Review: F1 2013 Lacks Precision Engineering
Over the years F1 games have been edging closer and closer towards being something truly worthy of the glamorous, precisely engineered and at times incredible sport that inspired them but 2013's iteration is a bit of a step sideways.
- Worth The Time?If only for the exhilaration of being behind the wheel of an F1 car.
- Things LovedAn excellent simulation of the F1 driving experience that's very accessible- as aracde-ey or hardcore as you want. Cars looks absolutely stunning, handling requires real skill and finesse. Plenty to do. Scenario challenges are good fun.
- Things HatedClassic Mode feels unfinished and bare, visuals are a little inconsistent, erratic damage system, entire game feels sterile or routine.
- RecommendationFans should have a good time despite the lack of character to the game and anybody with a passion for racing games will find something to like but it doesn't last.
- Name: F1 2013
- Genre: Racing Sim
- Players: 1-16
- Multiplayer: Splitscreen, LAN, online
- Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
- Developer: Codemasters Birmingham
- Publisher: Codemasters Racing
- Price: R689 (PS3, Xbox 360), R445 (PC)
- Reviewed On: PS3
If you’ve ever watched F1 on TV, I can tell you it’s so much more intense up close. Seeing the cars glinting in the sun from every angle, their engines assaulting your ears (despite ear plugs, mind you) and the shear speed and delicate precision with which they glide around the track – it’s a sight to behold. For the most the 2013 edition of F1 manages to capture a fair amount of that but quite like this year’s real F1 season, it feels a bit flat in places and I dare say dull though in this case a cocky young German is not to blame.
The menus may be bland, a bit convoluted and the text just about readable but you’ll immediately notice that there is a lot to do in this game. You’ve got Classic Mode, Grand Prix, Career and a Challenge Mode; each with loads of content and then there’s still multiplayer. There’s also My F1 where you can setup your custom settings and even create a custom difficulty setting.
Often games are too hard or too easy but F1 lets you make it as realistically challenging or as arcade-ey as you like with a number of driving aids, levels of damage, opposition AI to toggle or play around with. I went for something on the easier end of the scale before ramping things up albeit with damage always fully on. Why? Because I wanted to crash into a barrier at the highest possible speed. My best was something like 220 kph.
It takes some exploring to see all the game has to offer but once you do, it can keep you busy for many hours. Career mode and multiplayer are largely unchanged from previous years but there’s fresh burnt runner elsewhere. First off let’s talk about the challenges. They come in two flavours – scenarios and time-trial. The latter is self-explanatory but the former is quite cool. Much like challenges in other games such as the recent NFS titles, you are given a specific car in set conditions on a set track and given a task such as finishing in a certain position or coming from behind to overtake 4 cars etc. There isn’t a whole lot of variety when it comes to playing these challenges out but they are good fun.
For the first time, Codemasters has included a Classic mode packed with a whopping five cars and 10 drivers from the 80’s and while the mode has an initial stench of history and offers a slightly different experience, it feels a tad too lifeless and barren. The effect wears off quickly and then it offers little more than the regular challenges but with classic cars and on classic tracks and also the option to race in a grand prix. The most annoying thing is that it feels as they held back on this one. Prost is not in the car that made him famous nor is Senna present at all. Imola didn’t even seem to be an option amongst the classic tracks. Maybe these things were kept out for reasons beyond the developer’s control but it feels like they were left out for DLC or future games. The concept is sound and these classic 80’s cars feel very different to your modern cars. They might be slower but they are frightfully noisy and perfectly recreate just how crazy F1 was back then. This is especially apparent from the cockpit view where not a single LED is to be seen.
It’s a nice addition and the mode could certainly go somewhere but right now it feels more like a demo of a mode, not quite something fully realised just yet. The Classic scenario challenges are just rehashes of the modern rather than letting you play out famous moments in Formula One from that era. It’s a missed opportunity and that sentiment extends to the entire game really where some thing just lack some thought or effort and feel a little routine.
