There’s a good chance that this is the last F1 game we’ll see on this current generation of consoles, so it’s somewhat disappointing to see F1 2013 playing it so safe.
I’ve mentioned in many of my recent sports games reviews that I don’t expect something revolutionary every year when it comes to annualized sports releases, so I can’t say I’m TOO disappointed in the familiarity of F1 2013. In essence, it is what I expected it to be…it’s just that a tiny part of me way in the back of my mind hoped for a “TA DA!!!!!” as opposed to a quite smile and a pat on the back, for lack of a better comparison.
Despite that, however, F1 2013 stands as the series’ best entry, and like so many of the recent sports games that have been reviewed, it is that way because of the smaller improvements on past gameplay elements, and not so much because of anything new or major. Codemasters made a good thing better, and regardless of how much better it is, “better” is still a good thing.
Almost all the major game modes from 2012 have been brought over unchanged (Young Driver’s Test, Career Mode, Season Challenge, and the Proving Grounds). There are some slight changes to the way the cars handle, but if you’re a casual player, it’s not something you’re likely to notice. In fact, even the Young Driver’s Test takes place in the same location, though you are given the option to skip Day 1 if you played through the YDT in 2012.
The most welcome changes to F1 2013 come in the form of some behind the scenes accessibility options. I love spending hours on a long race, and prior to having two kids, I had no problems sitting in my racing cockpit with a Gatorade and racing 50+ laps. Time is now an issue for me, and knocking out an entire race, even a shortened one, while the little ones are napping is getting harder and harder to do. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to do the same race over and over simply because I could never complete the darn thing.
We now have a solution for those of us short on time, and it is SO much of a welcome for something so simplistic:
You can now save anytime during a race and pick up where you left off. Good lord, that’s awesome. I don’t care that it takes me the better part of a week to finish one friggin race; at least I can complete them now without having to constantly start it over! I want to thank Codemasters for this option, and want it to return to all my sports games. I mean let’s face it, at one point Madden had mid-game saves as well. I would love it back.
Scenario Mode is another feature that I loved. The core Career Mode is extremely time consuming. While I love playing through it and going through every tiny aspect of a full Formula One season, time is an issue. Scenario Mode is basically a challenge mode where you are given a variety of challenges spread across a “greatest hits” of your racing career. One challenge might have you making up a number of spots after an ill-timed front wing damage causes an impromptu pit stop, and another might ask you to finish no lower than 2nd place (starting from 7th) on your way to winning the Driver’s Championship in your rookie season.
These quick scenarios are a ton of fun and rarely last any longer than 3-4 laps. They are graded via a medal system (bronze, silver, gold) calculated by the amount of points you receive during each challenge. You’ll find plenty of reasons to go back and try to beat your last score. I’m no slouch in the racing department (it is my favorite video game genre, after all), but I only had one Gold, a few Silvers, and mostly Bronze medals. Trust me, I’m not stopping until I get Gold in every challenge.
While the bulk of F1 2013 remains the same as last years effort, the addition of Classics Mode adds a welcome wrinkle to this year’s iteration. Unfortunately, unless you bought the Classic Edition of the game, you’re stuck with only a handful of classic cars and tracks (only ’80s cars and 2 tracks, Brands Hatch and Jerez). It’s too bad, but it is what it is. The ’90s content comes only in the Classic Edition or as a separate DLC purchase.
In Classics Mode, you get Scenario Mode, Time Trial, and Time Attack…all with the classic cars and tracks. These cars handle dramatically different than their modern day counterparts, and it’s clear how much skill was needed back in the day to tear around these circuits. In fact, the game goes so far as to include a throwback visual filter to the ’80s races for added autheticity.
One thing I didn’t like about Classics races, however, was the fact that different cars from different eras were all mashed together into a single race, presumably to fill up the field. It’s not the end of the world, but F1 historians might balk at seeing cars that never faced each other sitting at the starting line together. It would be like the 1985 Chicago Bears facing off against the 1991 Buffalo Bills. Then again, this lends a cool “fantasy draft” aspect to the game, so I guess it isn’t all bad.
Graphically the game is beautiful as it always is. I’m not expecting too much of a visual improvement at this point in the game, so when I say “2013 looks like 2012,” I mean that in the most positive manner imaginable. The F1 series has always been a good looking series, and if you don’t believe me, just race on any track in the rain with cockpit view. I STILL have yet to find better weather effects in any other racing game.
Overall, F1 2013 is a gorgeous, intense, and accurate representation of the sport of Formula One racing. It will cater to a wide range of players, and finally for the first time, players can actually play the game based off of however much time they can devote to a play session. It may not seem like a big deal, but a simple thing like mid-race saves makes the game so much more accessible to a wider audience. Add in Classics Mode, and you’ve got yourself another winner by the team at Codemasters. Sure, it may seem a bit too familiar, but don’t let that turn you off to another great racing game.