F1 2013. It’s likely you’ve all seen the trailers, read about all the details; perhaps even completed a huge chunk of the game by now. Long story short, it perhaps needs no real introduction.
What it does need to do, though, is to impress: not only does Codemasters have to redeem itself after the relative disappointment that was Grid 2, but our various chats with F1 2013’s dev team suggests that they planned to max out the current-gen of consoles in their last standalone year, and present to us one of the finest Formula One games ever created.
So, let’s find out if F1 2013 really is the best F1 game that Codemasters has ever made…
Here we go again…
We’ll forgive you for experiencing a bit of déjà vu upon booting up F1 2013 for the first time – bar a slight redesign of the main menu screen and a broadened colour palette for the wind tunnel backdrop, there’s very little that’s markedly different between this year’s game and its predecessor.
In fact, all that’s really changed in the pre-gameplay phase is the addition of Sky Sports F1 commentator David Croft introducing us to the game with his oh-so-obviously-scripted “Welcome to Formula One Twenty-Thirteen” intro every time you start the game. All fun the first time around it may be, but it’s something that could prove to be rather grating and irritating after a while…
Things get even more eerily similar once you start the Young Driver Test tutorial section of the game, with the same cut scenes and most of the introductory tests on the first ‘day’ being ported straight from F1 2012.
Still, Codemasters has added a few more examination-type scenarios for the second day of the Young Driver Test, and the time of day change as you progress through each day is a neat little touch. The fact you can also partner the ‘Iceman’ himself at Lotus if you do well enough in the Young Drivers Test is also a perk for players who want to start their careers in a car that can compete for poles and wins.
Thankfully, Codemasters has given the option to skip events in the Tests, and those with F1 2012 save data already installed can skip the first day entirely, so more experienced players and impatient novices can go straight into the main career mode if they so wish.
Everything Else That Comes With It
While the Career Mode forms the main bulk of F1 2013, with the classic content being added in to nostalgically spice the standard form up a bit, they’re not all that the game has to offer: a huge range of various singleplayer gameplay modes have been included to keep you interested once you drink your fill of the main features.
Time Trial, the ‘beat the ghost time’ Time Attack and the Co-op Championship game types return, as does the Grand Prix mode – the feature that lets you custom make your own F1 season – which was strangely absent from last year’s game.
F1 2012’s Season Challenge scenario is also carried over, though we really do mean that in the most literal of terms: it’s pretty much a copy-paste job of the condensed gameplay mode, still retaining the imperative to swap teams multiple times throughout the 10-race-long season.
If you drank your fill of this mode in the previous F1 game, though, then there’s really no need to carry on with Season Challenge unless you’re an ardent Trophy or Achievement hoarder, especially as the mid-race save feature in the Career mode (along with the various race distance and qualifying session options) do negate the need to continue featuring this mode in future Formula One titles.
Oh My Goodness, This Is Fantastic(ish)!
Of course, any revisions to the Season Challenge sessions weren’t going to be the real reason why F1 fans would pick up this game. It’s the much-publicised classic content that’s been one of the bigger incentives for paying customers to purchase the title, and it’s the area us at Team VVV were most intrigued by.
We won’t moan about the lack of cars and tracks, or the fact there are several classic drivers in the game who never drove those cars in Grand Prixs of yore have been added to fill up the driver roster under “Team Legend” status – not only are the cars in themselves terrific fun to drive, with the tyre-shredding turbo boost on the 80s cars in particular adding a whole new level to their already jittery handling characteristics, but we’re aware of the huge licensing endeavour this must have been for Codemasters Birmingham to undertake.
What can be criticised, though, is the severe lack of options available to experience these cars from a purely singleplayer perspective – in the standard non-Classic Edition version of F1 2013, only one Time Attack mode and a paltry three Scenario races are available. With the 80s and 90s being some of the sport’s Golden Eras, it’s a shame the Codemasters staff couldn’t include more events that were inspired by great in-race battles and rivalries of the past.
