E3 2012: F1 2012 Hands-On Preview and Live Demo Video – Don't Mess With Texas
Written Thursday, June 21, 2012 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
It's saying something when we're not all that surprised by F1 2012. It measures up to the lofty standard that Codemasters sets itself with the games produced by its world-beating racing studio, looking and playing like F1 2010 and 2011 before it, but with noticeable, incremental improvements to the gameplay, handling, presentation and other aspects that'll likely warrant you adding this to this year's racing wish list.
Unless you utterly despise the sport of Formula One itself, there's no denying that F1 2010 and 2011 have been the best realised simulations of F1 racing to date, with features like tyre wear, an unparalleled weather system and all manner of small details combining to create a realism and feel that's about as close to shuffling into the cockpit of an F1 car as you're ever likely to get. For F1 2012, Codemasters is bringing about a few big changes, starting with the game's front end.
Wave goodbye to the parc fermé and your little office on the paddock from F1 2011. It was deemed too complicated and too confusing, and goodness knows it resulted in some lengthy load times. In it's place is what Senior Producer Paul Jeal calls a “more high brow” approach, with “more car porn”. What that boils down to is a series of streamlined menus designed to quickly get you on to the track without any of the faffing. It looks great and while it may mean losing some of the immersion, it pushes the racing front and centre.
It's less “live the life” this year then, and more just race the goddamn race. And F1 2012 wants to embrace some newcomers that might have been scared away by F1 games in the past, introducing a whole new introduction in the form of the 'Young Driver Test' mode, designed to get rookies acquainted with the handling and intricacies of a Formula One car without being too daunting. It's the perfect 'in' for anyone wanting to get into playing Codies' consistently brilliant F1 games. If you've yet to play one, this year could be your chance to give it a go.
Taking place in Abu Dhabi, you'll master circuits in sections in the Young Driver Test tutorial mode, tackling racing lines and other more technical aspects just like the actual young drivers do for real every November. In an effort to appeal to a wider audience, F1 2012's handling has also been overhauled, striking a happy balance between F1 2010 and F1 2011's handling, doing away with the excitable back ends of F1 2011's cars, meaning a grippier and less unpredictable ride with controllable slides. The same goes for the game's physics, which are a happy “best of” medium between 2010 and 2011. There's also flashbacks taken from the DiRT games for when you bugger up.
Taking to the new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, due to race later this season on November 18th, we climbed behind the wheel of Lewis Hamilton's McLaren Mercedes to take on a time trial lap of the track, finding the handling to be infinitely more accessible in F1 2012 than in its predecessor, without compromising on the realism. Starting with a blind apex into turn one, we make use of the new dynamic 3D racing line that helps you determine the severity of inclines, slopes and camber on the circuit, making it a perfect learning tool.
There are fast left and rights requiring full grip and speed, an Abu Dhabi-style hairpin that demands careful braking and a technical double apex to tackle on the Austin track, which is one of the longer circuits at almost three and a half miles, meaning lap times of just over 1 minute 30 seconds or so are generally considered pretty good. We gave it our best shot, as you can see in the live demo video we recorded from the E3 showfloor below with commentary from Jeal.
You'll notice that there's more detail in the circuit and its surroundings, including more populated grandstands, fronds of waving grass and so on. From a technical standpoint, KERS and DRS is still in the game in accordance with the current FIA Formula One rules, but you can also now adjust your brake bias on the fly using the d-pad, just like the professionals. Apparently Schumacher is constantly fiddling with his brake bias. Now you can too! There's also localised weather fronts, so only parts of the track may be affected by rain or other fronts moving in, meaning tyre choices play a more vital role than ever before.
F1 2012 is still very much a thinking man's racing game then, with careful strategising and tactics required to win races. There's also a more concerted effort at work to make F1 2012 more like watching real Formula One on TV, with even more broadcast-style replays and cameras, as well as more cinematic pit sequences. Codemasters has thought of almost everything for F1 2012 it seems, hoping to please established fans of the series while beckoning in newcomers with open arms. It's still the only F1 game in town, but it's also a great looking racer that promises plenty of depth behind its glossy style and presentation, and therefore likely to be an essential addition to any self-respecting race fan's collection. Which is entirely unsurprising.
F1 2012 will be taking up pole position in September 2012.