On to Career Mode. You can play out the 2013 F1 season as your favourite driver or pass the Young Driver’s Test to gain access to the world of F1 as your very own driver. The tests involve setting lap times, accelerating and decelerating within specified parameters, cornering and more. They’re useful for absolute Nascar drivers such as myself. In case you didn’t pick up on it, I insulted Nascar by using it as a synonym for “rookie.” You’re welcome.
You have to pass a number of these tests before your driver can be let loose on the tracks of the world and your performance in these tests will determine whether you, for example, get stuck with a Godawful bucket from Force India or at least enter with a fighting chance as perennial inebriate Kimi Raikonnen’s co-driver on the Lotus team. Just as with a race, the start to your F1 career needs to be as good as possible if you want a chance at top spot. Of course, if you find yourself on a dead-end team you’re welcome to take whatever offers come along from other constructors.
What’s nice is that you can have a pretty straight-forward experience or go very in depth. There are hot laps of each track to watch for tips on how to attack the tarmac, your car has a battery of settings for you to tweak and you can analyse your opponents in great deal after every race. There’s a surplus of statistics that frankly got a tad overwhelming for my simple mind but would certainly be valuable to the hardcore amongst you who go into the game for a real simulator.
Another little thing worth mentioning is that you can save mid-session which is great if you happen to be doing a full length grand prix with qualifying and all and need to take a break.While the modes are extensive, they feel drab at times, Career in particular. It has the same feel that Master League has in PES – you’re just going through the motions.
On the track, cars feel rapid, powerful and require a finesse to control. Provided you’ve upped the difficulty a bit and turned off some driving aids. Precise control inputs are rewarded while twitchiness is punished pretty heavily. The cars are as temperamental as you’d expect. Of course, you could leave everything on easy and have a fun romp around the track.
Therein lies one of the beautiful things about these F1 games, they can be whatever you want them to be. There’s enough analytical and tactical depth for the hardcore crowd but with a few tweaks of the driver settings and difficulty you can go from arcade racer to gruelling Formula One simulator faster than Red Bull’s car can get up to 100 kph. F1 2013 is a very accessible game and goes as deep as you want it to really.
Handling is not perfect, most cars understeer some cars feel a lot more sluggish than they should. This puts a small damper on the experience but with a bit of skill it never becomes an issue.
Visually, it’s all over the place. I raced around a track in the dry and the car itself looked gorgeous. However, the track and surrounds looked dull and even the tyres looked like balloons. I did the same thing but in the rain and suddenly the tyres had tread and slight reflections, the car looked even prettier and the tarmac was all reflective and looked quite good. The track as a whole still looked dead average. Curiously, the classic tracks seem far more detailed. Whichever track you pick they’re all rather deserted and lifeless. They lack any character and feel sterile. There is none of that F1 atmosphere.
Then too, with damage fully on I found it to be erratic. Ramming straight into a barrier yielded a shattered nose and the front wheels coming off. Getting another driver to T-bone me resulted in them having to retire early from the race while my car just lost a front wing but could drive perfectly fine. It’s a woefully inconsistent and unpredictable system that doesn’t seem to behave the way it should.
Regardless, totaling your car brings up some playback options to watch your crash in slow motion or rewind to a safe point before the crash and use a Flashback (there are a set number of these) to retry from that point.
It’s clear that F1 2013 is designed for fans of not only the sport but the series though it comes across as a slightly routine and sterile ode to F1. It’s packed with features and content. You can really get lost in the game and get the full F1 experience but it’s devoid of life or soul. That lack of character may weigh the game down if you intend to sink a good number of hours into it.
It’s become a Codemasters trait to produce games that don’t seem to have much lasting appeal and that’s one of F1 2013’s issues. There are better racing games, for sure, but this game still has its trump card in offering that incredible experience of being behind the wheel of an F1 car. Beyond that, there’s a lot of content but not much motivation to get through a whole lot of it.