F1 2010 – the F1 Fanatic review

F1 reviews

"F1 2010" by Codemasters

F1 2010, Codemasters’ official Formula 1 game, has finally arrived four years after the last licensed F1 title for major formats.

Appearing on the shelves as the most exciting F1 season in years heads for a thrilling conclusion, does the game give F1 fans the gaming experience they’ve been missing for years?

Behind the wheel

"F1 2010" by Codemasters

Not since the famed “Grand Prix” series by Geoff Crammond has an up-to-date Formula 1 game had an even halfway decent physics model. The previous generation of games, restricted to the Playstation only, were relatively easy to pick your way through providing you could point the car in the right direction.

F1 2010 is not a hardcore simulation in the rFactor/iRacing mould, but there is a impressive degree of realism in how the cars behave.

For example, it’s easy to spot the different in sensation between the option and prime tyres, or driving with full and empty fuel tanks. At slow tracks your car feels smothered in downforce. Trim the wings at Monza and it’s a different beast entirely – lightning acceleration but twitchy in the corners.

All of this assumes you play the game on ‘hard’ or ‘expert’ mode. Turn the difficulty setting down any lower than that and you’ll win with little difficulty even if you don’t know Eau Rouge from Rascasse. You’ll also completely miss out on the game at its best.

There are subtle differences in how the cars handle, too. As you’d expect, the Red Bull is quite forgiving to drive, HRT’s F110 less so.

There’s an array of settings for making the driving experience more or less difficult, some of which are essential if you use a gamepad instead of a steering wheel and pedals. See the F1 2010 checklist for details.

Weather

The car physics is tied into deeply impressive models for weather and grip. As in real life, the surface of the track is constantly evolving.

At the start of a practice session the track feels slippery, then as the rubber builds up it offers more grip. The effect is even more pronounced at non-permanent tracks like Monaco and Singapore.

The weather, too, is ever-changing. Drops of rain quickly send the cars scurrying into the pits en masse for faithfully-recreated intermediate and wet tyres.

The water effects are truly stunning. Racing in heavy rain is an intense experience which shows off “F1 2010″ at its best. Clouds of spray from cars up ahead blur your vision, forcing you to duck out of their slipstream to get a clear view ahead.

And when the rain eases off it’s up to you to gamble on intermediates or slicks. In the meantime you can prolong the life of your tyres by hunting out the still-damp sections of track away from the dry racing line.

Race weekend

"F1 2010" by Codemasters

You can dive straight into a race with a randomly-assigned grid position, do an abbreviated race weekend (60 minute practice, 20 minute qualifying and a race of variable length) or the full monty: three practice sessions, three-part qualifying and full race.

The entire weekend happens from the point of view of your garage. When you’re not on track the mechanics busy themselves with your car while you thumb through the timing screens, check your tyre allocations and have a peek at what your team mate is up to.

You can fiddle away with the set-up, either using one of seven presets suggested by your race engineer or by diving in to the more detailed options and working out wing angles, gear ratios, camber and the rest for yourself (see the checklist for more).

In practice and qualifying you can fast-forward through lulls in the action but you’ll lose precious minutes on the track if you prang your car and it needs repairing.

As is the case everywhere in the game, Codemasters have paid close attention to getting the little details right. Such as the order the cars appear on-track in practice: the smaller teams go out first, using up every precious moment of testing time, while the big guns sit back waiting for the track surface to improve.

Races

"F1 2010" by Codemasters

There’s not much of a challenge in getting away from the line quickly in “F1 2010″, which is a bit of a disappointment. However, Codemasters have addressed that typical racing game bugbear of being able to out-brake all the cars at the first corner. Rival drivers use the full width of the track so that even on the easiest modes it’s hard to gain a dozen places at once.

The negative aerodynamic effect of running closely behind a rival has clearly been toned down in the interests of producing a more exciting game. That allows you to test the artificial intelligence of your computer-controlled rivals, which is often impressive when it comes to racing for position.

As you move closer to them they move off-line to defend. Sometimes they seem a little too keen to block, with cars moving off-line far too soon when they’re in no immediate danger. A bit like Giancarlo Fisichella at Suzuka five years ago…

At other times the AI is less successful. In some instances your computer rivals appear rather dumb, queueing up behind you instead of diving past when you pull back onto the track after a spin. Brake-test a rival at 200mph and they’ll miraculously get on the brakes in time instead of having a Mark Webber-sized shunt.

