Preview

F1 2010 Preview (PS3)

There's a reason why most men will never get the chance to drive an F1 car. Strapping ourselves in for a final look at F1 2010 before it's release later this month, our first thoughts were, “I wonder what will happen if I try and drive over an engineer.” Somewhat luckily, Codemasters Birmingham have been hard at work to ensure this is the richest, most authentic F1 sim this generation, so our bloodlust was quashed rather quickly.

It's impossible to get into a race without noticing the GRID inspired menu set-up; a design that's beginning to grate now we've seen it a few times. Information is clear and you'll always be prodded with tips that might improve your performance, but the Hollywood style billboard effect feel a little out of place here. It certainly works on the aforementioned title and indeed Dirt 2, but we would have liked witnessing a subtle overhaul to tune itself in with the Formula 1 brand. Although this is only nitpicking, the current sloth-like loading times need to be shortened when the final product arrives.

That is so 2009. Expect a fully licensed 2010 line-up when the game's released

This title has been developed for the 'experience,' so we were glad to see flexible driving options available. Depending on your preferences, F1 2010 can provide a tough-as-nails simulation, or it can give you the stabilisers to sharpen your ability. Without any driving assists on, this is a real challenge. Finding a racing line is simple enough, but having the skill to pull off a successful overtake without braking and traction control will have players pulling their hair out (And boy, that's tough through a helmet). The difficulty is brilliantly pitched, as hardcore racing fans will reap the rewards from investing time in the game. The virtual professionals alongside you have no mercy, so eliminating mistakes from your race is the only method of gaining success.

On the flipside, difficulty can be toned down for those who need it. The usual automatic braking and racing line options provide a platform to improve your skills, and also enjoy the game more if you're struggling on default settings. Even with the assists on, there's no need to worry that you'll lose the realism of the sport, as you'll still have plenty of tough decisions to make during a race. Some real dogfights appear on track when you're trying to get past an opponent, and if you're not careful, they can end in disaster. Chasing Vettel for pole position, we were horrified to see the front of our car clip his rear tyre, resulting in us both spinning out of control. Similarly, things can turn in your favour, so gaining a few extra places is never out of the question if somebody in front makes a hash of things. It's this uncertainty, and the feeling that anything can happen at any time, that makes F1 2010 so intriguing.

Dynamic weather makes things more interesting, as you're never safe until you're across the line

Although we didn't experience the career mode, our time with the game started off as an unknown driver sitting in front of the press. Questions were thrown our way in a scene that will decide which team you begin your career with in the full game. It's neatly placed, and harps back to the notion that Codemasters want you to experience the Formula 1 way of life, and not just proceedings on track. We expect to see many more social situations like this when the game hits stores.

After racing each of the tracks on offer in this preview build, we can safely say the thrills and spills of an F1 season are here in abundance. We stormed through Catalunya, winning the race comfortably even though the qualifying session was sprinkled with rain. On race day however, the sky cleared and we guided Mark Webber to victory with a Red Bull one-two. Place us in Monte Carlo, and things changed dramatically. Plenty of tight bends meant we limped to a 7th place finish after qualifying in 8th position. Just like the real thing, you need a solid weekend's work to win a Grand Prix, and have to consistently perform better than your opponents to be the best.

19 tracks are on offer, including the brand new South Korea “Yeongam” route

To top it all off, F1 2010 is a bit of a looker. A dynamic weather system can change a comfortable race into a tricky test of nerves, and the visuals themselves are excellently produced. Not many games make us wince when we crash, but seeing debris fly off our finely-sculpted car certainly left a twinge of regret for pushing it so hard. There's an air of responsibility about the game that has been missing in previous F1 titles; if you mess up, your team will let you know.

With under a month until release, there's time for a few tweaks to be made to this title. At this point the frame rate drops when things get hectic, but expect that to be ironed out. We're also eagerly awaiting the Nicole Scherzinger DLC pack, which allows an American pop princess to sit back and soak up your earnings between races. Until then, F1 2010 is looking like a comprehensive and challenging release for those who love a smattering of g-force.

Most anticipated feature: Living the life of an F1 driver, who can resist that?

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