It’s fair to say F1 2012 is rather similar to F1 2011. It’s also rather obvious to say that. It’s not like the most recent entry in Codemasters’ take on the Formula 1 simulators is going to suddenly turn into a Borderlands rip-off, much as we can’t help but see that as a brilliant thing.
But while this is once again F1 by numbers and a deep, loving re-creation of the sport that would normally alienate everyone apart from existing fans of fast cars going fast, this time around there are concessions.
Don’t worry: it’s still as deep as you want it to be. You can still turn expert difficulty on and do nothing but crash for the entirety of the race if you really want it that way (this is in no way a comment on our skill level). It still has all the officially licensed teams and drivers. It’s still very much a pure F1 game.
But there is a new Young Driver Test mode, allowing new players to get used to all the systems and quirks of the world of Formula 1 – apparently there’s more to it than just going fast on some roads. Who knew? From the simple test of speeding up and slowing down, through braking on a tough hairpin and correct use of the obligatory rewind system, YDT mode goes out of its way to welcome those who might not have otherwise bothered with an F1 game before. It’s a welcome addition to bring in new players, though admittedly it adds nothing of interest for old hands.
What does add something of interest is the series of challenges against established real-life drivers in Champions mode. Playing through them one by one, you must take on an individual race with set stipulations, usually taking over partway through and having to edge your way through the pack. Anyone familiar with scenario modes in many other sports titles will know what to expect, and will know that they’re really good – forced limitations and barriers to overcome? Sign us up. Seriously, though, they’re a lot of fun and definitely the sort of thing even veterans of the series will find interesting.
F1 2012 also sees the return of both KERS and DRS – the two systems introduced over the last few years in Formula 1 to help with the whole thorny issue of overtaking. The odd thing is, these functions – as real as real can be in the actual sport – feel so much like videogame concessions it can be quit confusing.
KERS acts as a small turbo boost, in essence, best used when accelerating out of a corner, while DRS, which can only be used in certain circumstances, aids in general acceleration, top speed and so on. Both can be used in tandem for easier overtaking, though both are limited in use. Just remember to KERS the hell out of every corner you can and reactivate DRS during qualification. We’re good to you with our advice.
But for the new additions, the return of some solid, gamey features, for the good looks, the accuracy and the absorbing career mode – for all that good, we still don’t feel thoroughly enamoured with F1 2012. It’s a case of, as with last year’s game, it all being a bit samey. Diminishing returns.
There’s only so much that can be done with a game acting as a simulation of a real sport, and with the additions this year – relatively minor as they are – it just serves to highlight that Codemasters, just as any other developer in the same situation would be, is running out of things to put in there to keep it fresh.
If you’ve been an avid purchaser of the F1 games since Codemasters took the licence a few years back, you’re going to go one of two ways with F1 2012: you’re either going to have bought it already and love it exactly because it’s more of the same, or you’re going to want to avoid it for not doing much beyond what last year’s entry did. It’s as simple as that.
But then, for newcomers, Codemasters has gone and thrown in something to entice you in the shape of Young Driver Test mode. Okay, so it isn’t reason alone to buy F1 2012 – especially if you have no interest in the sport – but it does make it a lot easier to get a hang for the unique handling model, the rules and the idiosyncrasies of the sport.
If you’ve never played before and are looking for a good jumping-off point, F1 2012 is up to the task. On the other hand, if you’re a veteran looking for something to shake the genre up, you’re going to be left wanting. It’s a good game; it just doesn’t bring enough new to the table for us to go shouting about it.