If you run into the back of a rival you’ll often get slapped with a drive-through or time penalty. Do it too many times and you’ll be disqualified.

However the “F1 2010″ stewards seem less concerned about you pushing a driver who’s alongside your car off the track or into a wall (a la Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello in Hungary).

"F1 2010" by Codemasters

Corner cutting is penalised too, so you won’t get away with cheating the exit kerbs at Hockenheim turn one or Istanbul turn nine, for example.

The game’s generally impressive attention to detail lapses somewhat when it comes to your race engineer. Simply put, there’s no shutting him up. You might be wrestling with the car at Spa in the rain when he starts waffling on about your engine temperature or, worst of all, points out that the track is wet, as if you hadn’t noticed.

You can mute him at the risk of missing his rare useful comments, such as when a yellow flag has been deployed or when you’re due a pit stop. But there are omissions too: switch to wet tyres during a dry race and he raises no objections, nor does he let you know how many of the cars in front of you are yet to make a pit stop.

You can also make adjustments at the wheel, tweaking your front wing angles and turning your engine up or down as needed. Running in the hot air of another car for too long can over-stress it and although reliability failures are not simulated a tired engine will be less powerful.

Pit stops are modelled – both mandatory and optional. You can select auto-pilot for pit stops or you can take control yourself and mow down your mechanics Kubica-style and cop a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane.

What strikes you most about the race mode is how it gives a much better impression of being in a real race than other games do. The crowd is bigger than on Friday or Saturday and you can hear the sound of other cars on nearby sections of the track.

Computer cars have races of their own and occasionally spin off, bringing out the yellow flags. If you’re at the back of the field being lapped you’ll be shown blue flags telling you to move over. As with the yellow flags, failing to obey them leads to a penalty.

Your F1 career

"F1 2010" by Codemasters

Career mode is where the game really comes together, giving you the ability to start with one of the three new teams for 2010 and work your way up into a top team.

Again, the experience is better if you commit to one of the more challenging difficulty levels. On medium level you can win easily in any car (I’ve just scooped the drivers’ championship with Virgin) but on the harder modes you have to focus on beating your team mate and hitting the targets set by your team.

The practice sessions take on a new dimension as the team brings upgrades to the car. Successfully beat a set lap time in practice and the performance boost is yours.

You are set targets for qualifying and the race, and the team are always keeping an eye on which of their two drivers are ahead. Fail to beat your team mate and he’ll get the upgrades instead of you.

As in real life, you need to keep on top of your engine allocation (not too difficult given you can’t blow them) and you have a limited number of tyres per weekend.

You have the usual career mode choices as different teams offer you contracts. On top of that are the “live the life” aspects of the game, where you are quizzed by reporters and your answers, along with your race performances, have a bearing on your future. In the early stages the press conference questions are very repetitive, but it improves as you get further into the season.

Graphics

"F1 2010" by Codemasters

You’ve got a full set of 2010 cars and tracks to play with, including the new Korean Grand Prix circuit which looks rather better in the game than the glimpse of it we had a few weeks ago. Still you have to wonder how accurately they can represent a track that hasn’t held a single race yet.

The car models are from the start of the season so there are several current details missing. For example, Mercedes haven’t got their distinctive split engine air intake and ‘blade’ roll hoop. The performance updates earned during career mode don’t seem to have a visible affect on the cars.

The same goes for the liveries. For example, the HRTs have their early-season livery on with white stripes. Nor do ‘Bruno’ and ‘Karun’ appear on the sidepods, just the HRT logo. Despite these omissions the quality of the liveries themselves is brilliant.

The simulation of Monaco – always a challenge for an F1 game – is excellent. Bristling with detail, it’s narrow enough to give you claustrophobia and so undulating that, from the cockpit view, at times it’s hard to see what piece of track you’re aiming for. A wall-brushing hot lap around here is something to be proud of.

The Singapore night and Abu Dhabi sunset races are present and correct – the light transitions at Yas Marina are especially impressive. The updated Silverstone and Bahrain tracks are there too, the latter complete with that hideous stretch of extra tarmac that has thankfully been deleted for 2011.

