It’s this kind of detail that’s been piled on this year. And, for all the new explanations and more arcade-like game modes, it’s the Career Mode that’s still the star of the show. Choosing tyre strategies, adjusting fuel consumption settings on the fly with the d-pad… it’s a brilliant simulation of a sport that’s recaptured the imagination of its worldwide audience. But all of the default set-ups and strategies work perfectly well, meaning you don’t have to go into any of it if you don’t want to.
Above: You can just select 'Easy' and floor it through Eau Rouge, just for fun
It’s not perfect, though. There is a nagging feeling of sterility in the presentation (which, to be honest, could be made almost completely better for UK-based F1 fans by just having the bass riff from Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain play before each race), and the exacting Young Driver’s Test day is a pretty bad way to start the game, despite the good intentions.
Damage can be spectacular if you catch a car at the right angle, but in general is still too conservative. That said, mechanical damage and failures are integrated perfectly into the gameplay balance. It would be nice to see some more new cutscenes too – several here are re-used from last year, albeit with improved graphics.
Above: Grosjean causing trouble at the start? Well that's not very realis... oh
But these few small niggles are nought compared to the majesty of the new car handling, the compulsively playable Season Challenge and the very welcome fact that the PS3 version doesn’t suck this time round. Last year’s game was visibly sketchier on Sony's machine. Now, aside from an occasional frame-rate dip in busy areas, it’s as-near-as-dammit to the 360 version, which itself looks superb. It's way better.
It’s hard to see how core F1 gameplay can be done better on current-gen and there’s a wealth of gameplay challenges to explore. If you passed up F1 2011 because it was too similar to F1 2010, you’ll find F1 2012 a massive leap forward. The aim this year may have been to make it easier for newcomers, but the best advances are still for the hardcore. They are a tricky crowd to please, but they should love this – we do.