We learned last week that Codemasters had snatched the rights to produce the official Formula 1 game from Sony, and the first installment in the series will arrive next year.
Codemasters have a clear choice in how to approach this. They can cynically exploit the F1 brand and just stick the official drivers and team colours on a bog-standard racing engine.
Or they can create something truly original that will court both young newcomers to the sport and long-term fans; those looking for a quick race, and those hankering for an immersive, long-term challenge. Here’s what I think they should do with the new F1 game.
Cater for both crowds. Racing game fans are generally split between those who want pick-up-and-play arcade fun, and those who are happy to while away hours with a realistic simulator refining setups and chasing lap times.
Geoff Crammond’s excellent Grand Prix series proved you can create a game that caters for both crowds. Turn all the driving aids on, and you can ricochet off the Monte-Carlo walls to your heart’s content. Turn them off, and try tackling the same event with full race distance and the weather changing as you drive, and it suddenly becomes exponentially more demanding.
Proper career mode. Inevitably the game will have to be based around the current season. But why not throw in a few of the last years’ teams, drivers and tracks as well?
If the new game covered the seasons from 2001 to today then fans of Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa could re-create their heroes paths from the likes of Sauber and Minardi to to Ferrari and Renault.
Why not take the idea a step further and offer expansion packs bundling different seasons together? A ‘Michael Schumacher years’ kit would go down a storm in Germany and I’d love to have a go on a ‘turbo era’ version.
Challenge mode. While we’re nicking ideas from the past, let’s merge F1 history with Gran Turismo’s ‘Challenge mode’. A sub-game could re-create famous moments from F1′s past – you could be Nigel Mansell chasing down Nelson Piquet at Silverstone in 1987, or Kimi Raikkonen racing from 17th to first at Suzuka in 2005, or Juan Manuel Fangio reeling in the Ferraris of Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins at the Nurburgring in 1957. Complete the challenges to unlock bonus tracks or cars.
Evolving cars. We all know that a Ferrari at Monza looks totally different to one at Monte-Carlo. The graphics should reflect that, with tea tray wings on the super-fast tracks, and aerofoils bolted onto every available surface at the street races.
Checklist. No official F1 game should go to market in the 21st century without the following: race control modelling including safety car periods, car damage and reliability modelling, online play, changeable weather and convincing computer driver intelligence.
What do you want from the new Codemasters F1 game? What other racing games should it borrow ideas from? And what should it avoid?