Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheels and pedals, system
link with a room full of journos and devs… a great way to enjoy
multi-player F1. Not that joypad control has been overlooked – the team
appreciate most people will play the game with a pad, so pad control has
been overhauled to make it a smoother and more enjoyable experience.
show off the new streamlined game options, we all participate in
one-lap qualifying. You set up your car (if you want) within a time
limit, then you're all put on the track at the same time, appearing as ghost cars
on each others' screens. One lap decides the starting order for the race
proper. Impressions? It's great – probably because we take pole at
Above: Hey - that's not Monza! No, it's still Austin. Note: Austin is not the only track in F1 2012. Honest...
The race itself immediately showcases the new and improved
penalty system. Just like in any online F1 race ever, we're shunted
from behind as we actually brake for the first chicane. Unable to stop
in time, we're shoved across the new raised boundary (maybe two inches
high – not enough to stop you, but certainly a big deterrent) and across
the grass. But we only get a warning.
We experienced similar contextual lenience in
the offline mode: Overtaking a car through cutting a corner now gives
you an on-screen timer, giving you the option of letting the car you
just passed unfairly back through before the stewards penalise you for
being a prat. It's very welcome and appears to work well. The dev team is reluctant to explain exactly what the parameters are for fear of it being exploited. But on this first go, it's already a big improvement.
stops have been given some attention too. Last year's tyre degradation
was scaled poorly over medium distances, which means the 40% distance
races we usually go for in career mode need two pit stops per race just
to get around the track in one piece. Now, not only is the scaling more
balanced and 'the cliff' more pronounced, tyre wear is actually
programmed to mirror real life teams' characteristics. Saubers may not
be massively quick, but they can sure go a long time between stops.
Above: The colour-banded tyres are visible in external views so you can see what type of tyres your opponents are using
the race, we get notifications at the bottom of the screen that Car 5
has been disqualified, then Car 3, Car 6… cutting the chicanes is not
doing anyone any good. As for us? We win and it's great – especially as the
post-race celebration screens from F1 2011 have been given a more
realistic make-over, with better character models and faces. Still not
quite LA Noire, but a definite improvement.
Overall impressions? Very strong. The
new menu screens are slicker, being talked around the track by former
F1 driver and current Sky analyst Anthony Davidson in the tutorial looks
promising and the racing itself looks like being even more accessible
without losing any of the hardcore depth so beloved by fans of the
sport. It's still the same sim at heart, but can be played like a videogame when you want some quick gratification.
Wot no Vita?
The game will be available through boxed and digital
releases on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on September 21. But you know what?
There's no Vita or 3DS version planned. Odd considering Sumo told me a
year ago that they'd already started work on them. Perhaps our 4/10
score for the 3DS version didn't help. Hmmm. Still, it's a big thumbs up
so far for the 'big' version – we can't wait to get on it again.