F1 2012 PS3 review – Codies builds itself a pole-sitter

Formula 1 is an arms race. Seasons are won and lost in wind tunnels and on design sheets as much as they are on Curva Parabolica and Becketts. For everyone who doesn’t get to sit in the car, it’s a desperate, unending double-shift of iteration and reiteration, testing and retesting. A process that Codemasters Birmingham will feel very familiar with now, having emerged from another off-season to produce an annual offering bristling with shiny new aero parts and barely legal rear diffusers.

F1 2012 PS3 review

Those particular new bits are much more impressive in F1 2012 than in last year’s game. If you owned the Bafta-winning F1 2010, its successor offered little more. This year, a handful of thoughtful and well-executed new modes, together with a Gran Turismo-esque presentation overhaul that makes a surprisingly profound difference, allay any such anxiety. Season Challenge condenses the established career mode into one season-long romp that lets you effectively race for pink slips with other drivers.

Within four races I’d said goodbye to Marussia, humiliated Bruno Senna at Monza and Spa, and they were already painting my name on Schumi’s Mercedes by the time our deafening travelling circus reached Silverstone. In previous games I’d had to devise a three-year plan – that, like many, I never saw through – in order to get a drive at Ferrari, but in Season Challenge you don’t need to commit to the game like
it’s a mortgage to reach the top.

For an even quicker fix, Champions Mode offers scenarios that pit you against the six world champions on this year’s grid. Over five laps, you have to beat each champ in an area where they excel – Kimi at Spa, or Lewis at a wet Interlagos where he [cough] stole Massa’s championship by virtue of Glock’s spin [cough] won the 2008 title.

Each challenge appeals to superfans, is bolstered by a welcome touch of commentary that alleviates the vaguely lonely sensation you got from previous games, and gives you the chance to achieve something in 15 minutes if you don’t have time for the traditional long-form F1 race weekend.

On the track, it’s more familiar. Handling still requires the thumbs of a surgeon, but feels less twitchy with a controller this year. It’s a definite shift towards accessibility that the tutorial-cum-GT5 challenge mode Young Driver Test furthers. Old vices like poor split-screen framerates, imprecise penalty-dealing and a misunderstanding of how safety car situations and off-track excursions should be dealt with (ie, without hand-holding) do remain.

After so many iterations you feel like perhaps the former at least are tied inexorably to the EGO Engine and will linger as long as this gen continues. But they’re more forgivable in this package – F1 2012 feels like the perfect counterpart to the real sport. It’s immaculately presented, varied and engaging in ways the previous games struggled to hit on.

Our Score

Score: 8