There’s also perhaps the “issue” of Codemasters locking off half of the game’s vintage content – the cars, drivers and tracks from the 1990s – through the means of post-launch DLC and the one-use codes provided in the F1 2013 Classic Edition, which could be cynically argued to be a slightly crass way of raking in additional revenue (though we do imagine the various classic car licensing didn’t come cheap…).
It’s really the multiplayer modes where the classic content shines, adding a truly genuine breath of fresh air to an area of the game that’s changed very little over the years.
All in all, then, it’s a decent first attempt to showcase F1’s history in an interactive way, and we’re hoping that more and more classic cars, drivers and tracks will be made available in future Codemasters-developed Formula One games.
Light’s Are Out…And Away We Go!
Unless you plan on avoiding this mode altogether, it’s likely a vast majority of players will partake in the game’s career mode, a staple of the series that’s been constantly tweaked and improved the format debuted in F1 2010.
And, whilst there’s very little groundbreaking new stuff to find in the main hub of F1 2013, subtle differences do permeate through this core element of the game. The revisions made to the lighting engine, for instance, are perhaps the most obvious way in which this year’s title is graphically superior to its predecessor.
The tweaks made to the physics are also welcome – this time around, when the ABS is switched off, you can lean on the brakes more heavily into corners without such a prevalent risk of locking your wheels up instantly – and the increased focus on tyre management (along with the return of tyre wear rate scaling, depending on the race length) goes some way to making the whole experience as authentic as possible. It is, after all, something the real-life drivers have had to deal with this season…
The new cinematic sequences during pit stops are also pretty tremendous things to initially behold, especially when compared with the rather static shot types we’ve been accustomed to in prior F1 games. The replay camera also gets a nod from us, though we do find it bizarre that the Codies Formula One titles are now the only major racing games that don’t come feature a photo mode of sorts.
Still, Formula One games have always been about the racing, and it’s on the track – regardless of whether you’re setting the perfect Q3 lap around Monaco or dicing for position when the Heavens have opened up – is where F1 2013 excels, and a combination of improved AI (regardless of the difficulty level, NPCs will make some pretty risky overtaking moves from time to time, and are also far more prone to making mistakes and outbaking themselves into tight hairpins or on cold tyres), the need to control your pace to max out the potential points haul and arguably the finest weather effects on any racing game to date place F1 2013’s career mode comfortably at the top of the pegging order; the finest we’ve yet seen from Codemasters Birmingham.
It’s just such a shame that technical issues hamper that experience drastically – while we’ve yet to experience any real bugs and glitches, the frame rate on the PS3 version we had available to test was pretty inconsistent at best. Regardless of whether you’re competing in a full-length Grand Prix, completing a Scenario Mode or simply hot lapping a track, you’ll be surprised at how far and how frequently F1 2013 falls below 30 frames-per-second.
It’s a genuine shame that our concerns with the frame rate had to tarnish our experience with F1 2013. Granted, it didn’t make the game unplayable, but you’d have thought that after three consecutive games on current-gen hardware Codemasters would have exterminated this issue. Fingers crossed these fps issues are rectified in next year’s F1 game on the substantially more powerful PS4 and Xbox One consoles.
The fact that quite a few bits and pieces from past F1 games have simply been ported over (bar the new skins, the post-race cut scenes are identical to F1 2012’s…which were carbon copies of F1 2011’s…) is also a tad annoying. Though not perhaps as irritating as the criminally underused classic content: the cars and the tracks are great, but with so few opportunities to use them in singleplayer modes before déjà vu kicks in as fiercely as the Lotus 98T’s turbo boost, the online portion of the game really is all that stops these new additions from being mere gimmicks.
Still, there is fun to be had with the older F1 cars whilst the novelty’s still there, and – as always – it’s the superb career mode and the various online gameplay types that have the most going for them.
Whether that’s enough to justify the purchase is up to personal preference, and you’ll be thoroughly disappointed if you’re looking for radical changes and innovations here. But there is no denying here that F1 2013 is undoubtedly the best all-round Formula One game we’ve seen from Codemasters to date, and (frame rate issues aside) it’s left us with high expectations for when the series makes the jump to next-gen in 2014.