Given the quality of the graphics it’s a shame the replay feature deprives you of the opportunity to truly enjoy them. You can’t cycle through other cars to see what happened elsewhere in the race and the external camera angles aren’t very good.

Damage

"F1 2010" by Codemasters

By Codemasters’ own admission the damage model in “F1 2010″ leaves something to be desired.

Breakages are limited to the wings and wheels. Degrees of damage are simulated too – for example, you can knock an front end plate off but continue racing, turning up the wing angles to counter the understeer.

Lose the front wing entirely and the car refuses to turn at high speeds, which I discovered with spectacular consequences in the Monaco tunnel. The effect is toned down considerably in the easier difficulty settings.

But you need a very hefty blow to cause race-ending damage. I see Lewis Hamilton played “F1 2010″ before racing at Monza last week. Perhaps that’s why he thought he’d get away with his first-lap contact with Felipe Massa.

Patch

"F1 2010" by Codemasters

Codemasters have said there are no plans to release a patch or download-able content for “F1 2010″.

This is a pity, as there are obvious avenues for expansion and improvement – driver moves, model and graphic updates for cars and tracks, and so on. Not least of which cutting 80% of what your race engineer comes out with.

Although the game seems to have had a thorough bug-testing there are a couple of glitches. Notably turn 19 at Valencia, where the computer cars slow down far too much.

Some of the drivers’ performances could so with a tweak as well. If Vitaly Petrov and Vitantonio Liuzzi performed as well in real life as they do in this game there wouldn’t be quite so many rumours about who will be driving their cars next year.

Verdict

"F1 2010" by Codemasters

When it comes to F1 games you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Economics demands the game appeal to as broad an audience as possible, so it can’t be overly taxing. But F1 fans and dedicated gamers want a challenging, authentic game with lasting replay value.

“F1 2010″ goes a long way towards meeting those conflicting needs.

Rendered in high-definition with the best wet-weather effects I’ve ever seen in a racing game “F1 2010″ almost looks better than the real thing on a decent television.

The developers have paid close attention to the rule book and crafted a game that observes F1’s complicated and ever-changing regulations, yet presents them in a manner that creates an entertaining game.

It’s high time we saw official F1 titles expanded to include earlier seasons and support races but licence restrictions mean it is up to FOM whether we ever see that.

Improved damage modelling and further refinements to the artificial intelligence must be top of the list for areas to receive attention for “F1 2011″, along with race suspensions and stoppages. These are what keep the game from a top score.

F1 has gone far too long without an official game of any kind, and even longer without a good one. Codemasters have remedied that with a game that should appeal to as wide a mix of casual players, hardcore gamers and dedicated F1 fans as is possible.

F1 Fanatic rating

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“F1 2010″ by Codemasters

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146 comments on F1 2010 – the F1 Fanatic review

  1. Nice review, Keith. Still waiting for Amazon’s ‘dispatched’ email, but seeing as I won’t be able to play tomorrow, I won’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t arrive till Saturday.

    Are the driver aids limited by difficulty level? like the old Geoff Crammond games, where you got fewer driver aids available to you as the level went up, or can you still have braking assistance on the hardest level?

    Sad to hear that the race engineer is less than perfect, but at least it’s not the TV commentary style we’ve had in past games. (Having said that, I wouldn’t mind the odd Murray Walker “Fan-tas-tic!” whenever I overtake someone ;))

    It’s sad there won’t be any DLC, but I imagine they want to concentrate on ways of parting us with our cash in F1 2011 as opposed to grafting Nick Heidfeld into the existing game.

    You’ve mentioned that the devs read this blog, so hopefully they will be able to implement some of your suggestions in the next game.

  2. amitesh said on 23rd September 2010, 15:32

    That’s a fairly detailed review Keith. You’ve obviously spent enough time to notice slow cars in valencia turn 19, forgiving bulls vs. Skittish HRTs etc.
    Cpl of Q’s:
    Were you using a wheel – how’s the force feedback?
    And any idea if the game will be moddable on the PC? That could solve a lot of AI glitches, livery and talent updates etc without an ‘official’ patch.
    Cheers

  3. FSONE 2008, RFT 2009 and RFT2010 have been my F1 games for a while now. If the high budget codemasters can’t make the cars feel as realistic, with those driving aids turned off, as these free download mods for rFactor – I’ll be HUGELY disappointed. The beautiful graphics and awesome weather will go a long way towards negating that disappointment, but ultimately, I’m buying this to feel what it’s like to drive an F1 car. Leave those ‘all appeal’ types to Need for Speed and the like.

