F1 2013 PS3 review – Optional extras aside, this seasoned sim’s in its prime

F1 2013 PS3 SCREENSHOT

DRS-enabled overtakes, tyres that delaminate under the strain of harsh language, and the metronomic predictability of Seb Vettel smirking atop the podium at the end of each race weekend – it’s unlikely that anyone but the finger-waggling Red Bull driver himself will go on to call the latest season a ‘classic’. But what of F1 2013?

F1 2013 PS3 review

It’s a wise move from Codemasters to expand its source material, beyond the current parade of PR-savvy egomaniacs and dodgy rubber, back to the ’80s and ’90s. Included in the Classic Edition of this year’s game are 11 cars from decades past, and four tracks (Imola, Estoril, Brands Hatch and Jerez), to recreate the heroics of old in time trials, scenarios or custom races.

Not all the heroes of the day are present and correct – Senna’s a no-show, for example. Never mind. Working out how to master each distinct and detailed handling model is so fascinating it barely matters that there’s little to do with the classic cars in terms of scenario content.

If the Classic Edition’s content feels a little undercooked, stripping out more than half of it for the £40 boxed copy is downright insulting

The Standard Edition, mind you, gives you just five cars and two tracks from the ’80s, and puts the rest up for sale as DLC. If the Classic Edition’s content feels a little undercooked, stripping out more than half of it for the £40 boxed copy is downright insulting. This is after all the ‘New Thing’ that Codemasters has been pointing everyone towards to indicate progress. The studio’s Multi 21 moment.

F1 2013 PS3 SCREENSHOTOutside of classic content though, F1 2013 delivers the best experience the franchise has offered to date. Control pad handling is easier and more satisfying than ever, altering the sensitivity of your analog sticks perfectly depending on your speed to create a grippy, on-rails sensation that aligns with how you want the cars to behave. Tyre wear is suitably severe, and ‘the cliff’ is present – you’d think it was a glitch if you hadn’t been following this season’s rubber debacle.

AI drivers have distinct characters – Hamilton won’t give up track position ever, Webber’s out of the blocks like a tectonic plate, and Valtteri Bottas yields under the faintest pressure. They’re all still a bit timid when defending a line, but their willingness to out-brake you from behind and firm-but-fair jostling makes race day more engaging. Over-zealous penalties for corner-cutting and collisions remain, but the game’s come a long way since F1 2010, when you couldn’t guarantee the pack would pit once in a 100% distance race.

So it’s F1 2013’s ability to recreate a boring season in a fascinating way, rather than its ticket to oil-stained memory lane, that makes it a worthy purchase. Learning the ins and outs of the Lotus 98T is a welcome curio, but it’ll be the challenge of beating Seb in the most realistic simulated season yet that’ll hold your attention for another year. Divvying up classic content between premium and standard editions is a mistake – luckily the core driving’s better here than it’s ever been.

Our Score

Score: 8