Play F1 2012 like last year’s game and you will fail. Why? Because it plays completely differently. To be honest, we didn’t expect any massive changes three games into the series, especially when the evolution of Formula One itself is so gradual. But F1 2012 is a very different game, and the changes don’t just stop at the handling. From the front menu to the final showdown against all six world champions, there’s a wealth of new content to talk about. Which is good for us, otherwise this would be a very short review. So let’s get to it.
Check out the review of F1 2012
Welcome to the world of F1
The front end is all-new. The paddock area from the past two games may have added authenticity, but didn’t work so well as an intuitive game menu. So it’s gone, replaced with clean, traditional menu screens. Everything is explained as you go, in a deliberate attempt to ease more casual fans of the sport into the game. With no motorhome to be shown around, the first thing the game asks you to do is complete the Young Drivers Test.
Above: Do well in the Young Drivers Test and they'll remember you later
This is something that happens in real F1. Young drivers get to try out for a specific team (you get to choose between McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull) around the dusty track at Abu Dhabi. We covered this in depth in our preview, but suffice to say it’s a rather strict introduction to F1, requiring you to complete Gran Turismo-style tests successfully before continuing.
It’s an undeniably strong start for the ‘live the life’ presentation as you’re shown to your car in first-person, but after that initial thrill of seeing it waiting for you, the driving tests themselves are not a terribly exciting way to start the game. Abu Dhabi isn’t the most visually stimulating circuit in the world and - irony of ironies – this new introduction might even turn off casual fans before they’ve started the game proper.
Above: Lots of dust and concrete on show. It does get more scenic, honest
You’re told how to use KERS and DRS (these are temporary speed boost systems and each have their own button), hit apexes and learn about the different tyre types. Important stuff, so it won’t help you to quit early, but it’s a lot to take in. Fortunately, it only takes 20 minutes or so to complete, then the fun really begins.
It’s a video game!
Last year’s excellent, if daunting, simulation has now been turned into an enjoyable video game that can be played for short bursts instead of taking an hour or three to complete a full race weekend. There are streamlined gameplay options everywhere you look, but before we get onto those, there’s an even more important and fundamental improvement – the way the cars handle.
The last game was a constant fight with for grip, with success mostly coming from chucking the car into turns and hoping there was enough space on the exit of the corner to drift safely onto the kerb on the exit. This time, no matter how violently you chuck the car into a corner, it just doesn’t stick. There’s never enough room on the exit.
Above: Understeer isn't just something to put up with - now you need to avoid it
You’ll hear the tyres squeal, the car will understeer and, if you’re using a force feedback steering wheel, you’ll feel the steering go light in your hands. That’s because the tyres are no longer gripping the track, so you may as well be driving on ball bearings. The game is trying to tell you something – and you’d better start listening.