Codemasters' aim with F1 2010 is to make you feel like you're a Formula One driver. Where other games are content to focus solely on the driving experience, F1 2010 gives you that plus everything around it. Whether you're speaking to the press or just sitting in your car watching the lap times come in as your team works on the engine behind you, this is designed to immerse you in the experience.
But the enhancements aren't just cosmetic. Everything here promises to be better than any other F1 racer to date. And here's why it just might deliver:
The track is ludicrously realistic
Not just in the way it looks. Sure, the quality of the textures and rain effects are as good as you'd expect from a next-gen racer. But the key here is that its made up of 30cm tiles which each have their own grip data.
Each portion of track responds dynamically to weather conditions, rubber from tyres (both in terms of grippy rubber laid down on the line and 'marbles' off of it) and dries out if enough cars pass over it while its wet. You can see the dry line emerging after a rainstorm and you can even cool down your wet tyres by driving through puddles.
Above: All the screenshots here use 2009's cars for illustrative purposes. The final game will use 2010 cars and liveries
Career mode is fully fleshed out
You'll be able to assume the identity of a current driver for a single season, so you can be Hamilton, Button or the returning Michael Schumacher, if that's what floats your boat. However, you'll also be able to play a longer career as yourself and live the life of a Formula One driver. That's not just PR guff - this looks like being a comprehensive simulation of everything around a driver.
You'll get to speak to the press in 3D-rendered scenes, make rivalries move up through the teams until you're at Ferrari (where else would you want to go?) or even stay at a lower team and use your winnings to improve their own technology over up to seven seasons. It's been tried before but mostly with text - this will do it all in real-time 3D. Check out the video:
The driving sensation feels right
The demo we played was a three-lap race at Monza, set up with an Xbox 360 Force Feedback steering wheel. Initially, we were told the auto-brake feature was set to 'on' and couldn't be changed. The driving was still good, but it felt too reigned in for my liking. And while slowing was controlled, accelerating wasn't, so there were plenty of spins on the exit of corners - and a lot of people were oversteering into the wall out of the first Lesmo.
Above: You don't want auto-brake in this kind of situation
However, I soon switched it to sequential manual gears, which mapped to the paddles behind the wheel. And boy oh boy, did it ever come to life. The steering is surprisingly responsive, with small movements of the wheel proving enough for high speed bends, while crossed-over hands were necessary for the chicanes. Getting in Hamilton's slip-stream down the main straight was exhilarating in a way very few racers are these days, as Hamilton weaved to prevent my inevitable dive down the inside into turn one.