teams and stuff you'd normally expect, with F1 Classic providing the icing on the cake.
F1 2013's big draw is the 1980s F1 Classics mode hosted by the legendary voice of Formula One, Murray Walker. It's in this mode that you'll find different scenarios to tackle in a smattering of classic 80s cars on old-school circuits Brands Hatch and Jerez. It's a nice slice of additional content that provides an entirely different challenge to F1 2013's core Career and Season Challenge modes, with its own races to master in cars that show just how far Formula One has come in the last 25-30 years. Buy the F1 2013: Classic Edition or download the DLC, and F1 Classics is bolstered with 90s circuits, teams and drivers too. Being able to play as Schumacher, Mansell, Hill, Andretti, Berger, Prost et al is a fantastic addition.
In the standard game, you'll find that the 80s F1 cars are recalcitrant things, bastard-hard to handle and prone to spinning out if you don't have a deft touch on the wheel, on the brakes and on the accelerator pedal. By comparison, the 2013 FIA season's cars handle like a dream, and don't have you wishing for infinite flashbacks to correct all of the skidding off the track and understeer that causes you to veer into the nearest gravel trap. Making F1 Classics your first port of call is perhaps something of a mistake, as it presents something that's a more exacting challenge than wrangling the 2013 season cars around the track. It's tough. Really tough.
Returning from F1 2012, the Young Driver's Test is the logical place to begin, easing you gently in with the usual tests and objectives with medals to acquire. There's the whole two days at Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina Circuit to contend with, before you delve into a proper season, familiarising you with the basics of F1 driving as before, preparing you for the rigours of a being a Formula One driver. Upon completing the Young Driver's Test, you'll be ready to dip your toe into F1 2013 proper.
Season Challenge and Career work much as before, with the former giving you a slightly truncated experience with one-shot qualifying and Grand Prix races to beat in an easier to digest format, while the latter is a full-fat, no-holds barred season with all of the ins and outs, from choosing the right tyre strategies for the dynamic weather conditions that ensue during a race to putting in numerous qualifying laps to ensure a decent position on the grid. Career mode is as detailed as ever, but compared to last year's effort, it's business as usual for all intents and purposes.
It's this backbone of F1 2013 that remains practically unchanged. Yes, F1 2012 nailed it in terms of presentation, content and the level of detail both on and off the track, but seriously, we're struggling to see how this year's iteration is all that different to what's gone before. Granted, the handling feels more realistic and consequently more demanding, even with the assists switched on, and the 3D racing line can't prepare you for just how hideously difficult that first corner at Monza can be if you don't slam on the anchors, or how deceptively hard the fast curved straights of Brands Hatch are if you're not laser-focused on getting them right.
In fact, anything but absolute focus is punished in spades in F1 2013, with aggressive rival AI happy to plough into you if you fail to move and penalties coming thick and fast for the slightest infraction like cutting a corner. But the feeling you get when you bag a hard-earned win is truly second to none. Even on the game's easiest difficulty levels, winning is tough, and victories are rewarded with a sequence involving your driver jumping for joy and celebrating with the team. They'll be happy with your performance, and as long as you keep outperforming your rival (top tip: choose someone rubbish), you'll make good progress through F1 2013's Season Challenge and Career modes.
Beyond the Grand Prix and Career, you'll find the Proving Grounds where you can cut your teeth in the Scenario Mode, in which you have to complete various objectives as a Rookie Driver, which unlock further scenarios with Team Mate Battle, Championship Title and Final Year tests offering up increasingly taxing races. You'll find the same Scenario Mode, Time Trial and Time Attack in F1 Classics too, meaning there's most definitely no shortage of content on offer for the Formula One hardcore to master. Of course, the casual F1 fan will find much to enjoy in F1 2013 too, although the difficulty and realistic handling can prove to be something of a barrier to entry for most. F1 2013 is marginally harder than F1 2012, that's for sure, although flashbacks and the ability to now create mid-session saves alleviates that somewhat.
There's no faulting just how proficient Codemasters is in crafting a stellar racing game, and with some of the best physics and handling models in the business, F1 2013 is yet another example of how the developer's extensive experience translates to great racing games. Multiplayer too is as fleshed out and fully-featured as you'd hope, with local split-screen, co-op championship, and sprint, endurance (a quarter of an entire Grand Prix), a 7-lap Grand Prix and custom races all present and correct, with support for up to 16 players, offering countless hours of F1 racing with like-minded hardcore drivers. All the bases have been covered in F1 2013, and then some.
To that end, the achievements also aim to rope you in for the long haul, demanding multiple playthroughs of the Season Challenge, as well as clocking clean laps in Time Trial and Time Attack, and completing 50 races in multiplayer. It's an achievement list that will take ages to complete, although there is some crossover between this and the list from the previous games. All in all, it's a bit too focused on grinding, despite focusing on each and every part of the game, encouraging you to explore every mode thoroughly.
Another predictably robust effort from Codemasters, F1 2013 delivers the same great Formula One experience as F1 2012, albeit one that's a little tougher and more laden with content. F1 Classics is a genuinely worthwhile addition to the usual current season Career, Season Challenge and so forth, with its own Scenario Mode, Grand Prix, Time Attack and Time Trial to best. There's just a sense that F1 2012 was more of a leap forward for the series, whereas F1 2013 feels like more of a baby step.
That said, F1 2013 is still a superlative racing game, and we hope to see more classic content in future iterations. We can't help but look forward to seeing where Codemasters takes the series on next-gen consoles too. Until then, you can't go far wrong in taking F1 2013 out for a spin, unless I'm very much mistaken.
Authentic engine noises and radio chatter from your team is still as wonderful as always, but the inclusion of Murray Walker makes this the best sounding F1 yet. We wish there was more from the old fella in the game, but he's knocking on a bit now. He'll be 90 soon!
Stunning in every respect once again, it's getting harder and harder to find fault with just how pretty the F1 series looks. It's wholly authentic and looks exceptional in wet weather.
The handling feels more realistic this time around, and therefore a lot more demanding. This might not be such a bad thing, but for newcomers or more casual players, it could prove to be a huge turn off. Setting the difficulty to amateur should mean just that, however it's still too tough even at the lowest levels. F1 2012 got it right. Here, the balance seems ever so slightly off, failing to cater to less skilled drivers.
This year, F1 feels like the first truly iterative instalment. Where 2011 and 2012 brought about big changes, 2013 is really all about the F1 Classics mode, and it's not quite enough. You can take classic cars onto modern tracks and vice-versa though, which is cool.
Some of the same achievements from previous years make a comeback, with one or two new ones chucked in for good measure, There's a good spread, but none of them particularly capture the imagination. Standard fare then.
It's pole position once again for Codemasters' F1, despite a lack of any real, meaningful changes over F1 2012 beyond the addition of F1 Classics. F1 2013 is still a superb racer, but we're expecting big things for next year. Go! Go! Go!