F1 2013 Review (PC)

Whatever your feelings on the monotony of F1 in modern times, there’s no doubting Codemasters’ ability to faithfully reproduce the high-octane thrills that come along with driving those prized vehicles. With the quality bar set pretty high in 2012, F1 2013 is an entry in the series that tweaks and refines rather than introducing any significant new features or moving things forward with an overhauled engine, and given the technological pause in current-generation hardware (and the sport itself), Codemasters’ focus has inevitably shifted backwards with the inclusion of classic cars from the 80s and 90s that add a dash of flavour and value.

Unsurprisingly, that retro-graded content is the star of the show. Although the F1 series does a great job of recreating the terrifying speed and nimble handling of their lightweight modern alternatives, there’s something terrifically tactile about the unrefined, raw power of the Formula One recent ancestry. Switching off the numerous driving aids transfers that ridiculous power into a thoroughly enjoyable experience on either joypad or wheel, with the requisite wobbliness and bizarre bursts of speed that accompany each specific vehicle and era. Learning the traits of each of them is hugely enjoyable, and Codies’ excellent Flashback system smooths the process along to correct mistakes on the fly.

Nothing like a bit of fist-pumping shiny helmet action

Folks that plump for F1 2013’s ‘Classic’ version will be treated to eleven separate old-timer cars in total, along with a bevvy of drivers from their respective eras. Schumacher, Mansell and company are joined by a selection of out-of-favour circuits that suit the timeframe, and those that poke around in the options will be relieved to see the 80s and 90s vehicles can be driven on modern-day tracks as well. Licensing for the classic mode is a little patchy with only Ferrari, Lotus and Williams represented however, but given the inevitable popularity of piloting those evocative motors, I’d suspect that situation will be rectified in the coming seasons - no doubt a little at a time.

Even the though the classic mode is hugely enjoyable then, it’s best not to dismiss the rest of F1 2013’s modern-day content. If this is your first outing with the series you’ll discover a well-implemented recreation of the sport with a vast array of driver assists that help to intelligently flatten out an otherwise incredibly steep difficulty curve.

As the largest singleplayer and co-op offering, career mode returns to F1 2013 in a mostly unchanged fashion. The Young Driver’s Test brings new players up to speed with the basics of accelerating, braking, cornering, KERS and DRS, before prompting them to choose a relatively lowly team and embark on a massive series of races across F1 2013’s 20 tracks, complete with animated vignettes and a dash of emotion and colour as they lose or win for all-important podium finish. Impress in enough races and the courtship from the big boys will shift up a gear, allowing players to gradually work their way into the role of F1 Champion.

It’s full of detail, as you might imagine from a sport absolutely obsessed with minutia, and Codemasters’ does a good job of making tricky subjects like car setups and qualification tactics open to newcomers. Career mode is a gigantic time commitment though, and those looking for a more manageable challenge should really poke around the other game modes first.

It's ok, he's rubbish

As more condensed alternatives, Grand Prix mode affords the opportunity to step into the shoes of any F1 driver and race specific weekends or the full season, whilst the Career Challenge offers up a series of races in which the goal is to beat a specific rival to steal a spot on his team. It’s probably here that I should mention the inclusion of a new mid-session saving system, making daunting prospects such as playing through an entire season without time dilation somewhat more palatable. Those players that want to break up a series of full race weekends could now feasibly do so, and for the rest of us time-sensitive folk, there’s always the quick-fire challenges in scenario mode to while away 10-15 minute chunks of free time.

If it’s online that you want then 16-player races are still present and correct, running with the usual smoothness associated with Codemasters Racing titles. They work, run relatively lag-free (on the PC at least), and retain all the polish and framerate of their offline cousins. The full Racenet treatment is also available for anybody that wants to delve deeper into stats and keep their community contact ticking over away from the game. and if you’ve already linked your Steam, Xbox or PSN account then Racenet will just pick up when you boot the game.

F1 2013 is a veritable feast of options and game modes then, and those are fortunately tied together with a few nips and tucks to an already-excellent engine.

The visuals are superbly atmospheric

It’s not the case that 2013 re-invents anything or significantly alters the accessibility of last year’s game, but everything here is a little bit more tactile, varied and visually striking. AI drivers seem more prone to incident than before, convincingly battling to get past your car and viciously holding their lead as you try your best to slingshot around their tail. Trackside detail is still a little flat in places, but more than made up for with stunning lighting and weather effects, with rain particularly damning in its influence on those controversial Pirelli slick tyres. Gravel plays more of a part this time around also, with the tutorial neatly highlighting the handling problems that come about with chunks of rock pebble-dashing your tyres.

F1 2013 is a dynamic and varied simulation then, and that’s not a compliment that could readily be aimed at too many of its forebears. There is an element of treading water as Codemasters gets ready for the inevitable shift to new console hardware and racing technology in the next F1 season, but this is nevertheless an accomplished and hugely entertaining entry in the series. If it’s your first time round the circuit then you’ll have a blast getting to know the intricacies of the handling model one race assist at a time, and if you’re a seasoned fan then be sure to head straight for Classics mode - Schumacher and Mansell have a few treats in store.

Top Game Moment: Sitting in an 80’s tin rocket and trying to find the brake.

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