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Gaming Review

'F1 2012' review (Xbox 360): More than just a tune-up

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Released on Friday, Sep 21 2012

F1 2012

© Codemasters


Platforms available on: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Codemasters Racing
Publisher: Codemasters
Genre: Racing

Since Codemasters took on the Formula One licence, the British studio has done an admirable job of not only doing justice to the world's premium motorsport, but also ensuring the growing franchise does not stagnate. Every annual iteration on console has brought new ideas and a bump in quality, and F1 2012 continues this trend.

F1 2012 is certainly a game that is more orientated towards the casual players and newcomers to F1. But that is certainly not to say that it has been watered down. While the Young Driver Training optional tutorial and arcade-style Champions mode and Season Challenge offer a more accessible experience, the game is still mercilessly testing in the Career mode.

'F1 2012' Monza circuit screenshots
Embark on an F1 Career and you have a long and enduring challenge that involves as much strategic thinking as wheel-to-wheel combat. Strip away the driver aids and leave it just to you and these 200Mbph+ dream machines, and it fast becomes clear that small margins are vitally important between failure and success.

Following previous criticism, Codemasters has ensured that there is a more gentle introduction available to the rigours of controlling a Formula One car. Working similarly to the driving licences in Gran Turismo, the Young Drivers Test is a tutorial system set at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, where budding F1 stars are tasked with successfully completing a number of tasks, such as hitting the apex on a hairpin and then accelerating to a certain speed, before breaking.

Whilst these tests are totally optional, they can give less experienced players an overview of how to get the best out of these testing vehicles. Handling is once again responsive, but also made slightly more accessible. On easy, it is hard to spin the car and body contact with other vehicles does not not incur any major damage, although you will most likely get a driving penalty in competitive racing.

But it is pleasing that the task of truly mastering F1 2012 takes time. This is a discipline that covers mental as well as physical skill, along with nerve, stamina and wits. Going at Grand Prix sessions hell for leather like an arcade racer will certainly not bump you up the standings. Equally, players must treat practice and qualifying sessions as seriously as the race if they want to succeed.


In Career mode, new parts for the car must be earned and then tested to ensure the car remains competitive. This, along with all other rigours of being part of a major Formula One team, make the career feel like a role-playing game at times. The life of a Formula One driver is also led in the spotlight, and F1 2012 attempts to recreate this, with somewhat mixed results.

Press clippings reflect what has gone on in the racing, and you also get emails from members of the team, such as Martin Whitmarsh if driving for McLaren. Unfortunately, just like F1 2011, this system feels rather weakly implemented, including the media 'coverage' and team actions quickly getting repetitive.

In terms of handling and performance, F1 2012 pretty much just builds on the significant improvements that were made in the previous game. The cars again feel well planted and manageable due to better suspension and aerodynamics. They are heavy and solid at high speeds, yet also lithe and nimble through the corners. The Kers and DRS systems also return, for a speed boost or overtaking aid respectively.

'F1 2012' Monza circuit screenshots
Gamers wanting a simpler experience are well catered for in F1 2012. Alongside Quick Races, there are options to do the Season Challenge, which involves a reduced season of ten five-lap races at selected Grand Prix circuits. You can pick from any of the major F1 teams, but the trick here is that you select a 'rival' who you must beat on the track.

Then there is the Proving Ground section that covers both Time Attack and Time Trial options, along with the new Champions mode. This involves taking on six, still active F1 legends - Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Vettel and Michael Schumacher - each individually as sort of end-of-level bosses, and then all together to prove yourself as the ultimate F1 Champion.

F1 2012 also features an extensive suite of multiplayer options on 24-car grids made of up to 16 players and eight computer-controlled drivers. The inclusion of human players adds an extra layer of challenge, but also a random factor. People do not react with the same precision and mechanical rhythm as the computer, and so this makes racing feel more dynamic.

'F1 2012' Monza circuit screenshots
The split-screen, co-op championships are back for F1 2012. Two players are able to play an entire season, either as teammates, or on opposing teams. The chance to work together, while also competing for the title, remains a pretty much unique challenge.

Fully licensed, the game features all 12 teams and 24 drivers competing in the 2012 season, as well as all 20 circuits, including the brand new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. The presentation has been given an extra layer of polish, particularly in the character animations, but some of the tracks still feel a bit empty and bereft of life, an issue not aided by some rather ugly textures.

F1 2012 is an example of a franchise maturing and growing as it becomes more established and successful. Just like EA Sports with FIFA, Codemasters has learnt to build on the positive aspects of past games, while also bringing on new ideas. Not everything is a total success, but the game excels by offering a rich experience for both casual and hardcore players, meaning it remains a worthy purchase.

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