Hands On Preview: F1 2013

With the real world of F1 struggling to maintain its excitement, attention once again turns to Codemasters and their now regular F1 series of games to provide all the thrills. And while action on the track remains largely the same (with the exception of the strangely pathetic McLaren) Codemasters have rocked up with an all new way to play.

From the preview build we’ve been playing, it’s clear that the core gameplay is every bit as tight as we’ve come to love from the F1 games. Cars feel razor sharp yet constantly on the edge of control, and the visuals are fantastic despite us playing an unfinished version. it’s slightly hard to comment on the AI (the preview notes point out that the AI drivers are tuned quite aggresively at the moment) but overtaking is every bit as tricky as you would expect, and staying ahead is often even harder. It’s this constant battle for position that makes the racing so tight and enjoyable.

But while the main game will hold everything you’d expect, including the 5 year career mode, time trials, Racenet integration, racing scenarios and a whole host more, it’s the F1 Classics that will catch the eye of F1 fans. Allowing you to plonk yourself into one of the classic cars from the 80s and 90s (even taking on the role of Mansell, Villeneuve and the like) this older style of racing is made all the more authentic by grainy faded visuals, an introduction from Murray Walker, and a noticably different handling model. With less sophisticated aerodynamics and turbo powered engines, racing feels more akin to beefed up karting that the F1 we’ve started to get used to, and throwing a 30 year old superpowered car round a track such as Brands Hatch is one of those “for the love of God don’t blink” moments. You can even take one of the classics round a more modern track if you prefer, giving you a brilliant mix of old and new.

It’s unclear how the different launch versions will work in terms of online play and Racenet, but if it’s anything like GRID 2 then there’ll just be some content not available if you don’t have the right version. I’m not a huge fan of this kind of multi-release, but with the extra content from other versions becoming available later as DLC, there’s always the option to pick it up at a later date.

The big question is whether the F1 Classics mode is enough to push F1 2013 above the last instalment of the series. It’s definitely a worthy inclusion, and great fun to play, but you’ll have to wait for our review of the full finished game before we commit to deciding one way or the other. Either way you can’t accuse Codemasters of a lack of effort, and this could be just what fans of old-style F1 have been looking for all along.

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