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F1 2013 Review: Codemasters' latest racer misses the apex

on 30 September 2013

What matters most is driving on the tracks. F1 cars are known to be immensely fast and as a sharp as a razor blade. The cars here, well, they aren't the sharpest knives in the draw. The problem is that they have the tendency to understeer and it can be infuriating. Understeer isn't caused just by going too fast into a corner either. I've been braking well before a corner and slowing down enough to make it round the corner easily, but the car still veers off into the gravel and ruins the race. Setting the car up to combat understeer by softening the front suspension and increasing the downforce and brake bias has mixed results and is inconclusive if changing the settings actually affects the car. It doesn't feel different, which isn't how changing settings should work. Making big changes should make the car feel different. Luckily, the flashback feature is still here if things continue to go wrong but it has limited uses. One feature that is definitely welcome is being able to save during a race which makes full length races much more accessible and doable now but scaling races with tyre and fuel wear are possible once again if you so wish.

When not sliding off into the gravel traps, the cars in F1 2013 can be fun to drive. However, I wouldn't call them realistic. Codemasters' recent games have been caught in this middle ground of trying to be both an arcade racer and simulation game. F1 2013, like the others, ends up being neither. It's too difficult, especially with the handling issues, to be an arcade game to just pick up and play and it lacks the depth and nuance to be a full-blown simulator.

The most touted feature of F1 2013 is the introduction of classic cars and tracks. This feature is, if anything else, unfinished. The problem with anything like this is that there are expectations of what a classic car or track is. With the standard game you get two tracks, Brands Hatch and Jerez, along with several classic '80s cars from Ferrari, Williams and Lotus. Each car allows you to choose between two drivers: the original driver of the car or a 'Team Legend.' This is clearly done to get round the fact that not every driver of the actual car could be licensed. Speaking of which, one 'Team Legend' for the 1988 Lotus 100T is Mika Häkkinen, no doubt an F1 legend but he isn't known for driving a Lotus, he won both his world championships driving for McLaren who are a team desperately missing from this classic collection. Codemasters has said that McLaren's absence is because of licensing issues but it's still disappointing.

The cars themselves feel great, and have more character to them than the 2013 cars and are a refreshing change. The engine sounds are solid and they feel great but sadly suffer the same understeer issues as the 2013 cars. Also, there just isn't enough of them. Classic mode is made up of single race modes and no championship option for obvious reasons. One great thing to make up for the lack of content is being to race the old cars on the 19 current F1 tracks, and vice versa. Classic mode also features legendary commentator Murray Walker, who gives info on the Proving Ground challenges. Classic mode also changes the in-game HUD to the same style as was seen on TV back then. It's a nice touch and it makes the fact that it isn't done for the 2013 cars rather odd -- having the official info graphics add authenticity, after all.

Another major problem with this lack of content is that the other half, the '90s content, is locked behind the more expensive Classic Edition paywall. Considering the less-than-generous amount of content, this is a frankly abhorrent way of doing things from Codemasters. Considering how much people wanted classic cars and tracks, splitting the content up and selling half exclusively in a more expensive version of the game is bitterly disappointing.