Another year passes, giving us another new F1 title from the racing experts at Codemasters. There have been a few games in this series now, and each year Codies up their game bringing in new features, improved racing and the latest in the ever changing car designs and driver lineups. But unlike a mixed racer like GRID2 there are obvious limitations with an annual F1 game – an official license does a brilliant job of keeping things accurate, but the developers are severely limited when it comes to freshening things up each year. Often the rules of F1 make this a natural progression, such as the relatively recent introduction of DRS and KERS, but there wasn’t much change for the current F1 season. So what could Codemasters Birmingham pull out of their locker to make this year’s title a worthy addition? Easy: History.
With the main core of the game the same as last year’s version, it’s a good job there’s something new. Back are the usual options, letting you do a wide range of things such as a full career over several seasons, a shorter mini-career where you challenge other drivers to take their seat in a best-of-three contest, and plenty more besides. The option to do a full co-op season is still here (which is awesome, by the way) and there’s always the online options to keep you racing into the night. Effectively, if you want to know what’s included, read our review of F1 2012 because it’s still included. The racing itself remains every bit as tight, challenging and fast as ever before requiring millimetre-perfect lines through corners and gentle throttle use if you’re going to avoid the gravel traps. The AI is pretty special too, with drivers who you’d expect aggression from showing much more grit and fight on the track.
So what of the new mode? Well, if you’ve been in a cave for a while and not seen any information about it, the F1 Classics mode allows you to take a seat in one of the classic F1 cars from the 80s (and 90s if you get the more pricey version of the game) and race against other cars from the era, on a couple of older tracks. In a rare flex of the license boundaries you can also race newer cars on the older tracks and vice versa if you choose, giving a great indication of just how much has changed in the last 30 years of F1 racing. Sadly the cars on offer are limited, and with only a handful of selected teams (and no classic McLarens in sight) the opportunity of having a full classic season is lacking, instead giving you a choice of individual Grands Prix, a couple of time trial type options and a series of scenario based challenges. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still great fun driving the older cars, and the difference in drivability between them is amazing, but it’s such a huge shame that more couldn’t have been made of the classic cars. The whole mode is introduced by Murray Walker, there’s a slightly yellow tint to the 80s visuals and older style on-screen graphics, and there are some gorgeous sounding engine noises, but it’s all a bit lightweight. I’m really hoping this is a stepping stone to a much fuller classic mode when the F1 series hits the next gen consoles, because being able to relive the Senna and Prost battles while dropping in Schumacher’s Ferrari and Button’s Brawn cars into the same races would have many F1 fans really quite turned on.
Online modes match those found previously, with short sprint races ticking over alongside longer individual ones and full Grand Prix weekends. Races are lag-free (useful when travelling upwards of 200mph) and with most racers looking for a clean run it’s refreshing to be able to race online with people looking to be fair as much as possible. Racenet is here too, with weekly time trial events to test you out, as well as the very cool option to create your own Racenet events on the website and challenge others to compete with your choice of car, track and weather conditions. It’s not quite Racenet to the extent it’s used in GRID 2, but considering there aren’t as many cars or driving styles on offer it’s still a very worthwhile addition, and great for seeing where your skills fit in with the rest of the F1 s013 community.
It feels harsh to be overly critical of F1 2013 not changing much – as mentioned earlier it’s bound by the changes in the sport itself, and there have been efforts to make this year’s game different to that of 2012, both with the new mode and the increasing crapness of the tyres on offer. But it’s also impossible to ignore that while the Classics mode is nice, the game is still much the same overall. That’s no bad thing to new players; the handling is rock solid, the AI is brilliant and everything looks and sounds divine, but it’s tough to recommend it to owners of last year’s game unless the older cars really interest you. Next year, with a new set of rules in F1, very different cars and a whole new generation of machines to aim for I suspect the review will sound very different, but for now we have a very good racing game that’s just been held back a little. Still brilliant, but be cautious if you’ve got F1 2012.
Reviewed on PS3