By: Jeff Cater
Keeping their line through the turn, Codemasters has released its latest incarnation of their Formula 1 racing simulation game. F1 2013 is as dedicated a racing sim as any, and it provides a deeply technical but rewarding experience for the patient racer.
As long as you complete the tutorials and have an understanding of the physics of Formula 1, the controls can’t really be much better. As with any racer these days, the triggers control your braking and gas and the left stick will steer your vehicle sharply around the track (or not so sharply in my case). The right stick allows a bit of camera manipulation depending on the selected view, and the square and X buttons will let you manually shift into different gears. Be warned though, the controls are touchy as hell, but it makes sense because you’re flinging yourself around corners at ungodly speeds.
Damn, this game has some polish! You’ll likely notice right away that buildings and areas surrounding the track are lacking detail and blandly textured. Upon being buckled and strapped into your F1’s seat, however, you’ll find that giving a good romp to the accelerator acts as a “Neuralizer” (ala Men in Black) and blows you away.
The sense of speed achieved in F1 2013 is incredibly accurate, right down to the point that you can find footage of tracks in-game compared to their real life counterparts, complete with a sample race. The weather effects are also as significantly beautiful as they are dangerous, as rain puddles and rubber tires tend to make fields of mist and water droplets splash and slide from your view. The cars looks damn fine as well, featuring extensive detail in the architecture of every vehicle. You can almost see every working part as you turn and blast around the various tracks.
The sound of the races themselves do a brilliant job of creating tension and excitement, as the distinctive *WHHHHHHH-VVVVVIIIRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrr* of the F1 cars blasting by you can send you into racing frenzy. While the soundtrack is barely there, the music it does contain is easygoing and fits just fine. Tutorials also feature full voiceovers, making some of the more complex concepts seem just a touch less difficult.
This is easily one of the hardest racing sims I’ve ever played. Even having completed the tutorials and feeling confident in my skill, I was regularly thrashed by the competition. About an hour or so after adjusting to the physics of the car and my own use of the controller is when I could start regularly placing in the top five.
The tutorials are deep and thorough and do a fine job teaching how to brake without dying, turn without dying, and something about an energy return system that I didn’t quite understand (it was late, and I mean, really, who RETURNS energy, right?).
Once you’ve become a master of self and car control, as well as forming a bond between the two, you’re ready to jump into the career mode to become the best. Winning a race in F1 2013 is difficult as hell, but due to that it’s also extremely rewarding when you place well — never before in a racing game have I fist-pumped, yelled and celebrated for coming in fourth place. Even if you don’t win, finishing usually feels like some sort of victory in and of itself.
The selection of cars is vast, spanning from the some of the earliest F1 cars from the 70s to designs we are more familiar with today. Two players can race head-to-head via split screen and online multiplayer, while somewhat barren, still made it easy to connect to another race. Grand Prix mode is a little easier for more casual players, as its mostly just overtaking the competition, and there’s also a Scenario mode that has mini missions with pre-determined goals for you to achieve.
While the learning curve is huge and the game can feel complicated as hell, pump your brakes before deciding that F1 2013 isn’t for you. Instead, invest some time in learning the ins-and-outs of Formula 1 racing. While it has a bit less flavor than more arcade-y racing titles, F1 2013 is a deep, challenging and rewarding experience for any simulation racing fan. So strap in, Codemasters knows its racing, and this is going to be one helluva ride.