Formula One. A 642 kg carbon fiber cone, packed with a 750 bhp V8 engine that revs around 18,000 rpm, accelerates to 100 km/h in under 2 seconds and is capable of reaching a top speed of over 400 km/h.
No gamer alive would even dream of being able to handle such a beast but luckily Codemasters is (once again) giving us the chance to experience the feeling of driving an insanely fast 'car' (seriously, does anyone think F1 is a car?) through some of the narrowest tracks ever created. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you; Formula One 2013!
In reality, the Formula One circus is like the Bold and the Beautiful; drivers getting hammered on race weekends, divorces, team changes, pretty much everything that's included in a weekend in Finland. Luckily this all is dropped from the game and the main focus is on the core of what the sport is all about; driving. The 'story' of F1 2013 is non-existent; all you do is pick a team, the driver and start driving to become the next F1 world champion.
The game has the official FIA license, so all the teams, drivers and tracks (along with the rules and regulations) of the Formula One 2013 Season are present. There is also a new game mode called F1 Classics which lets you drive classic Formula cars from the 1980's along with their respective legendary drivers. More eras can be bought from the Steam Store. This mode is a welcome addition to the game and really shows you how F1 has evolved over the years, both in terms of car handling and track rules/regulations.
Other game modes include Young Drivers Test (YDT), Scenarios, Time Attack/Trial and of course the ability to drive a single Grand Prix (GP) or the whole Season (duh!). The YDT is a game mode aimed at F1 novices and shows you the basics of driving an F1 car by presenting you with various challenges; you might have to accelerate and come to a complete stop or maybe watch an educational video about the special nuances of driving a car as sophisticated as an F1 beast. The Scenarios are special missions where you have to for example overtake an opponent before the finish line. You unlock more Scenarios by collecting enough medals from the previous ones. The YDT and Scenarios are an easy way to quickly get the hang of driving an F1 car.
Once you've gained some confidence in your driving skills, it's time to put them to the test by competing in a single GP or (if you're brave enough) the whole season. When driving a single GP, you can freely select the track, team and driver from those that you have unlocked. A variety of unlocks occur by simply playing the game so you can certainly get a healthy selection of accessible options without too much trouble. When selecting which GP to drive you can select between Race Only, Short Weekend or (if you have the time) Full Weekend. You can even set the duration of the Qualifying rounds which is excellent if you really don't have the time to go through the whole thing. True F1 players of course always play the full season with realistic lap numbers and full weekends (lucky for my daughter, I ain't one of them).
Once you're at the track and the lights have gone off, it's time to test the realism of the game. I have to be honest with you, I've never driven an F1 car so I have no idea how they behave in real life. Regardless of having not driven in the real Formula 1 season, recently, I can honestly say that F1 2013 delivers the most realistic F1 handling experience to date. Especially when using a decent steering wheel, the cars handle just the way you'd imagine them to; glued to the ground and with an accelerator pedal that's extremely unforgiving. Luckily the game has driving assists available to make the game a little bit more accessible to the budding professional drivers amongst us. The new tech that the motor sport industry rolls out each season is also present; For example, KERS (kinetic energy recovery system) and DRS (drag reduction system). On the easier difficulties though these are hardly necessary to achieve some pretty intense podium finishes.
Now that we've got F1 2013 praises out there, lets take a look under the hood to see what failings the game may have, but they are few and far between. During races you might, accidentally or deliberately, crash into things or maybe even suffer a punctured tyre. To remedy these situations the game offers you the chance to rewind time and relive the moment when you 'accidentally' tapped Massa in the ass (honestly, who wouldn't tap that ass?). These Flashbacks, as the game calls them, are activated by entering Replay during the race and rewinding it to a moment before the 'accident' occurred. From there you can simply jump into the drivers seat and continue driving from that point on. In our opinion this felt like borderline cheating and a feature that, while ok in the other Codemasters titles like GRID 2, dissolved the immersive, professional simulation, experience that previous F1 titles delivered. It should have been left out completely, but then, no one is forcing you to use it...
The game can be played with friends, or strangers if you really feel like taking a beating, in various different ways; you have online, split screen and even LAN available. The game modes are similar to those in the single player but with a fresh new addition; Co-op Championship (let's call it CC from now on). With CC you and your friend can play the whole F1 championship from start to finish as team mates. As you can imagine this sort of game mode would significantly eat into your spare time, but for those people who have friends with a copy of F1 and the time to invest, you will have a blast with this welcome feature.
The sounds in the game work as good as you could imagine; high-pitched roaring of F1 cars, pit crew yelling at you, the usual. What makes the game spectacular is the graphics and animations. Every single part of every single car is animated with pin-point precision, down to every wing, brake cylinder, spring, you name it. It's a joy watching your front wheels (yeah like you really have the time for that during a race) act when you turn into a hairpin corner. The reflections on the cars look superb and the cars themselves have been modelled with great care. Hats off to the graphics department. Judging by the graphics the minimum requirements aren't as steep as you would've imagined; you only need a 2.4GHz dual core, 2GB RAM and a HD2600/GF 8600 series GPU. What makes these requirements a bit weird is the fact that the game requires Direct X 11 (which is unsupported by the minimum GPUs).
Regardless of the oddities in the minimum requirements, the recommended ones really give most rigs a run for their money; Intel i7/AMD Bulldozer, 4GB RAM and a HD6000/GTX500 series GPU with a minimum VRAM amount of 1GB. Luckily the game has extensive graphical options so it should be very playable on any PC above the minimum requirements (just as long as your GPU supports DirectX 11). The game ran extremely smoothly with the test rig (i7/12GB/HD7970OC) even with maximum EQAA (a special method of anti-aliasing meant for high-end AMD GPUs).
There is no question, this is THE F1 game of the moment. It offers everything you'd expect in a simulation title covering one of the most expensive sports around. The F1 cars handle perfectly and owners of a decent steering wheel will get some exceptional enjoyment out of them. The game worked nicely with my old Logitech Driving Force Pro.
F1 2013 is a must-buy for any F1 fan (F1 Fans can consider adding +1 to the final score) and regular driving game fans will find a lot to enjoy here as well. Those new to the genre might consider taking a demo of the game for a test drive before purchase.