Ever since Codemasters took over the license to produce video games based on Formula 1, the series has seen four versions churned out on an annual basis, like clockwork. Each successive version has managed to iron out key problems seen in its predecessor alongside the introduction of improvements, both significant and subtle. F1 2013 represents the pinnacle of Codemasters’ iterative improvement formula and is the best game in the series. However, obvious niggles with new content and the lack of any major improvement in the way the single-player game plays out prevent the title from scaling the ultimate heights.
F1 2013 recreates the teams, circuits, calendar and rules of the 2013 Formula 1 season down to the last detail. Purists will appreciate the inability to use DRS outside of the designated zones even during practice and qualifying sessions, as per the 2013 regulations. The single player campaign is largely what you’d expect, consisting of a career mode, Grand Prix mode, single season challenge, time trial, time attack and Young Drivers Test. However, F1 2013 keeps things interesting with the addition of two game modes. First up is Scenario mode, where you are given a series of situations with conditions that you need to fulfil, such as starting with a disadvantage and yet finishing ahead of a particular competitor or simply finishing in the points in hazardous weather conditions. This mode offers up a quick fix of fun, especially for fans of some of the epic moments in the history of the sport.
F1 Classics has been touted as the biggest new addition to F1 2013, and it’s also where the game fails the most.
The second one is the F1 Classics mode, which is meant to give players a taste of some historic cars and tracks from bygone eras. In this version of the game, the eras available are the 1980s and the 1990s (the latter as DLC) and a choice of just four classic tracks – Jerez, Brands Hatch, Imola and Estoril (again, the latter two as DLC).
F1 Classics has been touted as the single biggest new feature addition to F1 2013, and it’s also the mode where the game fails the most. F1 Classics offers the same game types as the regular single-player campaign and does a wonderful job of allowing players to experience racing without the degree of control, safety and technology available in the present era. However, the extremely limited selection of cars (only certain cars from certain years are available) and the even more restricted selection of classic tracks, means that the mode does not go anywhere near living up to its potential. Did Codemasters seriously think that players would prefer to race the Williams, Lotus and Ferrari cars from the 1988 season over the all-conquering McLaren? Thankfully, players can choose to race the classic cars on all the circuits on the 2013 calendar as well, so that is some respite from the disappointment.
During races, the AI is competent and brutal, but fair when it comes to overtaking you or defending the racing line.
For most part, the game plays beautifully, with plenty of options to adjust the level of difficulty that you would like to play at. At the higher levels of difficulty, the game is astonishingly, brutally hard, something that will give most of us renewed appreciation for the skill it takes to be an F1 driver in real life. However, most players should be able to find an appropriate middle ground between challenge and fun. The AI is improved, but still exhibits wonky behaviour, like its lethargy in getting off the racing line during slow laps in the practice and qualifying sessions.
During races, the AI is competent and brutal, but fair when it comes to overtaking you or defending the racing line. However, the game exhibits some weird handling behaviour, such as automatically making corrections to the car’s heading to get it onto the racing line after sharp corners (very evident at the penultimate corner in Albert Park). This does not occur when traction control is switched off so it may be something unique to the combination of assists chosen. The game’s menus and interface have been further polished and streamlined, so it has never been easier or faster to get into a race.
It is evident that the graphics are being held back by the limits of the current generation of consoles.
The visuals are crisp and smooth, if not photorealistic, and the game appears capable of running at a very healthy clip even on medium rigs with a lot of the bells and whistles enabled. The weather effects during wet races are quite breathtaking. The cars are lovingly detailed and there is plenty of superfluous visual flairs, such as the first-person perspective from one of your team mechanics as he goes about his job during your pit stop, or the way the team rolls your car back into its garage during a break. However, it is evident that the graphics are being held back by the limits of the current generation of consoles, so hopes will be high for the next version of the game as it will have to account for the exponential leap in power offered by the new generation of consoles. The sound effects are exemplary as usual.
The game still offers a comprehensive suite of multiplayer modes, with online, LAN gaming and split screen on offer. Unfortunately, at the time of playing the game for this review, which is well into a week after the official release, multiplayer matches are nearly impossible to come by, at least on the PC. So it is difficult to say how that aspect of the game matches up with the rest of the offering.
All in all, F1 2013 is a highly accomplished title and is a suitable culmination of the iterative efforts of Codemasters over the past half decade. The core single-player game is possibly the best it has ever been and will offer players countless hours of enjoyment. So its a shame that the much hyped F1 Classics mode is a lacklustre, halfhearted attempt at recreating sensational experiences of a bygone era. One can hope that this mode will be better fleshed out and will make more sensible choices of cars and scenarios in future iterations.
CPU: Intel Core i7 920
Motherboard: Gigabyte X58A-UD7
Graphics: Nvidia Geforce GTX 670
RAM: 6 GB
Keyboard: Microsoft Sidewinder X6
Mouse: Saitek Cyborg
Other input device: Logitech G27 racing wheel, Microsoft Xbox 360 controller
Monitor: Samsung SyncMaster 2333 HD