F1 2012 – E3 Preview
After being back in the driver’s seat (sorry) for the last two years, Codemasters have helped F1 reach the forefront of the racing genre and establish its dominance once more. Normally with yearly iterations of sports games, the player is left to question what’s been changed beyond the odd squad update or engine tweaks, but anyone tackling the F1 license has a much tougher job on their hands. Every year of F1 brings a whole raft of new rules and updates, circuits and drivers, and 2012 is no different; double diffusers have been banned, most of the cars have ugly front noses, America is back on the calendar leading to the longest season ever, and the Pirelli tyres have evened the playing field to record-breaking levels.
The demo available at E3 was a build of the upcoming American Grand Prix; a circuit that combines some of the best sections of other circuits on the calendar to provide a ‘best of’ track that’ll provide plenty of challenge and competition for players old and new. For those new to the series, a Young Driver’s Test feature has been announced, allowing players to become accustomed to how the cars handle before tackling the big leagues. Inside the career mode, the paddock view that was a key feature of the previous games is gone, allowing for a more streamlined experience that allows the player to get to the action far quicker than before. The career mode is still just as robust and detailed as it was before, so the removal of the paddock menu of previous games hasn’t fundamentally altered the way the career mode is approached.
The handling is aiming to be a combination of both previous iterations; on straights it will be quite sticky, as in 2010, but turning and cornering are handled more like last year’s game, with the back-end likely to drift out, and moving too much with DRS (Drag Reduction System) activated will cause loss of traction and potential spins. It’s a definite best of both worlds scenario, with the cars feeling incredibly responsive, meaning that feedback is clearer and thus allowing the player to adapt quickly and compensate for any driving errors. If you do end up spinning out or veering off the track like I did after trying to be too clever with the DRS, then the flashback feature is still present to help erase those devastating mistakes.
The 2012 season so far has resulted in seven different winners after eight races; a record first for the motorsport. Capturing that kind of frantic action in the game is something that would potentially pose a challenge to many, but it was a much simpler task for Codemasters, who took this into account and tightened the gaps between each team in their tier system. As a result you won’t find the same drivers speeding off into the distance every time, and may even see a few surprise frontrunners every now and again. The various design quirks of each team have been taken into account as well, meaning that Mercedes will have their ‘double-DRS’ and Red Bull will have their unique exhaust system, but not their car flooring, which was deemed illegal and thus had to be replaced.
There’s also a greater level of strategy than ever before in the motorsport series, as team orders and fuel levels will take a greater precedent than ever before. The team orders are dynamic as well, meaning that if you’re struggling for points late in the season but your team-mate is battling for championship supremacy then your team will give you orders to let them through, which you can choose to obey or disregard, though be careful if you try the latter during contract negotiation season. They even contemplated including the now infamous “Fernando is faster than you” line for anyone unlucky enough to be Alonso’s underperforming team-mate. As for refuelling, F1 2012 will finally let you decide whether you want to over or under-fuel the car before a race, with the latter giving you an early performance boost but forcing you to slow down late in the race to avoid running empty, whilst the former disadvantages you at the start but means you can push for longer in the late stages of the race.
Codemasters’ continued work on the series has allowed them a closer relationship with Pirelli and the constructors, meaning that they’re able to access an extensive range of data in order to fine-tune the cars and their relationship to the tyres, as well as effectively control the differences between each compound and how they’re affected by temperatures and driving styles. Their hard work on the previous entries has also meant that implementing the new American Grand Prix was barely a hassle, as even though the track still isn’t complete in reality, it’s there in its entirety and fully playable in-game.
However, there is a cut-off point to the data they can implement into the game before its release, come September, and that point is much sooner than many may think. While elements of the season like the team overalls and car liveries were finalised back in Australia, there are still some unknowns that the developers have had to deal with, like the fact that they’re unaware what tyre compounds will be used in future races, as that information is only released three races at a time. With that in mind, they looked at what was used last year and made educated guesses as to what tyres will be used in what races.
There are even more changes I could talk about, such as the fact that the drivers can now be seen adjusting the brake balance in the car if you choose to do so, and if I had more time with the game and the minds behind it, I probably wouldn’t have left or stopped asking questions until I knew as much about the game as the developers did. There is absolutely no question that F1 2012 will be the most definitive representation of F1 to date, and if it keeps the momentum from previous years, it could easily take the title of the year’s best racer.
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