I wanted to wait until I’d completed a season before reviewing this, but even so, I can’t give a comprehensive review as I’ve not raced in a competitive car.
The game is solidly based on the 2010 season, in that the driver lineups only change if you change a team and shunt one driver into the wilderness, and the 19 circuits of 2010 always occur in the same order.
Certain features are not present. The formation lap, safety car and podium presentation/celebration are all out. The first and last are froth as far as I’m concerned, whereas the safety car’s absence is felt. It would be complicated to introduce, but hopefully the 2011 game will see it included.
Codemasters have included a lot of the features of F1 and have an excellent range of customisation options in terms of both car set-up and gameplay choices to make it easier or harder. I have all the raw pace of a sedated James May, so chose most of the easier options, only turning on tyre and fuel simulation. Damage can be non-existent, cosmetic or realistic, but needs setting from the menu.
Players can choose between a short race weekend (brief practice and qualifying, then the race) or a full one (3 practice sessions, full qualifying and then the race). Practices can be skipped, though some include R&D tests.
NB: this is buggy and will wreck your save. The problem can be resolved by switching off autosave, and, after doing the final R&D test, doing qualifying and saving manually. A hassle, but not an enormous one.
Car setups can be dealt with in three ways. Firstly, you can leave it as is. Secondly, your engineer can change the setup for you. Thirdly, you can tinker with a slew of finickity options, such as ballast and aerodynamics. It’s an excellent system that lets the lazy/disinterested (like me) do little or nothing whilst giving those inclined towards customising the car to eke out the maximum pace plenty of scope to do so.
Pit strategy is set pre-race, and ought to be amended because there’s a small but irksome pit bug. The lollipop man is a nervous Nelly, and won’t let you leave if there’s anybody else in the pit lane, potentially costing you multiple places. In a big race, moving your pit stop forward or back a lap will usually prevent this occurring much, if at all. However, this is a bloody obvious bug and should not have been left unfixed.
So, how’s the racing? Pretty damned good, actually. The tracks vary a lot, and it was interesting to find that there was a huge overlap between how much I like watching a track in real life and how much I enjoyed racing on it. Singapore was loathsome, and I absolutely love Interlagos. The only one that stands out as a track I love to watch but hate to drive is Silverstone.
The game offers a number of flashbacks, which are mini-replays and an opportunity to wind back time a short way to prevent a big mistake. These are handy, and entirely optional of course. I had races set for 50% real distance, meaning they last around an hour, and it’s pretty easy to make a few mistakes during that time. I was fantastically quick in places like Monza and Interlagos but appallingly poor in Singapore and elsewhere. The driving is not too difficult, though some of the long, slow corners were the bane of my driving career. It is much easier to overtake in the game than actual F1, and far easier for the lower teams to do well. At the sharp end, it’s more or less realistic.
A fantastic part of the game is the dynamic weather system. Codemasters made a song and dance about this, and it really lives up to the hype. Weather forecasts are pretty accurate, but not always right, and rain can strike during practice, qualifying or the race itself. Naturally, this alters the lap times and driving style required, and affords opportunity to leap up the table if you’re cunning with tyre choices. The first time it rained during my career I stayed out on slicks too long and ended up right at the back of the field. Similarly, when the rain stops a dry line emerges on the racing line, so overtaking (often through standing water) becomes much riskier.
After a session you can have an interview with David Croft, or Sarah Holt (I think) if you get a podium finish. The answers you give can determine who your rival is (beating him helps you get an offer of a drive), how much your present team likes you and your reputation with other teams. It’s a nice feature and means that there’s slightly more to securing a contract than just the race performances.
Overall, F1 2010 is a good game with nice driving, a plethora of options and a fantastic weather system, marred by a pair of obvious bugs that can be largely worked around but should never have been included in the game. There are a few more features that could be added, but the important stuff, save the safety car, is all there.
I’d give it 8/10. It would’ve been 9, but for the bugs.