  4. I played this for a few hours last night on the pc with a xbox controller – massive difference from the keyboard, you can control your throttle and braking ’nuff said –
    I played with a variety of difficulties trying to figure out which one i could handle and wouldn’t be a challenge. Made it through the full session of P1 on the last position, on p2 after about 5 or 10 laps my rear suspension had a nervous breakdown and i had to go to P3 still in the last position. My problem is i’ve tried every set up i could find and cannot seem to go any faster then 2:11 on that track- might just be me not finding the proper difficulty lever or just being a true noob at this game. Anyway, the above aside, i like it, i feel like Codemasters delivered on 90% of the expectations they set. There is only one BIG problem i have, and it’s not about the gameplay per-say it’s something a bit different; Your driver can’t be a girl, if you love f1 and want to play an f1 game and go through the career mode and be the first woman to win the f1 championship you can’t do that in this game, codemasters, really? It doesnt bother me that much but my girlfriend is kind of ****** about this – i love f1 as much as the next dude here but man, she’s a whole other sort of crazy when it comes to this sport – and i understand why.

    • “trying to figure out which one i could handle and wouldn’t be a challenge” should be “trying to figure out which one i could handle and would still be a challenge”

      • Oh, and one last thing. Guys, don’t bash Codemasters for not making this game a true SIM racing game, with the amount they have to pay for the license i understand them trying to push this for a broader audience. Enjoy it for what it is, the best COMPLETE f1 game so far.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 23rd September 2010, 15:53

      I’m sure I had the option to use a girl’s name when I played the game. Must try that again later.

      • The option exists, i feel like a tool now. Please excuse my ignorance and put it to the fact that i was so excited to actually play the game that the fact that it was one click away was one click too far from me at the time and i assumed that the option did not exist. Mea culpa as they say.

        Anyway Codemasters made one hell of a game; is it a true SIM no, is it as close as you can get and still keep the game fun and immersive HELL YEAH!

    • Good point Dragos, but in all honesty, I can’t blame Codemaster people not to have thought about it.

    • You covered all the points i’ve been asking about lately, using xbox controller for PC.
      I’ve been playing racing games for a long time using keyboard, never had a wheel and just now thinking to get xbox controller and here i find your comment which urges me to buy one :)
      cheers

  5. hi will there be a f1 2010/2011 on wii?
    because f1 2009 was such an easy game its not a good game
    has anyone got the answer to my question
    thanks

  6. hi will there be a f1 2010/2011 on wii?

  7. Having played this game on PC, I’m very disappointed by the cars handling and sound. While the engines sound good, it lacks the minor details which make a racing game a great one. For example in rFactor, GTR Evolution and even NFS Shift, you get a good sense of traction from the sound alone, yet in this game, there seems to be no tire screeching sound up until you spin. This makes it hard to know where the limit of the circuit and your car lies, whether your car is understeering or oversteering, whether you went into the corner too fast…

    The graphics aren’t anything special either. I found them to be whitewashed, blurry and lacking of colour. The brownish tint the game has just doesn’t convey the atmosphere of what modern F1 is all about. They should have left that colour scheme for a 1970’s F1 game.

    I was even left disappointed by a very basic thing, camera movement inside the cockpit. There seems to be no head movement or G-Force simulation, or even a ‘look to apex’ option. The result- a joyless sensation, of an otherwise great experience.

    I know I’m criticising this game a lot, but I can’t help but feel this game was rushed into the market before the season ends in a bid to sell more copies. The driving experience is nowhere near as good as it should be and the customization options, ranging from camera movement to indepth car control, are non-existent.

    Maybe I have a high standard, being a huge fan of GTR Evolution in particular, but this is no excuse for Codemasters. They focused on nearly everything, besides what really matters, the driving experience.

