I have always had a strange affinity to Formula 1. I can’t say I love the sport but when I was much younger I used to live five minutes walk from McLarens base and very often spent my evenings after school just staring at the Formula 1 car they had hanging from the roof of the building Batman-style.
Nowadays that affinity is still there as I work for a company that is a main sponsor for one of the teams and even though I still only have a passing interest in the sport I do have a passion for racing games.
Formula 1 2012 throws you straight into the action with the introduction of the Young Drivers Test. Taking place over two days, it’s this test that gets you used to driving in different weather conditions as well as instructions in regards to using both KERS and DRS, both of which – like its real life counterpart – adds an interesting dynamic to the game. Ok if we are going to be truly honest, the Young Drivers Test is basically the tutorial section of the game but it’s just that little bit more exciting than your average tutorial.
Once you have passed the Young Driver test you are greeted with a highly polished menu. It is here that you can choose which game mode you wish to play. First off we have the career mode.
The Career Mode is the bread and butter of the game taking you from the first practise section at the beginning of the race weekend right up to the actual race with all sections in between. For the full immersive Formula 1 experience this is where you will be spending most of your gaming time.
The main career puts you in the seat of Formula 1 race car and takes you around the world to each of the 20 tracks in the Formula 1 2012 calendar. You start your career at the one of the bottom teams and as you progress and meet objectives you will then be approached by bigger teams until you achieve the ultimate dream of driving for the likes of Red Bull or Ferrari.
The average race weekend will take you at least 45 minutes and with 20 races per season you are looking at 15 hours per race season. In order to become the number one driver, you need to drive for one of the top teams so you will be making full use of every single one of the five seasons in the career mode. This means a full career playthrough will take, on average, 75 hours.
Not got that much time? Codemasters have included two new game modes this year. The first is Season Challenge which is basically Career mode but on fast forward. This mode brings down the number of races to just 10. There are no practise sessions and there is a single “hot lap” qualifying period before competing in a five lap race. This will allow everyone that wants to experience the enjoyment of a Formula 1 season but do not have the time or the patience to play through a complete race weekend.
The second new mode is the Champions Mode, which allows you to take on the former champions who are still racing today in a series of challenges which has an ever increasing difficulty. The fact that the scenario and car set is pre determined it is a great mode to just jump in and have a blast.
The online multiplayer of Formula 1 2012 is a completely different beast in relation to how it plays. Sometimes I found myself streaking ahead of the A.I mainly because I was willing to take a slight risk and try and squeeze through a gap which I had no right to try and squeeze through. The A.I on the other hand is far more cautious than me when it comes to areas like this. This doesn’t tend to happen online as normally the 15 other drivers are all trying to squeeze through that gap and all you can really hope is that when the major pile up happens you actually manage to get through to the other side of it unscathed.
Cosmetically the game is nothing short of beautiful with each track lovingly recreated in minute detail with very little left out, right down to the weather. The first time that you see dark clouds appearing on the horizon and just 3 laps later those very same clouds erupting which turns the track into the equivalent of a racing water park and the change it causes in, not only your race strategy but also all of the other cars on the track is something quite beautiful. It really adds to the immersion as just like in the real sport you are forced to react and adapt to the change in weather.
A minor flaw in the game for me personally is the soundtrack. As the good lady pointed out, the sound of a roaring Formula 1 engine – as correct as it may sound – is more than slightly annoying for those not playing the game. Unfortunately this and messages from your engineer over the team radio are the only soundtrack.
An option for TV commentary from either of the BBC or Sky Sports commentary teams whilst racing would be a nice touch, as would “Better with Kinect” functionality in regards to the team radio.
Overall, Formula 1 2012 adds some nice touches for the more casual or Arcade gamer whilst keeping the realism of its simulation side with very few flaws. If you have enough free time to dedicate to this then it is one of the best racing games out there. If you don’t then you will play through the shorter modes always thinking that something is missing.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Platform: Xbox 360/ PS3 Release Date: 29/06/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of Formula 1 2012 by the promoter for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.