“I chose the HRT-Cosworth team, with the idea in my mind of being able to usurp Bruno Senna and at least give India’s Karun Chandhok a shot at completing the whole season.”
This week, the game I have been waiting for only slightly less eagerly than Gran Turismo 5 arrived through my postbox in a flurry of jiffy bag and celophane. F1 2010 has been hyped as the most realistic Formula One driving game ever, and the biggest difference between waiting for it and Gran Turismo 5 is that the F1 game was announced about a year ago, and turned up on time, whereas I got my PlayStation 3 almost three years ago and have eagerly been awaiting the release of GT5 ever since!
So, is it really as good – or as realistic – as the heady praise it’s receiving suggests?
One thing was for certain as I watched the game come to life initially is that it is visually stunning. Only seconds in to my experience I couldn’t fail to be impressed by the graphical representation of the Formula One world. Some camera angles would have you believing you were watching the real thing, rather than a game console’s adaptation and the rendering of this year’s cars is superb.
But what’s it like to play?
Codemaster’s F1 2010 is based on the 2010 season,with this year’s teams and drivers and this year’s rules and new points scoring system (something I am still struggling to get my head around after fifteen races). When you first start your career within the game you are given a choice of low-end teams to start with, and asked how many seasons you intend to compete in.
The aim, ultimately, is to impress other teams enough to get yourself a seat in a better car and then become World Champion. Seems straight forward enough, so I chose the HRT-Cosworth team, with the idea in my mind of being able to usurp Bruno Senna and at least give India’s Karun Chandhok a shot at completing the whole season.
However, the game is so realistic that what it did was drop Chandhok instead and set me up as team mate to the Brazilian.
You then find yourself in the cockpit of your car, with access to data, team-mate information, your race engineer and the chance to fine tune your set up. And then you’re out for practice.
With the controls configured to my liking, I quickly got the hang of the car and went back in to the pits to prepare for qualifying. And this is where the realism got stretched a bit…
For a game that has lauded its credentials on being the closest thing to actually driving a Formula One car as I’m ever likely to get, it seemed impossible that I could take a back-marker car like the HRT and stick it on Pole Position at the opening race of the season in Bahrain. Yet that’s exactly what I did.
My team mate, Senna, put his HRT exactly where the rest of us expected it to be: 23rd.
The game had given me a qualifying objective of placing 20th or better. I think I achieved that.
It was a few hours later before I got the chance to take part in the race, but once I was sat in front of my telly with the controller in hand and lined up in Pole Position I expected the game’s realistic traits to kick in. After all, alongside me on the grid was Alonso in his Ferrari, and the row behind me consisted of the McLarens of Hamilton and Button. With my trusty steed being effectively a back-marker car I figured my position there was a fluke and I would be mugged by the much-faster cars behind me before I’d even made it to the first corner.
As the red lights began to go out in front of me I felt a surge of excitement, and even though I knew I stood a good chance of losing my first place position I revved the engine up and prepared to race.
But the other cars didn’t catch me. I was scampering off towards the first corner as the lights went out and the three drivers behind me were left fighting over who was going to be in second place as we entered the first corner.
In fact, I had quite simply the fastest car on the circuit, until corner three when I put a wheel on the kerb, lost control and span out on to the gravel. I had to sit there, dejected, as the pack surged passed me while I waited for a clear gap to rejoin the race and by corner four I was plumb last. Right where I expected to be, I admit, but I blame the three pints of Kronenbourg I’d had before playing the race for my third corner crash than I did the slightly-lacking-in-reality traits of the game.
Still, I’d been set an objective by the game of finishing the race in 18th place or above, so I headed off to try and catch my opponents up.
It would be at this point that I could tell you that I managed to make some headway, but the truth is that my Hispania Racing Team car was still the fastest thing on the circuit and, despite a pit for a change of tyres, I fought valiantly through the field, only narrowly missing out on a podium finish. Fourth, on my first attempt, in a car that has struggled in real life this year, seemed a little false to me and I found myself traipsing through the game’s settings in an effort to make it a little more difficult.
The problem, it seemed, was that when I’d first started the game it had asked me what level I thought I could play at and I’d opted for the easy option. This was because the last time I played a Formula One game on a PlayStation the car was impossible to drive, even with all the driver aids switched on, and I’d found it relatively unenjoyable.
This new game, with all the driver aids switched on, seemed to make me super human and so I’ve decided to change the options slightly. I’ve found options for the tyres and damage and traction control that all allow me to change to a setting called realistic.
The telly in front of me has just loaded up the first practice screen for Melbourne, the next circuit in my season, and I’m about to go out and see what sort of lap time I can set…
F1 2010, then. Visually great, and even in easy mode it’s caught my attention. The level of detail, from menu system to pit crew to racing features are phenomenal. I just hope it’s more challenging now I’ve changed the options. But I can’t help wishing that it would be great if, in an act of realism, Karun Chandhok could get back behind the wheel of his car, switch the mode on his steering wheel to PlayStation 3, and go out and kick Bruno Senna’s butt…