If you've ever played Race Driver GRID (and you should have done), you'll know how the perfect balance between arcade gaming and hardcore simulation can be achieved. Like its Codemasters stablemate, F1 2010 deftly plucks the cherries from both gameplay styles to deliver an experience that's immediately accessible, but features plenty of depth for hardcore race fans. The result is an F1 game that's not only a great simulation, but an absolute blast to play.
Sitting down with a racing wheel and pedals set-up, the leap in quality between this build and the last time we saw the game is immediately evident. Back then it was a simple one-track demo around Monza with no menu screens. Here, we're greeted with not only the full roster of tracks but a taste of the 'live the life' presentation that has promised us so much. And it's looking suh-weet.
Above: Check out the droplets of rain on that Ferrari's bodywork. The detail level is through the roof
So what do you choose to do when you've got the whole F1 world at your fingertips? To get a better feel for the handling, I started with a time attack around Silverstone, which featured the new track layout for this year. Finding the racing lines and the new braking points didn't take long and I was soon racing my own ghost car. Working out just how close I could get to flat-out through Copse was fun (good thing these cars cost nothing to respawn - ahem) and the sensation of the tyres struggling for grip as you accelerate into Woodcote is tangible. Probably the best since the massively underrated F1 '05 on PS2.
Perhaps my rear wing was set too low, or maybe it was that I couldn't feel the pedals through my New Rocks - not the best driving shoes - but I did find oversteer was my main enemy. Also, wheelspin on the exit of corners often left me facing the wrong way, but tellingly this was only when I was trying too hard.
How do I know I was trying too hard? Because Formula 2 driver Will Bratt told me so (check out our exclusive interview on the right). I had just challenged him to a time trial around Monaco and set a decent lap time. But once Will had gone faster, with a frankly obscenely fast line through the Swimming Pool section, the pressure was on. Whereas my initial lap had been calm and clean, I was pushing every corner and it actually made me slower.
Don't floor it
A real racing driver will never floor the throttle to accelerate from low speed and you'll need to learn that here. Exiting the right-hander before the tunnel, the car seemed to be straight, so I put pedal to the metal to get ahead of the ghost car. I kept waiting for the tyres to bite, but instead I snaked realistically for 50 yards or so, before finally spinning round. This focus on advanced throttle control is what's going to make the difference between good laps and great laps. In hindsight, it sounds like I made the most blatant rookie error, but it was my eagerness to get on the gas that was my undoing – so you're not only battling with the car, but with your own self-control.
Above: The track is made up of tiny individual squares, each with its own wetness and temperature data. As a result, you'll see a perfectly-simulated dry line emerging when the rain's stopped