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Braking News: F1 2010 Irks, Impressions

Another Hurrah/Bah event for our books: F1 2010 is out, and has topped the UK All Formats chart! Well done, Codemasters. Hurrah. Except, oh dear, the game is also hideously bugged on all formats. Bah. The Codemasters technical forums make for quite some reading. Worth noting the really killer ones, too. Additionally, I've been playing the game, so you can read on for some more hi-octane considerations.

Stylishly swathed in Codemasters' now-familiar splendid menu systems, F1 is an attractive creature. The front end is, again, a secondary out-of-race set of options for your "character" driver and the management of your car and racing, nestled within the paddock/trailer environment in which such creatures dwell. This all gets rather complex as you play through the career mode, with both your relationship with the press and your team mate becoming considerations as you try to get a better contract and a better car. (On a completely basic note, be careful not to assume "Grand Prix" is the Go To race option, that's actually just quick races with any team. I was mystified as to why my Force India driver was in a Mclaren until I realised I wasn't in the career mode. Duh.)

The track experience is predictably versatile, too. It's pretty, but it's also hugely scalable to different experiences of play. Enter the game on default easy settings with all the assists active, and my cat could get round the track. In this carefully cradled mode you're pretty much following the racing line, and holding down accelerate. Pull these hand-holding layers off and tune to your particular tastes - I quite like the fake HUD racing line, as it's a good indicator of when to break, but I want to be handling my own gear changes, and so on - and you begin to see that Codies have done a decent job in creating an F1 game that is accessible to flailing idiots like me, but also can be tuned to be challenging and realistic. Those wheel-rubber choices might seem tiresome to me, but they are there to enable tweakings (even if they are reportedly bugged in the wet.) Whether or not you appreciate all the trappings of the career mode is going to be a matter of personal taste, but I think you'd be hard pressed to argue that F1's instance of the Ego engine doesn't deliver a fairly decent F1 game that will have some broad appeal as well as allowing some more hardcore tinkering - a tricky balance that these games desperately need. It's not a simulation, oh no, but that's probably for the best.

As for that monstrous bug list, well, I've seen a couple of them in action. Damage not affecting AI cars is the most obvious one, if just because I regularly slide people off the road as I fluff a corner. Many of the other issues - such as AI not pitting - I find hard to be sure about, if simply because my awareness of how the race is unfolding isn't good enough. I've not been able to be entirely sure that the "race results not reflecting actual results" is the case, either, but that's an enormously serious bug for an F1 game, if true, and it does seem to be true. There are number of minor HUD annoyances that are obvious, too. Of course the really serious issue seems to be the save game corruption. That's not happened for me, but it's a game killing issue, serious enough for people to be wary of buying the game until it is fixed.

I also don't feel the general performance was great. Both Grid and Dirt 2 now run beautifully on my machine, while F1 gets a little chuggy, usually with no reason (not at busy moments, etc) and that doesn't feel like a good omen, especially when the game can look so good when it is running smoothly. Ultimately it feels as if F1 didn't get enough time in gestation. Codemasters probably need a few more months testing on this one, an issue which has likely come up due to this being an official, licensed title, rather than its own franchise, with its own timetables, as the other Codemasters games have been. We'll expect a patch, but it's very disappointing when the core game seems so vibrant and so promising. What a shame.

Anyway, I am sure a bunch of you have bought the title. Any thoughts? Has anyone tried it with a racing wheel?

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