Being a huge F1 fan, I look forward to the new release of the Formula One game every year. Often I'm left a little bit disappointed by the annual release, however, this year was a different story.
Like last year's game, you start at the young driver test at the Yas Marina Circuit. Having played 2012, I had the option to skip the first day, but choose to play it anyway. While the majority of the challenges are the same as last years, there a few variations, especially now tyre wear challenges. A nice update to this mode is that it shows you your progress, effectively the list of teams unlocked for career mode at the start of the game, this time ranging from Marussia to Lotus.
Going straight into the career mode I choose Marussia. Instantly there's a familiar feel to the career menu, however going to the options there is now an additional difficulty setting. Expert has been added between Professional and the hardest difficulty Legend. On evidence of playing so far, Legend seems to have improved the AI by about a second.
Heading into practice the first thing which blew me away was how much of a step Codemasters have made with the graphics. The cars are a lot more detailed this year and the surrounding environment has really improved. It really is a good looking game.
Hardcore fans will be disappointed to know that there is still only one practice session rather than the three in really life.
In terms of driving, the cars are much easier to control than its predecessor. In F1 2012, losing the rear of the car on the exit of a corner meant a one way trip to the barrier, however 2013 is far more responsive in correcting over steer. Tyres are also far more prone to wearing out quickly, and changing the setup to be more conservative on the tyres seems a must.
Qualifying is a definite improvement. Firstly the times are far more competitive, having been use to finishing a second clear of the Marussia-Caterham battle in previous games, I ended up half a tenth behind my teammate Bianchi. Secondly the other drivers are far better at getting out of the way, rather than coasting on the racing line. A downside is that all the drivers still go out on track through-out the sessions, rather than in real-life where the drivers at the top of the timesheets will save tyres in the garage.
Heading into the race, the starts seem far more realistic. I only gained one position, rather the ten or so positions I'm use to in previous editions. The AI also seems far more aggressive; however there is still a tendency for the other drivers to back out of a move where'd I prefer them to dive down the inside. The penalty system has also been updated, seeming less harsh on corner cutting, and the collision penalties have been spilt between minor and major, the former resulting in a warning and the later in a penalty.
Worryingly while the AI seems more aggressive, at least five of the drivers lost their front wing in the early laps but it seemed to calm down later on. I haven't experienced these problems to that extent since though.
Pit-stops now have really cool camera angles when you make your stop, similar to what you see on TV
Another great feature is a mid-game save, allowing gamers to easily race 100% distance this year.
Of course classic content was a big feature to be introduced this year, and it lives up to expectations. Codemasters deserve massive credit for getting the licenses and hopefully will lay the foundations to expand from the collection of Ferraris, Williams and Lotus' in the current game. The cars feel dramatically different between eras. The 1980s cars feel vulnerable, have very little grip and sound fantastic. Driving Emerson Fittipaldi's Lotus 98T felt perfect, with the car dancing around on the track, it felt like I was driving in a way Senna use to in the Lotus a few years later (probably just in my head though!). The HUD is also updated in classic mode to look like it did in the 1980s and 1990s with a sepia filter in place for additional effect. The 1990s is almost the complete opposite to the 80s. You can fling the car into the corners and it will stick, and everything feels so quick through the corners. Driving the `92 and `96 Williams is a highlight of the game. *The 90s content either comes in the classic edition or as DLC from the Playstation store, but is well worth it.
In addition to these modes, Season Challenge is back and identical to last time. Champion's mode has been replaced by a new scenario mode, where you have to complete challenges like finishing ahead of your teammate etc.
Online has the same layout as before, but hopefully the new penalty system will solve some of the issues from last time.
It must also be said the loading screens now look amazing with high definition pictures of real life formula 1 action.
Overall F1 2013 is a really great game, with the problems from F1 2012 having been mended. The game feels like it is on the limit on the current generation, and the future looks bright for Formula 1 on the next generation.