    Saying I enjoyed the last game (F1 2006 on PS2!) more, you can imagine my disappointment. :(

  8. Can’t wait to get it an load it. Thanks for a thorough review Keith.
    I’m not overly excited, but we’ll see after laying down a few laps.
    My last decent F1 sims were chronologically (waay back) Power F1, EA’s 2001, GP3, and more recently Rfactor’s built ins. So nothing horrible, but I think that’s pretty much all there is at the PC sim level.
    So hopefully this will provide a decent upgrade.
    The rain graphics I’ve seen in the previews look amazing and I’m excited to be able to drive into a proper f1 pit stop. That’s always been missing!
    Now for some decent in game coaching,,,,

  9. On F12006 you would be penalised for cutting a corner even if it wasnt your fault, eg if someone drove into you and made you spin, if you cut the corner you still got a time penalty, used to drive me crazy, is that the case on this game?

    • Dan Thorn (@dan-thorn) said on 23rd September 2010, 16:56

      There are two settings for the penalties – on the most extreme one I was getting warned for cutting corners even though I still had two wheels on the track. On the more lenient setting though it isn’t really an issue.

  10. daykind said on 23rd September 2010, 16:55

    Great review Keith. One part of the review I was surprised to see.
    There’s not much of a challenge in getting away from the line quickly in “F1 2010″, which is a bit of a disappointment.
    Considering how it was impossible to keep the lead from pole in F1 2009, I would have thought this was good news!
    Even so, I’m really looking forward to it and I’m buying the PC Version.

  11. I would like to put a question to all those who have played f1 2006 and the new f1 2010. How do the two games compare? Which would you say is better.

    Futhermore with regards to rfactor it is good but it to is not perfect. What is f1 2010’s biggest downfall compared to rfactor?

    Am having a hard time deciding if i should by this game. Worried it will just be grid or dirt with an f1 skin on and i didnt like either of those games

  12. Looks fantastic. Can’t wait to get a PC copy when I can.

    …But why have they omitted car failures? Surely that’s about 10 lines of code. Very strange.

    • Alastair said on 23rd September 2010, 17:53

      Maybe I’m being cynical, but why sell something once when you can sell it 2 or 3 times? Same with phones; make it a little better, sell it again. Rinse and repeat. They can add a few features, change the sponsors,and we’ll all buy it again next year, and the next, and the next, etc.

    • I’d hope car failures when implemented are more than ‘about 10 lines of code’. I think it was Geoff Crammond’s GP2 that would randomly introduce failures without warning. 60 laps of a Grand Prix only for your engine to suddenly stop.

      I know that kind of thing could happen in F1, and it’s very frustrating for the driver (and fans of that driver) but this is a game!

      When implemented, I’d like to see car failures implemented logically – engines and gearboxes wear over time – you need to manage your engine allocation, You might start to hear the engine misfire, or your race engineer warns you that the engine is struggling and you need to manage it home, That kind of thing instead of ‘whoops…bang’.

  13. Great review Keith. Cant wait to play it!

  14. I would have liked to be a spectator to other multiplayer races in session, then I could get my F1-watching jollies without waiting for the next REAL race. And possibly see more crashes and paint rubbing too.

  15. Those issues with outbreaking everyone is very much solved. you just can’t do that. I find it pretty annoying i always picks up a puncture. I don’t know why but it happens all the time. And on expert i would like still to have these playbacks. I love that on expert a lotus is as fast as a lotus is in real life. There it seems that everything is balanced well. I play on 50% race distance and i totally mess up every single time. I have managed 11 laps now and that is the furthest i have got, but i am dead last because of one of these punctures. Very annoying. Or maybe save during a GP would be great. I also think that you don’t get as much feedback from the car that you would want. Sometimes it just spins out in the first corner in Bahrain.
    And the starts are not very interesting because you are not going much faster if you control your wheel spin or if you just floor it when the lights go. And during the pitstops the car acts very unusual, it looks very messy. And i don’t get this “control your car yourself” thing, i am not doing anything and it still turns into the pit garage by its own. And yes it is set to manual.
    I hope most of these problems are solved in the 2011 game, but as a first F1 game from codies it is great. And the AI is very good.
    this is a very good game, but it is not faultless. 4/5 is a fair judgment.

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