Codemasters' free-to-play F1 management sim has officially gone into Open Beta. Know what that means? The whole game is there for you to play until your heart's content. But don't worry about the 'management sim' bit - you do get to drive the cars around 3D tracks in real-time - it's just a bit different from the F1 racing you're used to from Codies.
Above: With all the graphics settings on max, the quality is close to that of the core game
The game runs in your browser, which means you just have to load up the internet on your PC or Mac, navigate to the game's website and then... well, play it. All 20 of this year's race tracks are in the game, using the same 3D models and data that full-fat F1 2011 does on your Xbox, PC or PS3. You'll also be racing with the official teams and drivers. It's fully-licensed, fully official and fully... similar to Codemasters' racing classic Micro Machines when you play it, surprisingly. More realistic, of course, but definitely comparable. Observe:
Driving around can be done entirely with a two-buttoned mouse, although you can map the accelerate/brake controls to the keyboard. Steering with the mouse takes some getting used to (place the arrow in front of the car in the direction you want it to follow), but we managed a second place against the online masses after just a couple of races.
If the racing itself feels too fiddly, or you've got two left thumbs (so to speak) then you can go entirely managerial, creating your own team from scratch and then managing the development of the car.
Above: Can we just say how glad we are that the spirit of the JPS Lotus lives on in the new livery?
It's all going to be free-to-play when it comes out of Beta, but it's all in there right now. You just might come across the odd bug or two. And if any Hamilton fans want to seek out the side of Maldonado's car on the penultimate lap... well, we won't say anything.
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