In the end, it's the attention to detail that makes F1 2010 a consistently surprising and rewarding experience. "Remember to brake for the pit box," says the guy over the radio. I didn't bother because the car appears to be on complete autodrive, then promptly flattened the poor mechanic on the front jack. Ouch.
There's so much that's worthy of note, like the visual distortion when you get in the spray from another car in full-blown wet weather. Look at this screen - it's not a pre-rendered press shot, it's one I took a moment ago:
Above: The spray effect from following a car in the wet. Whichever way you look at it, that is sensational
Then there's the visible drying line on a wet track, the ability to change engine and wing settings on the fly using the D-pad, the way you see rival pit crews scrambling out of the garage to meet their cars as you cruise down the pit-lane… it's almost perfect. Almost.
Mirror, signal, wait for it...
There are some issues that may be fixable with a patch, but need some attention. Pitting during a 20% distance race almost always puts you last because everyone's pitting at the same time and your crew isn't aggressive enough in letting you rejoin the busy pitlane. Longer races are less crowded during pit windows, but this really should have been ironed out, especially with the investment of time you're putting into each race.
Also, while the game is undeniably beautiful to look at, it's definitely not as slickly presented as DiRT 2 or even GRID. There are some very minor lapses in frame-rate and occasional jaggy to spoil the view, but I appreciate a lot of people won't even notice these. I have robot eyes.
Above: F1 2010 has many more cars on-screen than either DiRT 2 or GRID, and holds up surprisingly well
Finally, the difficulty could do with one more setting between 'Hard' and 'Expert'. I love the controllability of Hard, but the AI is a bit too easy to beat compared to Expert. You can tweak settings, of course, but I'd rather feel like I'm beating the game at a recognised level.
Honestly, though, these are all minor irritations. And I'm certain the experience you will get from F1 2010 will be completely different to mine, because that's the way the game is designed. This is your F1 game. It's your timing monitor sat on the front of your car as you wait in the pits. Your team mate to beat. Your racing lines to find. Your engine to overheat by spending too long in the dirty air of another car. Your Eau Rouge to attempt without lifting the throttle.
Above: Winning is the ultimate reward after all your hard work. Achievements are the icing on the cake
The game has a frankly obscene amount of content to discover, all of it measured and absorbing. Whether the more arcadey difficulty levels will be entertaining enough for casual racing fans is debatable. You'll undoubtedly get the most out of it if you have the patience to approach it as a serious racer and learn to use gears, brakes and progressive throttle. But then, 'if' is a very long word in F1...
17 Sep, 2010